Every time there is an occasion to celebrate something on Bonaire, we do it. Big time. It is a Caribbean habit, Bonaire is in the region, and there is no exception to the rule.
Each island of the former Netherlands Antilles has its own flag, and that is a feat to celebrate each year. On Bonaire we have our Bonaire day, our Day of the Flag, on September 6. This year the celebrations were in the community centre of the Nort di Saliña area, next to the area where I live.
It started at nine in the morning. I always skip the morning part of the celebrations since I am not into speeches, especially not here on Bonaire where officials excel in saying nothing with tons of words. So around two PM I started my motorbike and drove the three minutes downhill. There were quite a few people already. The friends I met told me that by skipping the morning program, I really missed out on something this time. A demonstration, with more than 500 people attending. For you it may not sound like much, but for Bonaire with its 15000 inhabitants it is huge. This turn-out percentage in The Netherlands would result in a demonstration of half a million people!
The demonstration was to show dissatisfaction, or even anger, with the affairs on Bonaire ever since the island became a part of the Netherlands 11 months ago. Bonaire now is the playground of Dutch civil servants. An avalanche of new rules washed over the island with devastating effects. The combination of a completely new tax code and exchanging the Antillean guilder for the American dollar resulted in a sharp rise in prices. Wages stay at the old level, so many people cannot make ends meet anymore. Still, Bonaireans are a kind and modest people and the demonstration had been orderly and peaceful.
In the afternoon the festivities were not affected. Demonstration boards were used as sun shields (we are very practical on Bonaire) and the drinking, eating, chatting and dancing was as always when it is celebration time. Of course my Bonairean friends had me join in on the Simadan dance, where rows of dancers go back and forth. By now I know some of the lyrics and can join in on the singing part too. Around nine PM I went back home, exhausted. But then the guests who stayed in my apartment downstairs happened to come back home at the same time. They had missed the celebrations, not knowing exactly where it was. I could not let that happen, so the three of us went back to enjoy the last couple of hours. More drinking and dancing! Life is not easy on Bonaire.