Minister of Tourism Connor welcomes delegates to Sint Maarten for the International Congress for Caribbean Archaeology

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PHILIPSBURG – Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport & Telecommunications Hon. Claret Connor, spoke at the opening of theInternational Congress for Caribbean Archaeology (IACA) at the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort.

The IACA is being hosted by St. Maarten from July 19-25.  The IACA Congress is the largest gathering of professional archaeologists specializing in Caribbean studies in the world, with representatives from over 23 countries and over 300 delegates; it is the place to be for cutting-edge research information about heritage in the Caribbean.

Minister Connor during his address stated: “It is remarkable to observe that 26 years ago to be exact was the last time since this Congress was held on Dutch soil, and  today you are here  on St. Maarten (on  another Dutch soil) for the 26th Edition of the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology. So as we would say it in the Dutch language “Welkom Op St. Maarten”.

“I can stand here as Minister of Tourism and Economics Affairs and say thank you for choosing St. Maarten for the venue of this event, because of the economic benefits that it will provide for our country. We are indeed honored to host over 200 delegates on our soil, however more important for me is that this congress comes at the heel of a very important process for St. Maarten. As a government we have established vital dialogues with all stakeholders; public, private and grassroots, whom are meticulously playing their role in sculpting and etching our “National Development Plan”.

“To complement the aforementioned process, my ministry recently organized an Economic Summit during which time the nucleus was placed on St. Maarten’s comparative advantages and how these were central to developing its future. As a country in development, we must clearly identify these advantages and find ways to build upon them while adding to our existing products. For example our niche tourism, marine activities, agriculture, financial services and logistics are all areas identified in our National Economic Framework as viable options for St. Maarten.

“But imagine for a moment how irrelevant all of this work would be without aligning ourselves with the work that you do. The information that you share lays the linkages between cultural and national heritage and its importance to the community and development of a country.

“Imagine what our very existence would be like without the discipline of archaeology? Imagine not knowing about our past in order to cultivate our future. Imagine not knowing how a society adapts to cultural change. Imagine in absence of archaeology we would not know why so many visitors are attracted to our island.

“In the UK the (Charted Institute for Archaeology) or CIFA for example emphasizes moreover that planning policies should be on sustainable development that benefits the economy, society and the environment and requires, among other things, the protection and enhancement of the historic environment. For projects in the developing world, banks and development agencies increasingly require cultural assets to be looked after and to be incorporated into new development”. In other words, there is an immense correlation between archaeology and heritage, the environment, the economy and society as a whole that should not be underestimated by government.

“(The term re purpose-Reuse or Upcycle… comes to mind in looking again at our much talked about and treasured historical monuments and sights etc.)

“I want to therefore commend all of you present, whom during the next couple of days will be either networking with fellow colleagues or discoursing about future anthropological interpretations, new paths to be unraveled…..or pioneering new research and advancement in the discipline of heritage. I wish you continued success in your work collectively as an organization,” Minister Hon. Claret Connor said on Mondayto the conference attendees.

The local host organization for the IACA Congress is the St. Maarten Archaeological Center (SIMARC), with St. Maarten archaeologist, Dr. Jay Haviser as Chairperson, along with cooperation from French Saint Martin and Anguilla.

Minister Connor commended the organizing committee under the auspices of Dr. Jay Haviser, the Simarc Secretariat, the St. Maarten Museum, and many public and private organizations (locally and abroad) who for the last two years have employed a lot of hard work to ensure that the congress emerges a success.  “Each of these organizations has contributed in one way or the other to host this auspicious event,” Minister Connor pointed out.

Minister Connor extended, “…a very fruitful and productive congress to all delegates and their families. Do take some time to enjoy our island’s hospitality and diverse cuisine. May this assembly and visit to St. Maarten be an enjoyable one and I hope to see you back soon,” Minister Hon. Claret Connor concluded.

During the conference, there will be daily research paper sessions, guest lectures, field trips on island as well as to Anguilla, and cultural reception nights, throughout the week-long event.

PHOTO CUTLINE: Minister Hon. Claret Connor addressing the IACA delegates and invitees. DCOMM Photo