Please allow me the opportunity to respond to the commentary, ‘As we see it: A Bit of Local History’ by Dave Schudel and Jack Benz in the 22 July, 2008, edition of Cayman Net News.
This article grossly misrepresented facts concerning efforts by Government agencies and private sector organisations to preserve Cayman’s history, culture, heritage and plant life.
The writers compare historical and cultural preservation efforts in the Cayman Islands with those in other Caribbean Islands and present the Bahamas as one example of a country that has taken the right approach to preserving its culture, while alleging that preservation efforts in the Cayman Islands have gotten weaker or simply do not exist.
The writers make reference to Nassau’s craft market and question where does Cayman display its arts and crafts that visitors can admire and purchase.
One wonders about the extent to which they undertook any meaningful research into the subject.
As the article made no mention of the Cayman Craft Market, located in the center of George Town, one has to assume that the writers have never visited this important art and craft outlet.
In fact, the craft market was established so that local artists and artisans could make and sell arts and crafts in a place that is easily accessible to visitors. The writers should also know that every Saturday at the Market at the Grounds bazaar held at the Agriculture Grounds, local arts and crafts are available for sale by some of the persons who create them.
In addition, Hammerheads Brewery distills a uniquely Caymanian spirit called Seven Fathoms Rum. The distillery at the waterfront in George Town uses Cayman-grown sugar cane and ages the rum under water right in our own bay at a depth of 42 feet. This locally produced rum is so popular that the Brewery has had trouble keeping up with the demand.
If carvers do not appear in our Craft Market, perhaps it is because Cayman’s own history and culture have been different from places like Nassau. A comparison that does not acknowledge this fact seems therefore to be rather meaningless.
Similarly, the annual Pirates Week Festival, with its popular district heritage days, brings out numerous displays of local crafts and historical artifacts that add to the appeal of this long-standing festival. Local arts and crafts are also found at other tourist attractions on Grand Cayman, including the Botanic Park, Pedro St. James, and Boatswain’s Beach.
Attractions such as Pedro St. James (to which the writers make reference) that visitors and residents enjoy, are around today precisely because of dedicated efforts to create and preserve sites that depict our heritage.
For example, the writers took pains to point out the knocking down of one great house a few years ago as symptomatic of the erosion of our history.
Yet they are silent on the many preservation efforts by several organisations and individuals within our community. Just recently, every local media house carried the welcome news that the house in which Cayman’s own intuitive artist Miss Lassie lived and produced her numerous paintings had been bought by government to be preserved as a cultural heritage site and gallery.
Perhaps readers would have been better served by these writers’ commentary, if they had taken the time and made the effort to engage in discussion with local agencies that are involved in the very things they claim are not happening here.
Had the writers taken the time to telephone the Tourism Attraction Board, which manages the Cayman Craft Market, Pedro St. James Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Hell Attraction and the Pirates Week Festival, they would have received answers to most of the questions raised in their commentary. Other organisations such as the National Trust and Cayman Islands Traditional Arts Council also faithfully carry out their role in preserving historically important sites and keeping many elements of Cayman’s heritage and culture alive.
Unfortunately, their efforts are not enhanced by the kind of sweeping negative generalizations and uninformed statements put forward by these writers. I trust that in the future, they will take the time to get the facts that are right around them before engaging in this kind of ill-informed commentary.
Tourism Attraction Board