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Protecting Heritage in the Caribbean

Protecting Heritage in the Caribbean

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Protecting Heritage in the Caribbean

327 pages
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Nov 29, 2011


Heritage preservation is a broad term that can include the protection of a wide range of human-mediated material and cultural processes ranging from specific artifacts, ancient rock art, and features of the built environment and modified landscapes. As a region of multiple independent nations and colonial territories, the Caribbean shares a common heritage at some levels, yet at the same time there are vast historical and cultural differences. Likewise, approaches to Caribbean heritage preservation are similarly diverse in range and scope.
This volume addresses the problem of how Caribbean nations deal with the challenges of protecting their cultural heritages or patrimonies within the context of pressing economic development concerns. Is there formal legislation that requires cultural patrimony to be considered prior to the approval of development projects? Does legislation apply only to government-funded projects or to private ones as well? Are there levels of legislation: local, regional, national? Are heritage preservation laws enforced? For whom is the heritage protected and what public outreach is implemented to disseminate the information acquired and retained?
In this volume, practitioners of heritage management on the frontline of their own islands address the current state of affairs across the Caribbean to present a comprehensive overview of Caribbean heritage preservation challenges. Considerable variability is seen in how determined and serious different nations are in approaching the responsibilities of heritage preservation. Packaging these diverse scenarios into a single volume is a critical step in raising awareness of the importance of protecting and judiciously managing an ever-diminishing fund of Caribbean heritage for all.
Todd M. Ahlman / Benoît Bérard / Milton Eric Branford / Richard T. Callaghan / Kevin Farmer / R. Grant Gilmore III / Jay B. Haviser / Ainsley C. Henriques / William F. Keegan / Bruce J. Larson / Paul E. Lewis / Vel Lewis / Reg Murphy / Michael P. Pateman / Winston F. Phulgence / Esteban Prieto Vicioso / Basil A. Reid / Andrea Richards / Elizabeth Righter / Kelley Scudder-Temple / Peter E. Siegel / Christian Stouvenot / Daniel Torres Etayo
Nov 29, 2011

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Protecting Heritage in the Caribbean - Todd M. Ahlman


L. Antonio Curet, Series Editor


Edited by Peter E. Siegel and Elizabeth Righter



Copyright © 2011

The University of Alabama Press

Tuscaloosa, Alabama 35487-0380

All rights reserved

Manufactured in the United States of America

Typeface: Bembo

The paper on which this book is printed meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Protecting heritage in the Caribbean / edited by Peter E. Siegel and Elizabeth Righter.

      p. cm. — (Caribbean archaeology and ethnohistory)

   Includes bibliographical references and index.

   ISBN 978-0-8173-5667-5 (paper : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-8173-8390-9 (electronic) 1. Caribbean Area—Cultural policy. 2. Cultural property—Protection—Caribbean Area. 3. Historic preservation—Caribbean Area. 4. Caribbean Area—Antiquities. 5. Monuments—Conservation and restoration—Caribbean Area. 6. Museums—Caribbean Area. 7. Historic preservation—Economic aspects—Caribbean Area. 8. Caribbean Area—Economic conditions. 9. Economic development—Caribbean Area. I. Siegel, Peter E. II. Righter, Elizabeth, 1937–

   F2169.P76 2011



Frontispiece. Map of the Caribbean. Courtesy of the Cartographic Lab at The University of Alabama.


