Belize

Nourishing odyssey

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Dear Lizzie,

Back from odyssey thru d ancient Americas, found source of luck of d Irish. Knowledge of 1000s of varieties of corn n potatoes, developed by Incas, and millennia-old methods of use n prep devised by Mayans r now stored on my hips – intangible heritage evolved into tangible proportions. Letters To Lizzie back on track. 2 b released soon. Order now! More …
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Sounds of a party – a political party

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Peeps, I returned home from exploring the millennia old civilisations of the Incas of Peru and older ones of the Mayas of Belize to the sounds of a party. Blaring loudspeakers woke me up this morning and have been going non stop since between spurts of some newly concocted calypso – made me wonder if I had misjudged the time and it was Carnival Monday. They are announcing some political meeting or the other; and begging for my vote, and meh road still aint fix though I hear all parts getting box drains and thing, so I vex.

So peeps, you know I am a sceptic so help me decide. Who should get my vote? 

Seeing that we have given up the traditional systems of governance where the people’s needs were central to the commune – the traditional governance systems of the Incas that still influence agricultural practices in Peru; the communal systems of the Mayans, the panchayat system of India and village systems of Africa, and survival skils of Maroons of Mooretown and Rastafari in Jamaica for this West Minster thing that want to become the US Presidential thing – yeah – the same US system that right now holding the American public to ransom over some petty power play.
Trying to open Caricom eyes to what reparations really mean, instead I opened my mailbox and there was a polling card  – along with all kinds of documents of misdeeds here and there ’cause that’s wat mail boxes are for, aint?  I need to be convinced if I should vote, and who for, and why? So convince me nah, and keep the comments clean, okay, my vote’s on you… Website: krisrampersadglobal

Old Casked Rum: The Emperor’s New Tools#1 – Towards Constitutional Reform in T&T 

Use Memory of the World resource to transform education curriculum

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Remarks, Dr Kris Rampersad,
Chair, Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO at the Opening of UNESCO Pan-Caribbean Consultative Workshop on Memory of the World
Port of Spain, Trinidad, 25-27 September 2013
On behalf of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO welcome to this Pan Caribbean consultative workshop on UNESCO Memory of the World initiative. While we are a national commission with essentially a national mandate, we also take very seriously our role as a member of the Caribbean community and the wider UNESCO region of Latin America and the Caribbean.
As we mark this year the 21st anniversary of the Memory of the World programme and 13th anniversary of the Memory of the World Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, it is perhaps timely for us to reflect on where we have reached with the programme.
In the short 13 years since, eight countries from the Commonwealth Caribbean (Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, St Kitts, Jamaica, Guyana, Dominica, Barbados, and the Bahamas) have inscribed 21 collections of documentary heritage on the International Memory of the World Register and twenty five collections on the Regional Register.
We tend to think of the University of the West Indies and Cricket as two main elements I am sure you will agree that this has offered us an opportunity to collaborate as a region in the 13 joint nominations submitted among several of our countries – and these by four national committees in Barbados, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, and certainly I want to particularly recognise the work of the Trinidad and Tobago National Memory of the World Committee under the stewardship of Mrs Joan Osborne.
But much work still to be done in public engagement and to draw out private collectors and archivists to present their work for consideration so we can have broad representation of the diversity of cultures, languages and heritage.
Last year’s meeting underscored the need for greater involvement by countries in the Caribbean, and to support each other. Through the work of the Trinidad and Tobago national memory of the world committee we have enlisted:
—  The Derek Walcott Collection
—  The Eric Williams Collection
—  The C.L.R. James Collection
—  Registry of Slaves of the British Caribbean
—  Records of Indian Indentured Labourersof Trinidad and Tobago
—  The Constantine Collection
—  The Donald ‘Jackie’ Hinkson Collection
—  The Carlisle Chang Collection
—  The Digital Pan Archive
—  Records of Indian Indentured Labourers of Trinidad and Tobago 1845-1917
—  The Samuel Selvon Collection
At the MOWLAC meeting in Port of Spain 2012 the concern was raised of the involvement of countries in the region in the programme and how to encourage the creation of national committees and the number of nominations coming from the region. It was found that there was greater need for collaboration since in some countries the MOW programme was not visible and professionals and owners of collections did not know how to complete the nomination forms.
We should also recognise that much of the critical documentary heritage reside not only within the region but also in internationally-based institutions.
We hope this workshop will meet with similar success of preceding workshops in which nine inscriptions followed the 2009 workshop in Barbados, for example.
We note among the objectives of this is to strengthen the memory of the world programme through greater awareness, to increase nominations at the national, regional and international levels; and to develop an action agenda and a CARICOM MOW action plan for 2013- 2015.
I suggest that among the latter you also take a look at the current draft CARICOM-UNESCO memorandum of agreement and suggest any alternations you may need to make to the text relevant to accommodate the region’s outlook for the memory of the world programme within that MOU to be signed between Caricom and UNESCO at the General Assembly in November.
We know there are many, many areas in which we need to focus the heritage and I’d like to also stir attention away from the printed heritage which we all know limits us to the last few hundred years to other elements of record also recognised by the memory of the world register – to also consider other forms of documentation – items on stone, craft, recordings, visuals.
As we know, UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 from a growing awareness of the poor state of preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage in various parts of the world – looting and dispersal, illegal trading, destruction, inadequate housing and funding have all played a part. Much has vanished forever; much is endangered. So a core element is to raise public awareness and mobilise communities to capture and preserve and promote respect and understanding.
In the region, we need to move quickly to secure our endangered archives – and I draw attention to the invaluable collections of the military history museum in Chaguaramas that contains information on the connections between our islands and South America, unrecorded elsewhere, and which can further expand  the recent inscriptions by Cuba of the  Life and Works of Ernesto Che Guevara, and Columbia’s of Francisco De Miranda and Simon Bolivar and it may be useful to supplement that with the archives of Mr Gaylord Kelshall of the Military History Museum who has researched and written extensively about this period which though recent, has still not been injected into teachings on our history and as the Minister of Education is here with us I’d like to recommend that we look at this immense UNESCO resource and work to revising the materials in the school curriculum – in history, social studies, civics, visual and performing arts, among others. This presents us with an opportunity to revise our textbooks using new research and information s there is need to establish critical synergies between archiving and education soWebiste is not just fossilised – and consider utilising this model of engagement between ministry of education, archive and library and the school system.
I’d also like to suggest that you consider how we may establish a facility to resource and fund acquisition and maintenance of public and private collections: like those of the Chaguaramas Military History Museum, and dozens of others in private collections and establish linkages with these.

