ST. CROIX – The 35th Legislature’s Committee on Culture, Youth, Aging, Sports, and Parks, chaired by Senator Angel Bolques, L. Bolques, Jr., convened a meeting at the Frits E. Lawaetz Room. The 175th Emancipation Commemoration Committee, the Virgin Islands Puerto Rico Friendship Committee, the St. Croix Administrator, and the Mayor of Vieques, Puerto Rico, shared an update on the status of activities, achievements, and challenges.
Carol Burke, chairwoman of the 175th Emancipation Commemoration Committee, provided a comprehensive testimony detailing the committee’s latest developments. The restoration of Buddhoe Park, a historically significant sacred site, is among the successes. The committee cleaned, renovated, and restored Buddhoe Park on St. Croix due to its dilapidated condition. Moreover, significant progress was made through archival and digitization initiatives, which included the vi175.com website, a repository of historically significant information.
In addition, the Committee worked with an unidentified public relations firm to secure media coverage in approximately 30 publications, including Essence Magazine and prominent travel and tourism-focused publications, in addition to over 700 syndicated stories. Senator Alma Heyliger Francis questioned the rationale behind the committee’s decision to incur media costs rather than collaborate with the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism. Carol Burke responded that although the committee did not wish to use funds for this purpose, it was necessary to do so. In accordance with Executive Order 531-2023, Senator Bolques cautioned the committee to collaborate with the Virgin Islands Department of Tourism in the future due to their substantial marketing budget. Among the pending capital projects are the beautification of Emancipation Drive, the installation of Emancipation Drive columns, and the packaging of greeting signs and historical landmarks throughout the territory.
Luis Torres, president of the Virgin Islands Puerto Rico Committee, stated that funding is the greatest obstacle. Additional funding is required to host events effectively. Despite an increase in expenses, there has been a decline in contributions from the private sector. There are three honorees for the 59th anniversary celebrations: Domitilia Vargas, Daniel Rodriquez, and Soe Diaz. St. Croix Administrator Sammy Sanes stated that Governor Paiewonsky instituted Friendship Day in 1964 to honor Puerto Ricans who reside in or have made significant contributions to the Virgin Islands. Nevertheless, our history with Puerto Rico dates back at least 200 years.
Senators present at the committee meeting are Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Samuel Carrion, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Franklin D. Johnson, and Milton E. Potter.
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