Preface: Intersecting Values in Caribbean Heritage Preservation

Peter E. Siegel

1. The Bahamas

Michael P. Pateman

2. Cuba

Daniel Torres Etayo

3. United States Naval Station, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba

Bruce J. Larson

4. Jamaica

Andrea Richards and Ainsley Henriques

5. Dominican Republic

Esteban Prieto Vicioso

6. Puerto Rico

Peter E. Siegel

7. U.S. Virgin Islands

Elizabeth Righter

8. St. Kitts and Nevis

Todd M. Ahlman and Kelley Scudder-Temple

9. Antigua and Barbuda

Reg Murphy

10. French West Indies

Benoît Bérard and Christian Stouvenot

11. Saint Lucia

Milton Eric Branford

12. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Paul E. Lewis

13. St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Recent Efforts in Protecting Heritage

Richard T. Callaghan

14. Barbados

Kevin Farmer

15. Trinidad and Tobago

Basil A. Reid and Vel Lewis

16. Netherlands Antilles

Jay B. Haviser and R. Grant Gilmore III

17. Patrimony or Patricide?

William F. Keegan and Winston Phulgence

18. Protecting Heritage in the Caribbean

Peter E. Siegel

References Cited




Intersecting Values in Caribbean Heritage Preservation

Peter E. Siegel

Dictionary definitions of heritage include: 1: property that descends to an heir; 2 a: something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor: Legacy, Inheritance; b: Tradition 3: something possessed as a result of one's natural situation or birth: birthright (Merriam-Webster 2003:582). This broad definition may apply to individuals, families, communities, towns, cities, nations, and blocks of nations. Homo erectus remains and associated artifacts might be thought of as humanity's collective heritage. Heritage is at once global and local (Carman 2002:11). We may also distinguish between cultural and natural heritage. Cultural heritage might be easier to characterize as cultural compared to something that is exclusively natural. If natural heritage signifies a landscape or environment that has not been imprinted with a trace of humanity or culture then it may be an ideal or elusive concept, at least for the last 300,000 years or so, depending on what part of the planet we're talking about. Thus the discipline of historical ecology explicitly investigates the synergy between human culture and physical environment (Balée 1998; Crumley 1994; Redman 1999). Heritage enters into this enterprise when we understand that people look to their past, real or imagined, as it may be inscribed on the landscape and which is a powerful device for cultural identification (Anico and Peralta 2009).

That said, we do not live in a static world. Ideas about how we view, define, and manage heritage change with shifting societal values and needs. People and communities don't have monolithic views about how to view or value heritage. One group's revered past may be another's oppression. Look at the Euro-American myth how the American West was won and the Native American reality how the American West was lost. Sharon Macdonald referred to unsettling, competing or contested, memories, narratives and heritage (Macdonald 2009:93). Conflicting views of the past may have real implications for how we treat that past or whether we even want to preserve it. A prime example of this conflict is currently being played out on Trinidad. Trinidad gained independence from England in 1962. Seen through the prism of independence politics [the British architecture in Port of Spain] became symbols of an unpleasant past, with negative associations with slavery and colonialism (Shaftel 2008:D8). As such, much of this historic architecture has been demolished and replaced with drab office buildings and stores. So here's a twist on heritage management: If the heritage we're talking about relates to a painful past of colonial oppression then there may be incentive not to preserve or protect it and in fact to demolish it by neglect or removal. Reg Murphy (this volume) makes the same point in regard to British colonial architecture on Antigua and Barbuda. He observed that to modern Antiguans, heritage that is looked on favorably includes music, food, and carnival. Values associated with heritage result in such notions as Afro-Caribbean is the good heritage, worthy of preservation, whereas vestiges of the colonial past constitute the bad heritage, deserving to be excised from the landscape and eventually from memory.

An alternative perspective might be to passionately preserve those symbols of a horrendous past, lest we forget what happened. Look at Nazi Germany and the gas chambers and crematoria that vaporized six million Jews (Macdonald 2009). Without reconstructive and preventive efforts, these evidences of the evils of indifference and intolerance might be lost for future generations, taking their lessons into oblivion with them (Samen 2009:17-18). The current president of Iran would applaud and even recommend acceleration of such oblivion. You can be sure that the State of Israel and Jews around the world will make sure that those edifices of extirpation will not be destroyed; they are heritage and paraphrasing the dictionary are properties that descend to their heirs. In the Nazi case, the heirs of that heritage are both the descendants of the murderers and the victims.

Heritage is intimately linked to the core of community. And communities are diverse, frequently consisting of multivocal constituents. Every human group or subset thereof has a past in which fundamental values and notions of identification are centered. Issues of great importance in community organization and structure that link past to present include in- and out-migration of distinct ethnic groups; commingling and merging of ethnic groups resulting in new social formations; and social, economic, and political inequalities. Individual, group, and historical memories link people to one another and to the ground (Shackel 2003, 2008).

We view the concept of community not as a bounded, self-contained entity but rather as a mosaic of interacting and continually evolving social and ethnic formations. Snapshots of the mosaic at different points in time provide a framework for investigating historical changes in the community. This diachronic and diachromatic perspective facilitates an examination of the larger regional, and perhaps global, context that undoubtedly factored strongly in the changing complexion of the community. In- and out-migration and ethnic mingling are a prevailing theme in Caribbean history, whether we're talking 6000 B.C. or today. Migrations and inter- and intra-group relations constitute an important framework or context for any aspect of cultural heritage in the Caribbean, at geographic scales ranging from the local municipality, to the larger region, to an entire nation, to the archipelago; surrounding mainlands; and in the post-Columbian era, the world.