And we also need to place some emphasis on capture yet undocumented heritage and utilise digitisation and engage the enthusiasm of our young people to collate data from disappearing knowledge holders.

Inventorying Intangible cultural heritage in Belize for UNESCO

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http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/news/Inventorying-of-living-heritage-presses-on-in-Belize-00059

Inventorying of living heritage presses on in Belize

Torito Dance during the tradition of Carnaval, Caledonia Village, Corozal District

30 September 2013 – Having begun the development of its cultural policy and conducted a workshop on the implementation of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at the national level, Belize presses on with fundamental steps in the inventorying of its living heritage.

A national workshop on community-based inventorying of intangible cultural heritage will assemble various stakeholders including government officials, non-governmental organizations and community practitioners in the Orange Walk district of Belize, from 1 to 9 October 2013, with the primary aim to develop and implement a framework for the inventory of its intangible cultural heritage.
Organized by the National Institute of Culture and History in collaboration with the Belize National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean, this workshop is a stepping stone in the safeguarding of the living heritage of Belize. It will focus on community participation in the identification and inventorying of intangible cultural heritage, data collection, organization and management, and hands-on experience in preparing field work, to be reinforced with pilot inventories early next year.
Funded by the Government of Japan, the workshop is part of a sub-regional project being implemented in Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago within the context of UNESCO’s global strategy on capacity building to safeguard intangible cultural heritage. It will be facilitated by UNESCO trained experts Harriet Deacon and Kris Rampersad.

Call made to preserve local heritage

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Opening Remarks
Dr Kris Rampersad, Chair of the National Commission for UNESCO at the Community Based Inventorying Workshop, Trinidad and Tobago, June 22, 2013.

 On behalf of the National Commission for UNESCO greetings and welcome to this the third in a series of Caribbean based workshop in Trinidad and Tobago, Belize and Jamaica, funded by the Government and people of Japan to help our societies safeguard for future generations our intangible living heritage.

