St. Martin/St. Maarten Day has a deep cultural and historical meaning for St. Maarten’s Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Silveria Jacobs. We spoke to her about the significance of this day and what it means to her as a St. Maartener and minister of Culture.
Why is St. Martin/St. Maarten Day a significant day for the island?
“As a people we have been celebrating this day as a day to honour all things St. Maarten, one being our unique feature of sharing a 37 square mile island, where the people cross freely, are related by blood and history and have a bond beyond nationality. We celebrate the foods we eat, our customs and traditions, our ways of dress, dances and games. We display our flag with pride.”
What does this day mean to you?
“I enjoy getting together with family and friends, to eat and drink, enjoy cultural manifestations and see the joy on children's faces who experience it for the first time, as well as seniors who get to relive their history - string band music, and playing dominoes and other games.”
How would you like to see residents celebrate?
“I would like to see residents celebrate by spending time with family and friends, going out to different activities and enjoying being in a country where we enjoy certain freedoms and live in a virtually peaceful society, where we all are respected.”
As Minister how will you be celebrating?
“I will be spending time with family and friends looking for food and local drinks and taking part in planned cultural celebrations around the island during the week. I will also be visiting schools to see their presentations and special St. Maarten Day projects.”
Do you think sufficient focus is placed on this day - why or why not?
“The fact that we take turns with official celebrations alternating on north and south side creates a lull at times. I would like to see cultural celebrations happening on both sides including the promotion of local artists and artisans, especially during this period. We need to make decisions as a country on how to increase public participation in the celebration.”
Do you think residents understand the significance of this day - why or why not? And how can this be changed?
“I do believe the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin understand the significance of this special day; it is our story - the celebration of a peaceful coexistence between the people with a shared history and culture on both sides. St. Maarten/St. Martin is evolving on a daily basis; therefore, it is needed that we, the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin must continuously promote what the day means for us, not only on November 11, but also throughout the year. An acculturation programme needs to be set in place, whereby the people who make St. Maarten/St. Martin their home, can familiarise themselves with the history of St. Maarten/ St. Martin being music, authors, athletes, political and historical figures.”
How do you think the celebrations can be improved in the future?
“The celebrations should encompass the people and not just be ceremonial. Synchronised events should be held on both sides of the island allowing the community a variety of events. We should aim to have celebrations on the days leading up to St. Martin/St. Maarten Day. The events should highlight historical, but also current artists and encompass poetry, songs, dancing, creative art, and traditional games.”
What should schools do to help youngsters understand the importance of this day?
“Schools are equipped with a curriculum and have been presented with special lessons to ensure the knowledge of St. Maarten is taught in school, the St. Maarten song is sung at all assemblies, bring seniors to present historical facts and share stories and customs, books by and about St. Maarten/St. Martin authors, poets, dancers and other artists, athletes, historical figures should be read and studied.”
What is your message to residents as St. Martin/St. Maarten Day approaches?
“St. Maarten is unique, we have much to do in recognising the St. Maartener in our constitution, establishing the National Anthem and deciding on which spelling we will utilise officially and internationally. The people of St. Maarten are unified, it is our constitutional structure that is so very different and which creates the friction on rights and responsibilities. We must seek to increase cooperation beyond the superficial with our northern neighbours in ways that are mutually beneficial to the people. Our people must understand our history and customs, learn it, and share it. We must promote local artists, athletes and entrepreneurs and do all we can to establish our identity in the world while remaining open to living in harmony with others in a peaceful, productive manner. Celebrate St. Martin/St. Maarten Day every single day by being examples of positive and productive citizens, striving every day to improve our quality of life. On and around our special day, do celebrate our history and culture by taking part in celebrations with family and friends, sharing stories with children, spending time with our seniors, eating and drinking our local foods and drinks and competing in races and games with a sense of unity and pride as people of St. Maarten/S. Martin. Wear a cultural outfit or a locally designed t-shirt or outfit to show your pride in being a citizen of St. Maarten/St. Martin.
Have a safe, peaceful and happy St. Martin/St. Maarten Day.”