Our goal is to assess how Caribbean nations address the challenges of protecting their cultural heritages or patrimonies. Is there formal legislation that requires cultural patrimony to be considered prior to development projects? Does legislation apply only to government-funded projects or to private ones as well? Are there levels of legislation: local, regional, national? How well enforced are heritage preservation laws? Each nation confronts a unique set of challenges and issues, from the identification of historic/cultural/heritage resources to the balance between real or perceived requirements of cultural development (i.e., construction) and real or perceived requirements of cultural patrimony (i.e., historic preservation). Do developers catering to the tourist industry even consider heritage and its protection as something that might contribute to their profit margin? If not, how can we as frontline heritage managers promote preservation to politicians and developers as something good to do and in fact something that is good for business? Perhaps tourists beached on the sands of a great Caribbean island, backed by a palatial 5-star hotel, would also be interested in learning about the pre-Columbian or colonial history of the property. A professionally prepared exhibit, with considerable input from local archaeologists and historians, strategically placed in the grand hotel lobby might leave a favorable impression on guests, and when the vacation is over they might retain some memory of the heritage of their resort location. If this sensitivity about the past can be imparted to developers early in planning, it might just be possible for them to actually work with (not against) heritage managers in the design stages of a resort and to build in areas where sites are not located. Of course this may require a portion of the developer's budget to pay for archaeological surveys and some amount of excavation. And this is where legislators need to step up to the plate; as we know, unenlightened developers are unlikely to willingly allocate any money to heritage preservation if they don't have to.

Sadly, lots of heritage resources have already been destroyed, and more continue to get destroyed each year owing to weak or nonexistent legislation. Legislators and the publics-at-large for most of the island nations simply don't acknowledge that there can or should be a thoughtful balance between the real or perceived needs in economic or infrastructure development vs. consideration of their patrimony. The exasperated and sometimes passionate voices of the eyewitnesses to national patricide (see Keegan and Phulgence, this volume) heard in the following pages emphasize the importance of implementing strong heritage legislation now to protect dwindling supplies of these nonrenewable vestiges of the Caribbean human past.

In this volume we have assembled frontline practitioners of heritage management to address current states-of-affairs across the Caribbean. There's considerable variability in how seriously different nations think about their individual patrimonies, which by extension relates to competing notions of national and ethnic identity. Packaging these diverse scenarios into a single volume perhaps will be a step, albeit small, in raising awareness of the importance of protecting and judiciously managing an ever-smaller fund of Caribbean heritage.

The chapters are organized generally by geographic location, from north to south, starting with the Bahamas. For St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) we have two chapters. Paul Lewis provides an overview of preservation challenges and Richard Callaghan discusses current efforts to improve heritage protection on SVG. William Keegan and Winston Phulgence address some issues of heritage death for islands that have little to no legislation. In the concluding chapter, I offer some suggestions for how we may proceed in this world of dwindling resources and development pressures, while maintaining a focus on heritage protection.

When soliciting potential authors for the book, we were unable to find somebody for Haiti. On January 12, 2010, in the final stages of editing, a devastating earthquake and its aftershocks destroyed much of Haiti. Two days later, the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS) issued a statement of support and condolence for the people of Haiti and their cultural heritage: Cultural heritage [is] a symbolic necessity that gives meaning to human lives connecting past, present and future. Cultural heritage is a reference full of values helping to restore a sense of normality and enabling people to move forward. Cultural heritage is fundamental in rebuilding the identity, the dignity and the hope of the communities after a catastrophe (Blue Shield 2010). The Blue Shield consortium¹ place[d] the expertise and network of its member organizations at the disposal of their Haitian colleagues to support their work in assessing the damage to the cultural heritage of their country including libraries, archives, museums and monuments and sites, and subsequent recovery, restoration and repair measures (Blue Shield 2010). Cultural heritage is viewed as one component of infrastructure that's crucial to include in reconstruction efforts.


1. The ICBS is the cultural-heritage equivalent of the Red Cross and is comprised of five nongovernmental organizations: International Council on Archives, International Council on Museums, International Council on Monuments and Sites, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, and the Coordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations.