This is of course one of several capacity building exercises in which the National Commission is engaged to help develop national capacity, whether it is in creating classrooms like this or sending nationals to benefit from UNESCO training and capacity building opportunities elsewhere.
In this, today we are one step closer to safeguarding our intangible cultural heritage through the mechanisms and provisions of the in Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention – often referred to as the 2003 Convention
It is one of several conventions, quasi legal instruments promoted by UNESCO, to capture, preserve and share the rich diversity of our lifestyles and cultures with each other and promote peace and understanding among our communities and between societies.
This is an exercise to empower our communities and practitioners and knowledge holders in retaining and transmitting knowledge, skills and practices as much as it is in strengthening the mechanisms for researching, documenting, archiving, inventorying for the benefit of future generations.
We think of and lament loss of those knowledge holders who have taken stock of knowledge with them: like Peter Harris who died recently with much of his research and knowledge of prehistoric societies of Trinidad and Tobago passing with him without our realisation of how such knowledge could enrich our understanding of ourselves and of our societies and for our future generations. We must move quickly to capture the accumulated knowledge and experiences these knowledge holders have and let that be part of our thinking when we think of drawing up our inventories – who are some of the most critical sources of knowledge that we should reach before we lose them and irretrievably, too, lose their knowledge.
We are here to strengthen identification of who and what we are; to quote a popular calypso  – how we does walk, how we does talk, how we does cook, how we does lime and wine, key elements that place us among representatives of the sea of humanity that is the UNESCO community.
The focus of this convention on intangible cultural heritage is on the living expressions, knowledge and skills and traditions in the performing arts, oral traditions, practices, beliefs, festivals
Though intangible, we know that they are pivotal to holding the diverse fabric of our social tapestry together, to help intercultural dialogue among ourselves and with communities similar or different elsewhere to promote and, encourage mutual respect for one another.  This exercise is part of the mechanism to particularly address what is a common cry among us; to define and promote inclusivity, to make communities feel represented, understood and respected in the national milieu.
We will find in this process much that we are doing well, and we would want to table these and inventory them among the best practices we would want to share with the rest of the world.
In other areas, we can use the help, particularly in developing infrastructure, systems and processes to respect and value what we have.
A most significant element of this convention is the importance and value it places on communities as central to the smooth running of state apparatus – a fact that sometimes get lost within our bureaurcracies and macro based policies and positioning.

(From left) Discussing safeguarding national heritage at the opening of the workshop on UNESCO Convention for the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage are: facilitators Rieks Smeets, Chair of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO Dr Kris Rampersad; Minister of Arts and Multicultralism Dr Lincoln Douglas, Ambassador of Japan Yoshimasa Tezuka, facilitator, Harriet Deacon, and culture specialist in the UNESCO Jamaica regional office, Hima Gurung. Photo courtesy Kris Rampersad

Call made to preserve local heritage
http://ctntworld.com/cnews2/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5505:call-made-to-preserve-local-heritage&catid=137:c-news&Itemid=707
“We cannot allow our unique traditions to die out with the older generation.” That was the message delivered on Saturday by the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Dr. Lincoln Douglas, who said our cultural heritage must be preserved for future generations.
He spoke at a Workshop on Intangible Cultural Heritage at the Kapok Hotel.
In keeping with the guidelines laid out in the UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, many local cultural practitioners participated in the workshop.
The Minister said the store of knowledge, which is passed down from generation to generation, is fading and must be collected and documented.
Dr. Kris Rampersad, the Chairperson of the National Commission for UNESCO, said although this country is small in size and more vulnerable to external influences, we can become a strong counter-cultural force if we are secure in our cultural identity.
She said a greater focus on local content on television is needed to promote culture.
The Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism is the keeper of the flame and Minister Douglas said the “Remember When Institute” will serve as a storehouse of the collective cultural conscience for generations to come.

Inventorying of living heritage builds momentum in Trinidad and Tobago


20 June 2013 – Community practitioners, government officials and members of non-governmental organizations are mobilizing themselves for a national workshop on inventorying of intangible cultural heritage to be held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago from 22 June to 1 July 2013.  
Organized by the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO, the Ministry of the Arts & Multiculturalism of Trinidad and Tobago and the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean, the workshop marks a significant step in safeguarding the living heritage of Trinidad and Tobago. It will focus on community participation in the identification and inventory of intangible cultural heritage, organization and management of information, and hands-on experience in preparing field work. The field activity will be reinforced by a pilot inventory activity to follow in proceeding months.
Funded by the Government of Japan, the workshop is part of a sub-regional project being implemented in Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago within the context of UNESCO’s global strategy on capacity building to safeguard intangible cultural heritage. It will be conducted by two experts from the UNESCO facilitators’ network: Harriet Deacon and Rieks Smeets.

