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Remarks by Ambassador Candace Bond at Christmas on the Hill
December 13, 2023


Remarks by Candace Bond
Christmas on the Hill
Sogren Trace, Laventille
December 12, 1:45 p.m.

Hello!  And Merry Christmas!  I am U.S. Ambassador Candace Bond, and as I said last year here at Sogren Trace Park, I am the Ambassador of Joy.  I am thrilled to be here again today.  Thank you for having me and thank you all for coming.

Special thanks to my friend, Mrs. Sharon Cark-Rowley, attorney-at-law, Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Adrian Leonce, Minister of Social Development and Family Services Donna Cox, His Worship Mayor Chinua Alleyne for participating today.

I would also like to thank those who made this event possible: my friend Commissioner of Police Erla Christopher, senior superintendent Spence and the IATF Inspector Dave Williams, the Hearts and Minds Unit, event organizers Ms. Dianne Nanton and Project GRACE, and of course, my embassy family, in particular my INL team who worked so hard to make today happen. Nicole and Saleem, thank you.

This event is all about sharing.  Last year, this was my first public engagements as the U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.  I brought my daughter Maddox who is now in college in New York City, she brought her friends, we met the kids, we met Santa, we laughed and limed—we had a real good time.

I love it here.  Laventille is a beautiful part of Port of Spain.  People from Laventille have made tremendous contributions to Trinidad and Tobago, and to the world. Steelpan pioneer Bertie Marshall, world champion boxer Leslie Stewart, soca musician Destra Garcia, and my predecessor, Ambassador John Estrada, were all from Laventille.

Kids, I know you are on your holiday break, but I’m going to teach you four things about Laventille that will blow your mind and make you walk with your head high.

First, did you know that Fort Chacon used to be an observatory, where scientists went to view the planets?  In fact, astronomers in Laventille used that observatory to accurately establish the first location in the new world, using an old time GPS called longitude and latitude.

Number two.  Laventille literally built much of old Port of Spain. limestone rock from Laventille was quarried here and taken to build many of the older buildings in Port of Spain. The next time you go down Quarry Street, keep your eyes out for the old quarries.

Three, Laventille was a safe place for freed slaves.  In 1834, when slavery was abolished in Trinidad—29 years before it was abolished in the United States —many former enslaved people made their first free home in Laventille.

Four.  Many of you probably know this one.  In the early 20th century, people from Laventille invented and perfected the steelpan.  I don’t need to tell you the impact and the joy that has spread across the world from the invention of the steelpan.  How many of you can play steelpan?

Our Secretary of State Antony Blinken, my boss, enjoyed listening to the Laventille Rhythm Section during his trip to Trinidad and Tobago just some months ago.

Laventille has always had a strong connection to the United States. You may remember that last year, I told you that one of my predecessors, Ambassador John Estrada, was born in Laventille.  What you might not know is that Ambassador Estrada also served as the 15th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, at the time making him the most senior enlisted U.S. marine in the world.  Ambassador Estrada learned from his earliest days the importance of family, of community, hard work, and of service, from right here in these hills.

I love today’s event because it gives us an opportunity to focus on the real meaning of the holiday season: sharing.  The 2,000 gifts we are giving out today for the 2,000 children here come from the American people.

We at the U.S. Embassy, with help from the U.S.-funded Project GRACE, are proud to have provided the gifts for the kids, because we love to spread holiday cheer.

We believe that this event is an important investment in Laventille’s youth and community.

Americans are like Trinbagonians in this way: we all believe in generosity, taking care of our neighbors, and spreading the blessings we have.

That’s enough from me, you’ve had to sit through enough speeches so far and I know you want to get to the presents.   When I was your age, I would have wanted to as well.

For everyone here and for everyone listening in or watching from home, I wish you Merry Christmas, happy holidays, on behalf of the people and government of the United States of America, and from my family to yours.

I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and safe new year.

Enjoy the toys!

Thank you.