The Bahamas

Michael P. Pateman


The Commonwealth of The Bahamas became a nation independent from Great Britain in 1973. At that time the main source of Bahamian cultural heritage expression was Junkanoo (a parade with African roots held on Boxing Day and New Year's Day). Beyond parades, The Bahamas government lacked the educational or cultural infrastructure and the economic or political power to manage the nation's cultural resources. The government began to develop this infrastructure in the early 1990s, when Bahamian history was taught and tested in a new national exam, as opposed to British history and British national exams, in senior high school. Additionally, 25 years after independence the government passed legislation mandating the preservation and protection of Bahamian historical resources.

While often considered part of the Caribbean, The Bahamas are actually located in the Atlantic Ocean, just north and east of the Caribbean Sea. The Bahama island chain forms a 1,223-km arc (760 mi) of 29 islands, 661 cays, and 2,387 rock formations laid out in a northwest to southeast direction, through the Atlantic Ocean that acts as a natural barrier across the eastern gateway to the Gulf of Mexico (Sealey 1994). The westernmost island of Bimini is located approximately 80 km (50 mi) off the southeast coast of Florida, and the southernmost island of Great Inagua is located 130 km (80 mi) off the northwestern coast of Hispaniola and 88 km (55 mi) off the eastern coast of Cuba. The population of The Bahamas as of the 2007 census estimate is 305,655, with the majority of people living on three islands, New Providence (Nassau) 210,832, Grand Bahama Island (Freeport) 46,994, and the Abaco Islands (Marsh Harbour) 13,170. This population is divided ethnically into 85 percent black, 12 percent white, and 3 percent other (Bahamas Department of Statistics 2008)

Although The Bahamas was recognized as the location of Columbus's landfall in the New World, cultural resources were often ignored by the local community and the government. Early archaeologists (preindependence in 1973) often would seek permission to excavate or remove artifacts from landowners, as in De Booy in 1912 and 1913, Hoffman in 1967, and Rainey in 1934; or conduct coastline surveys via boat or motorcycle, as in MacLaury in 1968, Sears in 1975, and Sullivan in 1974, with no oversight from the central government or permission to remove cultural artifacts. As a result of this, early collections are scattered throughout the United States and Europe, including prominent institutions such as the Smithsonian and the British Museum. With few reports existing on the early fieldwork, this has made it difficult to track cultural property. The author has been engaged in an effort for the last five years to find all reports written on Bahamian archaeology and to locate foreign heritage holdings. Many of the early archaeologists became territorial over the discovery of sites and were hesitant to share research results, resulting in friction between the few researchers in The Bahamas.

From the 1950s the exclusive focus of these early archaeologists was the excavation and study of the Lucayan sites (precontact people of The Bahamas), gradually shifting to European colonial sites (Scudder-Temple 2009). This trait also was followed in historic preservation with an early focus on the European colonial heritage and the control of potential wealth and treasure. With independence, antiquities regulations and guidelines, and the gradual emergence of an Afro-Bahamian middle class (Scudder 2009), there was a shift to sites with African heritage.

The geographic nature and centralization of the majority of the population makes the control, management, and oversight of heritage resources in The Bahamas difficult. This chapter first describes heritage management in The Bahamas before antiquities regulations. Next there is an examination of the Antiquities, Monuments, and Museums Act (1998) and an evaluation of some of the successes for the protection of cultural resources since its inception. The chapter will end with a discussion of the weaknesses of heritage management in The Bahamas and suggestions for improvement.

Heritage Management before the Antiquities Act

The first legislative attempt for the protection of cultural resources was The Bahamas National Trust Act (1959). The main purpose of the National Trust was for promoting the permanent preservation for the benefit and enjoyment of The Bahamas of lands and tenements (including buildings) and submarine areas of beauty or natural or historic interest (National Trust Act 1959: Section 4, part 1). This was accomplished by in situ preservation. However, this act was inadequate for the protection of heritage resources. The National Trust was a nonprofit, nongovernment agency that had to raise money to complete its mandate. Thus the membership and the contributors to the National Trust were primarily the elite of Bahamian society—traditionally whites or foreign-born residents (referred to as ex-pats). The concept of historic interest as stated in the National Trust Act was not defined and therefore left for interpretation. These combined factors led to a focus on the preservation of buildings and sites with European colonial heritage and a disconnect with most Afro-Bahamians.

