We Stand Triumphant in the Face of Adversity
"St. Martin is my home, St. Martin is our home …Today we celebrate Unity Day – St. Martin Day It is with great pleasure that I greet all people of St. Martin, both here at home and abroad on this blessed day of Unity, our sweet S’Maatin Day.
St. Martin Day is a true celebration of “all ah we," we being everyone who was born here or born to be here. Whether we hail from the north, south or both, today is our day, to remember our oneness, and celebrate the unity this day exemplifies. As we celebrate our sweet S’Maatin land, our home, despite all we’ve been through, we take time to reflect on our many lessons and accomplishments. This St. Martin day has been aptly themed "We Stand Triumphant in the Face of Adversity."
A theme that should, in my view, be the goal of our nation, as we toil through the challenges and build strong communities across the length and breadth of the island. From Oyster Pond in the east to Lowlands/Cupecoy in the west – French Cul Sac in the North to Great Bay in the South – we stand 37 square miles strong. We know that challenges will always exist, but what is important is how we react to and overcome them. We have a strong history of overcoming challenges and rising victorious. We give thanks to our ancestors on whose shoulders we stand, whose blood, sweat and tears are embedded in this land. We honor them with gratitude for the St. Martin that we have today- thanks to them. The uniqueness of our island lies not only in it being the smallest shared by two governments/nationalities or its natural beauty, whether it’s the rolling hills or the pristine beaches, it is the oneness of our people due to our shared heritage, languages, the creole, family ties, culture, norms and ofcourse, the love we share for these 37 square miles.
Our goal several years ago and even 1 year ago, included making November 11, Unity Day, officially a day of the people represented by one flag, however, the challenges we face, have pushed back the execution yet again. We won’t give up. The collaborative platform is still in its early stages and our challenges in identifying how we celebrate the many joint celebration days, and other structural priorities that remain with each government, still remain unresolved. We remain committed, however, and continue to strive for more unity, more collaboration and more cooperation.
As a country, it is my goal for us to dialogue and finally make decisions that define how we mark these important dates in our history and ensure that our national and cultural heritage is well preserved in honor of our ancestors, in building the necessary connections, a sense of belonging and relevance with our people - especially our youth, and those who have made St. Martin home.
This is why both sides of the islands’ government officials continue to strive for collaborative efforts in decision making, projects, and continuous open dialogue in the best interest of St. Martin. What our evolution and advertisty have taught us, is that remotely every area of our development, healthcare, wellbeing, tourism, education, diversification of our economy, reforms, laws, policies, and new systems, we must consider St. Martin in its entirety, not just this 16 square miles in the south or 21 in the North but how it impacts us as a people, every single one of us on this 37 square miles island.
Today, November 11, is a day we celebrate our Unity on a cultural level. It is not a day for highlighting our differences, but one in which we celebrate and embrace our people and how we focus on the oneness and our ideals on this Sweet S’Maatin land. We celebrate our people and how together we are rising from the ashes of the hurricanes that have ravaged us, and the pandemic that has isolated us from the outer world, hurt our economy, and has made life so very difficult for the very vulnerable in our society – Yet, We RISE!
I remember slogans sometime ago like ‘St. Martin Smile Again’ & ‘Sxm Strong’ ringing out across the island,
I remember the cultural groups parading with Youmay in S’Maatin days of the past,
I reminisce on string bands playing, Tanny & the Boys & Carlson, I remember Jocelyn – recently departed – may he rest in peace, and people dancing the quadrille, 3 step polka, S’Maatin Rumba, St. Martin is my home, In de Zoukway….
I think on Lino, Bobo, Dow, Greg, Fox, Lady V, Essynce, Vers, Lavaune, Kenyo, Shanella & King James and so many more, I remember all of us, all of them, singing we S’Maatin songs,
I remember the steel pans ringing, I remember Neville, I remember his dad, I remember the Rolling Tones, Bad Boys, the Youth Waves, Nuff Respect, BigBadXP, all these bands and so many more playing, Calypso, Zouk, Soca, R&B and hip hop. All of that is now we S’Maatin songs.
I look forward to being able to celebrate all our artists and artistry from past, present and those to come in community and social settings soon again. Together, as a united St. Martin, we can do more, we can get further, and we can reach faster if we do it together and serve more people.
Today, as a result of the latest challenges that we have faced, we celebrate mostly virtually, but in gratitude that we are able to record, and broadcast to the world and St. Martin our unity, our togetherness, not just in laying wreaths and worshipping together but in sharing our ways of life and honoring our past through song, dance, words and other art forms that we can share with so many more people tuned in today to our celebrations whether its via social media, or our radio and TV stations. This has become a mainstay of our modern culture.
In gratitude, we see the yearly round the island relay race, though amended, still taking place, as well as other sporting and various activities as well as mini celebrations being carried out by some organizations within the community. I encourage you to enjoy them safely.
In retrospect, we are grateful for the challenges faced and those we still endure, and it has led to the St. Martin we have today; a St. Martin people that can think outside the box, and are resilient enough to make a dollar out of 50 cents. The growth that we have experienced in the past decade alone is tremendous, and the expected growth in the next few years will put us back where we were and even beyond.
Today we are on the path to recovery, and we encourage dialogue for the resolution of all our challenges. We have to listen to each other, appreciate the other’s perspectives, and seek common ground to be able to move forward in the best interest to preserve Sweet St. Martin. We must be able to sit and listen to reason, all actions must keep the bigger picture in view and our survival, especially in this tumultuous global economy, we must keep our survival at the forefront.
As I mentioned before, our growth has not been without adversity, and as an island, we have been facing serious challenges. Challenges which we share because of disasters such as hurricanes, pandemics and disagreements which never stop at the border. COVID-19 has kept us apart, and yet we’ve been able to come together like never before. From the very front-liners making sacrifices, to neighbors helping neighbors, and our business community sharing what they can - This adversity has taught us what it means to be a St. Martiner. When thinking about the challenges we have overcome, we found opportunities to become better, in the midst of, and despite our challenges, because of who we are.
St. Martin’s resilience in the midst of adversity, our success and triumphs are a testament to who we are; whether it’s individually or as a community of people, each and every one of us. The love and the strength emanate between all of us. We must continue to be that community that shares everything we have and cares for others. This we aim to continue to pass on from generation to generation. Safeguarding a future, for St. Martin who all of us love and who we all depend on to move forward.
St. Martin is a place that as long as we continue to understand there is more to be done, we will achieve more together. Regardless of our differences, whether political or otherwise, that have held us back from our full potential and success, I am assured that we will be victorious.
There is no crisis, no challenge that we cannot face, as long as we do so together, we can continue to build and grow because St. Martin is my home, St. Martin is your home, St. Martin is our home, and we must as Lino says, ‘Do everything to make her bloom”. We must continue to do everything in our capacity to move her forward; that is our duty.
As such, as I close, I’d like to thank all those who made this celebration possible, the participants of this event, the Department of Communications and Culture, and all other stakeholders for putting this event wonderfully together even though mostly virtual. This allows us to portray our history and culture in ways that we can cherish for generations to come.
On behalf of the Government and People of St. Maarten, I wish us all a Happy St. Martin Day 2021 filled with gratitude for all our blessings. May God continue to Bless St. Martin and all her people. We Stand Triumphant in the Face of Adversity.