Remarks by Ambassador Candace Bond
“Keeping Heritage Above Water” conference
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
Jade/Ruby/Sapphire meeting rooms
Good morning. I’m happy and grateful to be here with you today.
If you follow the U.S. Embassy on social media, you’ll see that I’ve hit the ground running since arriving in Port of Spain three short months ago.
Carnival was fantastic! I visited the panyards, I threw mud and powder in J’ouvert, I watched the re-enactment of the Canboulay riots, I saw the kings and queens, I visited mas camps, I played mas, I visited the children’s Carnival, and I feted again and again.
It was unlike anything I have ever done in my life.
It was beautiful to experience such communal joy. I loved seeing joy on everyone’s faces, just dancing and happy and free.
I really felt like the Ambassador of Joy on those days.
It was the perfect opportunity, so early in my tenure as U.S. Ambassador, to be steeped in the rich and unique culture of Trinidad and Tobago.
As the Ambassador, the diplomacy of culture, and the preservation of heritage and culture, are important to me. One of the things I most treasured in my outreach during Carnival was visiting a children’s mas camp, and participating in children’s Carnival.
It is so important for our cultural institutions and traditions to continue to be preserved and passed down for future generations.
This is why I am so excited to speak with you here this morning. You all are doing the work of carrying on cultural heritage, the common language of all of us as human beings. It is a common language, but the rich tangible heritage sites you all are discussing and protecting are unique to the history of Trinidad and Tobago, and tell the story of this beautiful country.
Last night, I was delighted to meet key stakeholders at the reception who are engaged in addressing important issues at the juncture of preservation of culture and climate change.
We must work together to mitigate the impact of climate change to protect the most vulnerable people and those countries with the least resources to help them manage and combat climate hazards.
The U.S. Government through the U.S. Embassy Port of Spain funds the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago to implement the Resilient Heritage Trinidad and Tobago project.
This is a two-year initiative that the U.S. Government funds through the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation. You will have a chance to hear from the director for the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation initiatives throughout the globe, Martin Perschler, later in this conference.
The U.S. Department of State launched the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation on April 3, 2001, in order to prioritized cultural heritage activities overseas to celebrate the new millennium.
In this project, right here in Trinidad and Tobago, our funding supports the National Trust in collaboration with the University of Florida Historic Preservation Program. The initiative focuses on the impact of climate change on heritage sites in downtown Port of Spain and Nelson Island. It will serve as a model to increase climate resilience for heritage sites across Trinidad and Tobago.
This conference and workshop comprise part of the project itself, and we look forward to the solution-oriented and thought-provoking discussions of this conference.
Through this grant, the U.S. Embassy Port of Spain reinforces its relationship with and commitment to the people of Trinidad and Tobago—and to the future generations of Trinbagonians who aren’t even born yet. The focus is on the preservation of Trinbagonian cultural heritage, which is a rich story of this beautiful, diverse mosaic of peoples and cultures.
Mitigating and addressing climate change is a shared goal of the people and government of the United States, and the people and government of Trinidad and Tobago, and we are proud to be your partners in this effort.
In Trinidad and Tobago, climate change and the rising sea level affect everything.
One can see damage from the persistent and devastating flooding which occurs almost every time there is torrential rainfall, especially during high tides.
We need to change how we think about the infrastructural design of our cities, ports, agriculture, housing, and public buildings. We need to consider climate change on food security and economic development.
Our grant to the National Trust will provide some of the data to inform how we change our thinking on design. I want to acknowledge the Trust’s collaboration with the University of Florida Historic Preservation Program, and their efforts on the technological and developmental aspects of the project.
Thank you all for your commitment to preserving cultural heritage.
Thank you for your commitment to mitigate the effects of climate change on our shared human heritage.
And thank you all collectively for partnering with the U.S. Government to combat climate change and work towards solutions to the climate crisis.
These are big questions in front of us, but seeing you all here this week gives me great optimism.
Thank you for your attention.