Additionally, the government sanctioned archaeological surveys and excavations through the National Trust. However, the oversight by the National Trust was purely administrative and uninformed as there were no archaeologists on staff or on the board of directors. It is important to note that the National Trust must be credited with having the first cultural resources management (CRM) survey conducted in The Bahamas. This was conducted on Inagua Island of a proposed U.S. Customs Aerostat Base (Keegan 1992). This survey showed government decision makers the importance of conducting a cultural resources survey before development. This first CRM project came about because the director of the Bahamas National Trust demanded the U.S. government follow the same rules that applied in the United States. At the time there were no laws that required such compliance in The Bahamas.

The next legislative effort for protection and preservation of heritage resources was developed out of a desire to protect and control wealth and treasure. The Abandoned Wreck Act (1965) stated that any shipwreck that has remained continuously on the Bahamian seabed for 50 years or longer is hereby vested in Her Majesty in right of Her Government of The Bahamas and all claims of all persons to abandoned wreck are hereby barred (Abandoned Wreck Act 1965: Section 3). The goal of this legislation was not for the protection of the maritime heritage of The Bahamas but to allow the government to control the potential financial benefits of treasure and salvage.

The Public Records Act (1971) was established with the main purposes of the collection, protection, and preservation of Bahamian governmental records and archives and the development of the Bahamas National Archives. This showed an interest by the government in the protection and preservation of Bahamian history. Also, the Archives began hosting exhibits on Bahamian history and culture in 1973. This led to the Department of Archives being designated by the government in the early 1980s as the organization in charge of The Bahamas' material heritage, historic buildings, sites, and archaeology. However, this designation was not accompanied by legislative legal support and there was little financial support.

Despite this shortfall, the Archives established a museum, archaeology, and historic preservation section to stimulate development in conserving The Bahamas' material culture, and hired the first government archaeologist, Anthony Tony Aarons (1988–1993), a Jamaican national. This section's major goals were to spearhead and control archaeology, to document and preserve historic buildings, to curate and preserve artifacts, and to establish museums. Considering the legislative and budgetary limitations, significant archaeological excavations were sponsored by the Department of Archives, including the Clifton Plantation (Wilkie and Farnsworth 2005) and the Promised Land Plantation (Farnsworth 2000), New Providence; Cartwright Cave at Mortimer's, Long Island (Aarons 1989); Sanctuary Blue Hole (Lucayan mass burial) and Stargate Blue Hole (submerged Lucayan canoe), South Andros (Pateman 2007); Preacher's Cave (first English settlement), North Eleuthera (Carr et al. 1991); and the Long Bay Site (proposed Columbus landfall site), San Salvador (Hoffman 1987).

The Archives also led the charge for the development of a National Art Gallery. One of the early goals was to restore Villa Doyle, a historic residence (1860s) in Nassau, purchased by the government of The Bahamas in 1995, and to ultimately convert it into the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas. The National Art Gallery was officially opened on July 7, 2003, with three Bahamian-themed exhibits (Bahamas Government 2008). The mission of the National Art Gallery is to collect, exhibit, preserve, and document a National Collection of Art for the benefit and education of Bahamians and the wider international audiences (Bahamas Government 2008).

The Antiquities, Monuments, and Museums Act (1998)

In 1998 the government of The Bahamas passed legislation that called for the preservation, conservation, restoration, documentation, study and presentation of sites and objects of historical, anthropological, archaeological and paleontological interest, to establish a National Museum, and for matters ancillary thereto or connected therewith (Bahamas Government 1998). The Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Act established a corporate, quasigovernment agency (the Antiquities, Monuments, and Museums Corporation, or AMMC) in which Bahamians were intended to have a directed influence over the management and preservation of The Bahamas' cultural heritage, which previously was not afforded to them. One of the major benefits of the Antiquities Act was that it placed all cultural heritage programs under one office that had been previously spread among several agencies, including the National Trust and the Archives.


Prior to the Antiquities Act, during the 1980s to 1990s archaeologists seeking to conduct fieldwork in The Bahamas would gain permits from the Archives. However, this was limited mainly to research archaeologists and field schools. As the protection of heritage resources was not mandated by law, The Bahamas lost many valuable historic sites to foreign investment and development. Occasionally, prior to the destruction of a site, the

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