WRONG_WOEID WRONG_WOEID

National Heritage - National Shame

Fort JamesAs a person who hikes quite often in different areas of  Antigua's outdoors, I cannot help but notice the shameful neglect of our heritage and historic sites.

We keep repeating well recited slogans like "we don't know where we're going, if we don't know where we're from," and "the beach is just the beginning." But the reality is, like Nero who set fire to Rome and acted oblivious as it burned to the ground, we  act oblivious to the destruction of a very important aspect of our heritage.



 Instead of taking these pronouncements to a new reality, we ignore and leave to ruin the live images of our past, all to be condemned to someday repeat the unsavory events that caused our foreparents great suffering.

Antigua & Barbuda has a rich history, like so many countries the world over, but we have done little to tell our story because we have not protected or enhanced our heritage sites. As a result the visible and tangible elements of our history are dying, and with them some of our sense of place in the world.

I have been often to the Victoria Park Botanical Gardens, Betty's Hope, Shirley Heights, Fort James, Devil's Bridge, Walling's Dam, Fort George (Monk's Hill), Nelson's Dockyard and quite a number of other historic sites. It has now become increasingly harder for me to visit some of these sites. I feel angry about the dump-like conditions that some of them are in.

Sometimes on the hikes we would pick up trash and take photos of our appalling findings, but it seems that there is no relevant authority to do anything. It seems that the so called guardians do not care.

I do not necessarily want to see a large scale commercialization of our heritage sites, but I do hope to see a systemic plan to protect, enhance and maintain these sites as viable living stories of a past we can learn much from. It cannot be about a group here or there or a clean-up campaign when it is overbearing. It has to be a functional and sustained national plan.

Four sites that cause me considerable dis-ease are Fort George (Monk's Hill), Betty's Hope, Fort James and Victoria Park Botanical Gardens.

Fort George with its prime location, huge size, massive walls, burial sites and natural flora and fauna may soon be covered over as a Mayan city. The walls are crumbling and it is overgrown by bush.

Forget about a serviceable road, educational tablets and even a sense that this was one of the most important forts in the British West Indies. It was not only a lookout, but it was designed as a refuge for the general populace in the time of need. This is not China, but it is our "Great Wall."

As for Betty's Hope, few sites in the world may be able to tell the story of sugar and slavery like this one. From its unique twin towers, great house, water cisterns, storage and transportation lines, this is ( or could be) nothing short of living history, but it is grossly underdeveloped, poorly maintained, and not even a shadow of its full potential.

 Even the sails of the windmill, that were made for the restoration in the late 1990s, now just lie on the ground rotting. Yes, the stone tablets tell the story, but how much more real that story would be if our children could see the moving parts, even once in their lives.

At Fort James, both the beach and the fort have been disrespected and downgraded to a sorry memory. Like a prostitute who has been used and abused she has been dumped on the seashore, waiting to be washed away by a big blue wave.

Victoria Park would be a great outdoor school to teach our children the importance of protecting our natural environment, our culture and history. But its maintenance has been a perfect example of the disorganization that prevails as its pertains to the maintenance of our heritage sites.



I remember talking to Mr. Galloway several years back and him expressing his sheer frustration in trying to preserve the pride of that place. Nearly twenty years ago I was part of a small group of university  students who did some volunteer work there. I too feel the frustrations of the lack of systematic development of the site.

Every day I hear talk of tourism and the need to market this and build up that, while we keep throwing our pearls to the swine. I shudder to even mention the old sugar factory at Gunthropes.

When are we going to start to develop our heritage sites, bring a level of respectability, leave a legacy for our children and a more special factor to our tourists' experience? Are we going to continue to blindfold ourselves and spend big money for answers that we already know?

We have to move from the point of this body says and that body says and start putting our bodies in motion. Whether it be National Parks, Tourism, Agriculture, Culture, or a combination of all, we need to stop talking about the obvious and just do it.

In the past we have found resources to put into things that have added little value to our country. If we are serious about our country's development and our heritage, it is time for the authorities to roll out the plans and let us get to work.

Next time we hear the representative of St. Paul or the Minister of Tourism talk about Nelson's Dockyard being the world's only functional Georgian dockyard, our question to them should simply be, "Why is it not a World Heritage Site ?"

Dr. Jerry Simon (visit Facebook sites NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and Naturally Moving Antigua).

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7 Comments In This Article   

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RE: National Heritage - National Shame

#7 Ossie » 2012-11-21 17:19

This is one seriously caring country-man. Get an organization of mind like citizen, structure a plan that is long term, seek contribution for nationals living abroad. Sign me up just tell me where to send the check.
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Ossie

@ Skyewill

#6 Jumbee Picknee » 2012-11-21 14:28

I am aware of my Past, I am standing up in the Present, while envisioning the Future.
An Eastern philosopher/prophet has taught many, that each one, i.e. Past, Present & Future sublimes into and out of each other thru every moment in and of time. None is void of the other....In a similar way, the Mind, Body, Soul, Spirit, One Being is of the same principle...Jah Guide
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Jumbee Picknee

@ Jumbee Picknee

#5 Skyewill » 2012-11-21 13:38

That is why we need a uniter not polorizers!
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Skyewill

...what IF ??????

#4 Jumbee Picknee » 2012-11-21 11:17

We are all aware of the problems, so, WHAT IF...
All of the Civic Organizations, Clubs etc., that is the Lions, Leos, Rotary, Salvation Army, Boy's & Girl's Scouts, RASTAFARIAN(Nyabingh i, Bobo, Twelve Tribes, Ethiopian Orthodox), Pathfinders and others, were given a 50 year lease to re-develop and maintain a particular site. Manage it to create jobs, etc. As we see, keeping these important aspect of Our Heritage in the hands of the Government and a selected few have not served us well.
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Jumbee Picknee

RE: National Heritage - National Shame

#3 Vegetarian » 2012-11-21 09:49

very sad but true :sad:
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Vegetarian

no relevant authority to do anything

#2 Skyewill » 2012-11-21 09:27

Next time we hear the representative of St. Paul or the Minister of Tourism talk about Nelson's Dockyard being the world's only functional Georgian dockyard- Put duct tape over his mouth. Thanks Jerry and thank Caribarena to allow me to hear, see and connect. I think about Antigua everyday and I have listened to the talk and that is all it is talk. Now we are going to soon finish our wonderful Airport soon, yet the Product is in shambles. We hope tourist will come but what you going to show them? Up to this morning I visualized a VC Bird Museum/Park at Tomlinson, a place where school children could go to learn about our past and history all the way back to Timbuktu. Antigua History should be mandatory in our schools and tell the true story about our relationship with the British monarchy we so worship. Talk, talk and more talk. building the roof before the foundation.
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Skyewill

Serious Situation

#1 Fed up! » 2012-11-21 07:29

Added to all that has been said, where is National Parks' Commission in all of this? It seems that their only concern is Nelson's Dock Yard and that area. Could it be because the Parks Commissioner resides in that area? At a time where they can reward themselves with cruises and the like for their "Stellar" performance in the dock yard, what happens to the other National Parks in Antigua? But then again this is Fair Antigua and barbuda where people are give positions based on years of service and not level of expertise. #square pegs in round holes!
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Fed up!

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Dr. Jerry Simon

Dr.Jerry Simon,a general physician, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Villa Clara (Cuba) Medical School. He has previously worked in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. Presently he is Medical Director of the NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and is a certified member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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