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Address delivered by Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community Ambassador Irwin LaRocque at the Opening Ceremony of CARIFESTA XI Paramaribo, Suriname

A special and unique celebration of Caribbean culture begins here and now with the Opening Ceremony of this Eleventh commemoration of CARIFESTA. We have come from all over the Caribbean Community and are joined by our family and many friends from Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, to experience this magical evening and the festivities that will unfold in the next 10 days in Suriname, our wonderful host country.

 This historic moment brings back special memories; memories of the first CARIFESTA that was held 41 years ago in 1972 in Guyana, and memories of CARIFESTA VIII which was held in 2003, 10 years ago, when Suriname was our gracious host for the Festival.

It therefore gives me great pleasure this evening, to congratulate and thank the President, His Excellency Desi Delano Bouterse, and the Government and People of Suriname, for their generosity, tremendous work and dedication in making the arrangements to host CARIFESTA XI, under the theme, Culture for Development.  We appreciate that this is an immense undertaking, and we look forward to experiencing yet again, the warm hospitality for which Suriname is highly renowned within our Region.  Mr President, your commitment to your portfolio in CARICOM which includes Culture, Gender, Youth and Sport has been inspirational to us all, and the hosting of this event is further testimony of your passion for your role.

 CARIFESTA is loved by all of us because Culture is our Passion. We are a people who are proud of who we are, who celebrate our identity and our diversity and who are resilient because of our history.  We are passionate and take great pride in our many accomplished and renowned artists, musicians, writers, and dancers who have proclaimed the Caribbean and inspired the global imagination. Culture is our Passion.

As we celebrate our arts and culture in this quintessential Caribbean festival and colourful extravaganza, we will take the opportunity to explore the business of culture and the way in which the development of our cultural and creative industries can help to realize Prosperity as our Mission. The Caribbean Marketplace for the Arts at this CARIFESTA XI seeks to provide opportunities for the further professional development of young artists, and we welcome international industry executives, festival managers, booking agents, promoters and producers to CARIFESTA XI to generate business for our artists through networking and new partnerships. CARIFESTA is undergoing a transformation to position it as a space where Caribbean culture and the arts can be promoted to help to improve the economic viability of our Member States. Prosperity is our Mission.

 What makes CARIFESTA XI even more special is that it is one of the highlights of the celebrations to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Caribbean Community, which gives us cause to reflect on Integration as our Vision. One of the architects of our regional integration movement, who was one of the signatories to the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973, the then Prime Minister of Guyana, Forbes Burnham, responded to the request of a group of writers to introduce CARIFESTA as a forum where artists and the people of the Region could come together to celebrate our culture and our diversity.  He recognized the important role of culture as the foundation of our regional movement, to bring our people together, to create one Caribbean family.  Integration is our Vision.

 It is, therefore, with much pleasure that I join the Government and people of Suriname, in welcoming Ministers and Government Officials from the Member States and Associate Members of the Caribbean Community; from the UNASUR Member States; and from other regions in the world, who are honouring CARIFESTA XI with their presence.  We welcome especially all the delegations of artists, cultural ambassadors, cultural experts and arts presenters; representatives from the Caribbean Diaspora, the media, and visitors to this Festival.  It is wonderful to celebrate CARIFESTA again in Suriname, a Member State that is well known for its rich cultural diversity and heritage, reflected in its various ethnic groups, religions, languages, traditions, dress and its exotic and delightful cuisine.

 There is much to learn and to enjoy over the next 10 days of CARIFESTA XI. I look forward to sharing with you, to creating new CARIFESTA memories and partnerships, and to some amazing performances and cultural expressions from our very talented artists.  I hope your CARIFESTA experience will inspire you to a new understanding of who we are as a people and of our great Caribbean Civilisation where Culture is our Passion; Prosperity our Mission; And Integration our Vision.

 Thank you

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