What is at issue:
The sea is a fundamental component of the history, memory and daily life of the Raizal people, an African descent ethnic minority that inhabits Old Providence and Santa Catalina (Colombia), small islands located on the Western Caribbean. Much of the local knowledge, practices and livelihoods, are related to this space, and fishing and navigation have been central to Raizal society and culture.
On November 2020, Hurricane Iota devastated Old Providence and St. Catalina islands, destroying many houses, as well as public infrastructure. Amongst the cultural expressions that were deeply affected by the Hurricane, are fishing and sailing traditions. Almost 80% of the artisanal fishing fleet was destroyed, affecting the community food sovereignty, economy and cultural identity. While sailing traditions, that keep alive as fundamental ludic spaces also resulted affected, as catboats and cotton boats were partially or totally destroyed.
Meanwhile, the current catboat damage hinders the possibility of catboats and cotton boat races, so this important cultural spaces continue to weaken with time. Efforts to safeguard them have been scarce and difficult, as culture has not been central to the national and centralized view of the reconstruction process, although local demands of an integral cultural approach according to local needs.
In 2022, we aim to develop the fourth version of the Caribbean Traditional Navigation Festival, an annual space that seeks to contribute to safeguard, value and strengthen the practices and knowledge of Raizal people maritime culture, bringing again different activities to the local public in Old Providence and Santa Catalina, as well as San Andres Island (also home to Raizal people and affected by the hurricane).
What's happening now:
The IV Festival of Traditional Shipping of the Island Caribbean: Culture is what the hurricane could not take. It will take place from 29 September to 8 October and will feature various activities aimed at the local public, taking place in both San Andres and Providencia. A number of virtual activities are also planned.
In this fourth edition, there will be dialogues on local, regional and national knowledge, activities for children and youth, documentaries, academic lectures and exhibitions on educational experiences, among others. This year we want to highlight cultural resistance and resilience as the central theme of our festival, taking into account the different ways that the people of Raizal have used to preserve their culture and identity amidst the experience of the disaster that continues to affect the lives of the islanders.
We are contributing to create and strengthen an annual space to safeguard, value and make visible the Raizal people cultural maritime heritage related to fishing, navigation and boat building, through the exchange and knowledge dialogue between knowers/bearers, cultural managers, new generations (children and youth), activists, academics and the general public, as well as other local and external stakeholders, as a way to strengthen culture and identity in the post-disaster scenario that the islands experience.
What we have achieved:
From 2019, the Sea, Land and Culture Old Providence Initiative, a locally based organization, has been developing the Caribbean Traditional Navigation Festival, an annual space that seeks to contribute to safeguard, value and strengthen the practices and knowledge of Raizal people maritime culture, as a way to contribute to strengthen cultural identity and heritage, and to create awareness of the ecological and cultural importance of the sea.
After the hurricane, we have make an effort to continue with this activity as a way to contribute to the social and cultural reconstruction that has not been central to the institutional process. This way, in September 2021, we developed different cultural activities in Old Providence and Santa Catalina as part of the festival, linking knowers/bearers, cultural managers, new generations (children and youth), activists, academics and the general public.