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JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The dream of Venezuelan Revolutionary Leader, Símόn Bólívar, to unite the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean through culture is being realised at the Símόn Bólívar Cultural Centre (SBCC).
  • Although the Centre receives support under the PetroCaribe Development Fund, Mrs. Gooden said efforts will be made to raise funds, especially for the after-school programmes.
  • Chief of State Protocol at the Office of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Elinor Felix, who attended the “Latin Night”, lauded the dance programme.

The dream of Venezuelan Revolutionary Leader, Símόn Bólívar, to unite the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean through culture is being realised at the Símόn Bólívar Cultural Centre (SBCC).

Scores of Jamaicans and Latinos twisted, swayed and twirled as they did the one-two-three salsa steps, at a recent event dubbed “Latin Mania” at the Centre in North Parade, downtown, Kingston.

It was the launch of Latin Night, one of the many programmes introduced at the SBCC to help raise awareness of and appreciation for Latin American and Caribbean culture and the ideals of Símόn Bólívar while he was exiled in Jamaica in 1815.

The SBCC, a gift from the Venezuelan Government, was officially opened on September 6, 2015, after it was renovated by the Urban Development Corporation and handed over to the Institute of Jamaica, an agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

The building contains a library, an interpretation room, a language laboratory, a multi-purpose room for lectures and performances, a kitchenette and administrative offices.

“The plan for the Latin Night is to have it every other month. We are cognisant of the fact that there are other Latin nights taking place around Kingston and if we try to have it every week, we will not get a full support. In-between, we are looking at offering a Caribbean Night,” Centre Manager of the SBCC, Nadine Boothe Gooden, told JIS News.

“We want to push Latin American and Caribbean integration, so we want to involve the Caribbean flavour as well as the Latin flavour, so it’s not just about Latin but a fusion of the two, a melting pot,” she added.

The Centre offers Latin dance and Spanish language classes for children, as well as an after-school programme, which includes music, Latin dance as well as guidance and counselling sessions.

There is also a daily tour, ‘Salon de Bólívar’ showcasing the life and history of Símόn Bólívar, followed by a Bolivarian film and a question and answer session.

Mrs. Gooden said the after-school programme, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., is for students, 6 to 16 years.

“They basically have the same opportunities to do Latin dance, Spanish, music, and we offer guidance and counselling because we find as young as the children are, they do need counselling,” she said.

Additionally, there are Latin dance and conversational Spanish courses for adults on Mondays and Tuesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The Centre Manager said that classes could be scheduled to meet the needs of students and visitors.

“We can be flexible to meet the needs of our visitors…Right now, we want to be guided by the requests and concerns of our visitors because from time to time, they make recommendations,” she said.

Although the Centre receives support under the PetroCaribe Development Fund, Mrs. Gooden said efforts will be made to raise funds, especially for the after-school programmes.

In this regard, she said there will be a membership programme for the Latin Night, where persons can sign up and contribute towards the event.

“At Símόn Bólívar, we are going through the baby steps at this stage of the game. We are trying to reach Jamaicans, especially in this area …I think salsa is what is going to get them and then to spin off into some salsa-reggae fusion moment,” Dance Instructor at the SBCC, Keith Anthony, told JIS News.

“The Spanish community is huge and there are a lot more dances but I am going to focus mostly on salsa, cha-cha-cha, bachata and tango,” he said.

Mr. Anthony, who has been a dance instructor for over 18 years in Jamaica, said that students will learn the basic dance steps “from beginners all the way to intermediate, to advance and then how to be a dance instructor, for those who want to go further.”

“It is a lot of fun. It has a lot of health benefits, because you are using everything…you have to be thinking all the time so it keeps your brain alive, it keeps your body in good shape, it’s a great form of exercise,” he said.

Apart from the health benefits, he said that persons will learn to dance with a partner.

“I think Símόn Bólívar Cultural Centre is a great idea culturally and I am hoping to reach the kids to show them that there is a way to dance with a girl…where you ask the girl to dance and bring her on the dance floor and where you treat her respectfully on the dance floor,” he said.

Chief of State Protocol at the Office of the Prime Minister, Ambassador Elinor Felix, who attended the “Latin Night”, lauded the dance programme.

“I think it has been a lovely activity, because it is a way of promoting Latin American and Venezuelan culture. I love dancing and I love music,” she revealed.

Ambassador Felix said that she will be introducing the “Latin Night” to her friends.

“I particularly like how they are involving the schoolchildren in the after-school programme.  The exposure to the culture will always elicit interest and I am a firm believer that we should have foreign language in schools and with this Centre, it will encourage the young ones to enjoy learning the language,” she continued.

Chargé d’Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy, Luisa Gutierrez, expressed the hope that the people of Jamaica will take advantage of the dance programme and other activities being offered at the Centre. She said the SBCC is the brainchild of the late Venezuelan Leader Hugo Chávez.

“He dreamed of a place to pay tribute to the liberator, Símόn Bólívar, his ideas and especially to the people of Jamaica to enjoy the culture, the unity that we have. We are close countries. All the Latin American countries can unite and the culture is the main vehicle, the dance, the music to unite us,” she said.