Belizean bulldozer mentality pervades region

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Belize bulldozer mentality pervades region
Countries dozing off on heritage education and bio-cultural sustainable development planning


At Xunantunich preclassical complex in Belize. (c) Kris rampersd
Who in the region can say it wouldn’t happen to us? The bulldozing of the 3200-plus year-old-Mayan Noh Mul temple in Orange Walk Belize is only symptomatic of level of unchecked danger and threats to significant heritage elements of the region and the degree of short sightedness in our approach to sustainable development. 
The bulldozer mentality is symptomatic of pervading misperceptions that sustainability, bio-cultural heritage conservation and development are polar opposites. This promotes confrontational approaches at the expense of exploration of very real modes by which the two can successfully and peacefully co-exist to the benefit of populations. Countries of the region needs to reexamine its overall approaches to sustainable development planning, budgeting and education and consciousness raising, not just about heritage but about the way we view sector development and their relation with each other.  Our budget and economic, social and environmental planning directorate and bureaucracies should take note.

With a population about the size of Tobago’s, Belize, a former British colony might be said to be perhaps one of the least pressured countries of the region in terms of the intensity of competition for land space for development. Tobago can itself fit into Belize about 75 times; Jamaica, the largest of the English-speaking Caribbean islands, can fit twice, and Trinidad four times.
Last week’s bulldozing by a construction company of what was visibly a temple and part of a complex to turn the rubble into – of all things – gravel for a road (from the comments on the internet I am not the only aghast at the sheer idiocy of this) is testimony to some of the challenges for heritage preservation facing the region.
Proper land use planning with concurrent resourcing, execution and implementation may be one element of a solution, but without a focussed awareness building and formal and informal education that inject heritage consciousness from the cradle through adulthood, it is a tragedy that is certain to be repeated.
For instance, the Mayas are still described and treated in the past tense in much of our history and standard educational material – part of historic misrepresentations of all the civilisations that comprise our region – although very vibrant Mayan communities live across South/Central America and not unlike  with other regional ethnic groups, function in active regional diasporas across the globe.
They were also in significant numbers in our heritage training sessions in Belize last year, eating, breathing, talking, exchanging ideas, reciting, playing music, dancing, living, as indeed it was a astounding to discover the numbers of Mayan building complexes that existed in this small land space, most of them heavily silted over through the millennia, overgrown with full fledged trees and overrun with wildlife.
A significant element of the tragedy of the bulldozing at the Noh Mul complex  is that it was visible and known to exist, not like Altun Ha where allegedly it wasn’t and it when the blasting revealed the complex it was stopped. This is part of one of the documented temple complex in the Orange Walk district where there is a significant population of Mayan descent. It is not one of the hundreds of other architectural complexes across Belize and South/Central America that have been overgrown, covered over by silt and which now support huge forest and other ecosystems and so indistinguishable from the natural landscape. That in itself might provide an excuse to a bulldozer purportedly innocently quarrying what is believed to be a hill, but only in the absence of proper environmental assessment, which is a mandatory requirement for any development project.
The site of the hundreds of temple complexes across Belize which nature has reclaimed and camouflaged over millennia is enough of an experience to make one want to kneel down and worship the inherent nobility of the people who in their times created this, as much as nature’s resilience and restorative capacity if undisturbed.
As I discovered on a visit last year, Belize is an awesome example of the sheer magnitude of the Mayan civilisation from the numbers of still standing temples, many indiscernible as with centuries of overgrowth they appear as innocent hillocks that support dense forest ecosystems. And while the ruins might point to the historical past tense, the vivacity of the people I met and the friends I made is testimony to a vibrant living heritage.
I could not have asked for a better induction than to have expert guides in Drs Nigel Encalada and Allan Moore of the Belize Institute of Technology, who are part of the National Institute of Culture and History of Belize, on a one day cross-country drive to the Mayan mountains.
It whet my appetite that before I left I made time to explore three more sites with local Mayan guides at Altun Ha, Lamanai and Xuantunich – who incidentally took pride and the time to put into context the deliberately distorted and misrepresented for hype the end of calendar/doomsday story. In fact, these sites have been only partly unearthed of the hundreds of other complexes.
To some degree, Belize has legal and institutional mechanisms: an Act, laws, oversight institutions which may be challenged by shortage of human resource and other capacity, but those are also largely reactive mechanisms, as important as they are, to net culprits after the fact of a bulldoze, for example, rather than sustainable pre-emptive mechanisms which are where the focus should be.What could have stopped the company from issuing the order or the guy himself driving the bulldozer to halt and think twice?
If we cannot build consciousness and recognise the value these elements of our heritage, hold to the sense of self and esteem that could prevent the next trigger happy youngster from bulldozing his own life – value beyond commercial value, beyond the next access road and the next high rise and the next exploration for an oil well – which incidentally is another impending threat to Belize where recent interests in exploitation for petroleum can become the next international heritage disaster story.
The bulldozer mentality will stay with us unless mechanisms are built into our budgeting and physical and mental spatial development planning, as in all other development plans so we present and project that physical, social and educational planning not separate silos and never the twain shall meet, but as a seamless and essentially integrated system that depend on and support each other.
Is that being taken into account in the current land use planning  for sustainable development currently being undertaken in Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the region? Where are the efforts to factor and integrate sustainable heritage consciousness into all of this, other than the flag waving mentality? Where are the plans to factor in heritage in the planning for sustainable development and the strategic educational interventions into that process that move beyond a few Kodak advertising moments?
Lost, surely in the cliched excuse about the jostle for space for industry and agriculture and shelter in the name of development.
Development does not have to be at the expense of heritage or vice versa. There are enough successful models of this that can make us confident that we can find the right balance between feeding ourselves, living with all the modern comforts that one may desire and at the same time showing respect and pride in the legacy and inheritances that are ours.
The alternative is the next regional bulldozer story – while Belize becomes a footnote, as McLoed house in South Trinidad already has – this is the potential fate of other sites in the region; like the Banwari and other related sites in Trinidad; or the Pitons in St Lucia or the maroon and other distinctive heritage of Jamaica’s majestic Blue Mountains and others across the region can soon become. Sustainable development requires sustainable planning and sustainable education and awareness activities.

