Kingston, and more specifically downtown Kingston, can be described as the cradle of Jamaica’s cultural development. In fact, Kingston has given rise to many of our cultural icons and has been home to such internationally acclaimed artistes as Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Shaggy and 2002 Gold Musgrave Awardee, painter David Pottinger to name a few.
Many have had an ongoing love affair with Kingston. The city was both their inspiration as well as the subject of many of their works.
It is not surprising therefore, that when Venezuelan liberator and National Hero, Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisma – Simon Bolivar – resided in Jamaica in 1815, he lived at 33 Princess Street in downtown Kingston. It was from here that he wrote what is reputed to be his greatest written work, the “Jamaica Letter”.
The Letter, it is believed, was Bolivar’s views on the independence movement in Venezuela and the form of government, which was right for that country and, was in part his response to an invitation by the then English Governor of Jamaica to expound on the matter.
Bolivar, a liberal and proponent of the free market, used the letter to urge his countrymen to work towards freedom from Spain. He became one of South America’s greatest generals who fought and secured independence from Spain for Bolivia, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, earning for himself, the title of El Libertador (The Liberator).
Today, as the Urban Development Corporation UDC) moves towards the redevelopment of downtown Kingston, the repositioning of the city as a cultural hub is one of the guiding forces. To this end, a cultural centre in honour of Simon Bolivar is being constructed at North Parade and Church Street in historic Parade, not far from Bolivar’s Princess Street address.
The centre which is being constructed through the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) will on completion house an interpretive museum, library, administrative block and the Simon Bolivar Exhibit Hall. A 350 seater multi-cultural centre will also be provided. The centre is expected to build on the Bolivarian concept of cultural enlightenment offering opportunities for young children to be exposed to the cultural and performing arts. It addition, it is expected to contribute to the economic development of the city, by providing jobs for teachers and students of the arts.
The project is being constructed at an estimated cost of US$3.2M., for which a grant of US$2M in the first instance, has been committed by the Venezuelan Government. The Jamaican government is to provide US$766,000.
With its close proximity to the Ward Theatre, Liberty Hall and the historic churches, market and parks in Parade, it is expected that the Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre will help to burnish Kingston’s cultural image