Published On: Mon, Mar 31st, 2014

Petition launched to change name of St Eustatius capital to break with colonial past

Oranjestad-by-Hellebrand-kleinORANJESTAD, St Eustatius - The capital of the Dutch Caribbean island of St Eustatius is named after the royal family of the Netherlands: Oranjestad. But maybe not for much longer. A petition to change the name into something that is not linked to the island’s colonial past is being launched.

From October 10, 2010, when the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved and St Eustatius became an integrated part of the European part of the Netherlands, the Dutch influence on the island has become stronger and stronger. To the point where many inhabitants feel that the identity of their island is being crushed.

A petition is therefore planned to adopt a new name; one that does not owe its significance to the ‘mother country’ but has its roots in the island itself and in its people. The idea is that this will help to strengthen the sense of identity of the island’s people. This in turn can encourage a focus on strengthening the island itself instead of relying too much on aid from outside.

The initiative is launched by the newly created St Eustatius Empowerment and Liberation Force (SELF). This movement aims to increase the self-awareness, self-confidence and sense of self of the people of St Eustatius: the Statians. SELF wants the Statians themselves to suggest a new name for Oranjestad. A general vote will then determine which name should be put forward to replace the current one. SELF thinks this exercise itself will encourage the people to think about what unites the island and what it means to be Statian; to look for the “inner self of the island itself.”

The name can be fairly neutral and derived from the appearance of the island. Its characteristic and impressive dormant volcano, the Quill, for example. Or ‘Mangolia’ for the abundance of fruit. Since St Eustatius is locally known as Statia, it could be ‘Statiatown’. It can also reflect history and where most of the ancestors of the island’s inhabitants came from. Like ‘Ufolo’, which means ‘Freedom’ in Ki Mbundu, a language of the former Kingdom of Kongo where according to tradition many Statian families trace their ancestry.

SELF will present its petition form on Tuesday. Persons can sign it and also put their proposal for a new name on it if they have one already. SELF will also include its own suggestions.

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