World Heritage in the Caribbean

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World Heritage in the Caribbean: updating the Action Plan 2012-2013 Kingston © UNESCO Kingston / Official opening of the course in St. Mary’s, Antigua and Barbuda, March 24, 2013 April 8, 2013 / Kingston UNESCO World Heritage Center of UNESCO, in Paris, the UNESCO Offices in Kingston and Havana, in collaboration with the National Commission for UNESCO in Antigua and Barbuda, organized the training course for the Caribbean in the preparation of nomination dossiers for World Heritage , developed in St. Mary’s, Antigua and Barbuda, from 24 to 28 March 2013. This training exercise was designed within the framework of cooperation of Japan’s trust funds for the project “Capacity building to support World Heritage conservation and enhancement of the sustainable development of local communities in small island states (SIDS ) “. The official opening took place on March 24, 2013 at the Jolly Beach Hotel in Antigua, in the presence of Dr. Hon Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon Winston Williams, Acting Minister for Education Sports, Youth and Gender Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda; Yoshimasa Tezuka His Excellency, Ambassador of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Alissandra Cummins, President of the Executive Board of UNESCO and the UNESCO National Commission in Barbados, so as representatives of the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO and the Organization offices in Kingston and Havana. Course, trace output to developed in June 2012 in Kingston, Jamaica, brought together about 20 participants from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Granada, Guyana, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Bahamas. During the training the participants exchanged their candidature files and information, while receiving advice and guidance of facilitators and Caribbean experts as well as representatives of ICOMOS, IUCN and the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO. ‘s Workshop 5 days concluded with an action plan aimed at strengthening the professional capacities in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) for preparing dossiers to increase the number and quality of nominations of cultural heritage sites and natural, focusing on the Sites of Memory in the Caribbean. Participants also committed to continue its efforts to implement the World Heritage Convention, including through the completion of the application pack and awareness and public education on World Heritage issues and UNESCO Conventions in the field of Culture. Kingston Action Plan (updated) (available only in English) More information Note: Spanish translation provided by UNESCO Havana