On July 1 St. Maarten celebrates its Emancipation day.
To commemorate this day, for the past few years a few cultural based organisations on the island have organised “Run for Freedom.” The ‘run’ is meant as a reenactment of the Diamond 26, a group of slaves that decided to take their freedom rather than wait on it to be given to them.
Because St. Maarten is an island divided between The Netherlands and France there are two different sets of laws applied to this tiny 37 sq mile piece of land. The French half of the island had slavery abolished before the half ran by the Dutch. So for the Diamond 26 it was a matter of crossing the border to become free men and women (thank goodness for open borders even then).
I did the ‘run’ once, a few years ago, and enjoyed it both times. You’re taken into the hills where the Diamond Estate was located and led along a path to gain your freedom as the slave masters chase after you. I taped a bit of the experience. You can find the video here. It’s dark and not a lot of footage because when you’re running for your life you don’t want to attract your captures with bright lights and there’s really no time to tape anything.
After we made it across the border and officially became free men and women we then transferred back to 2016 to where we then acknowledged the persons that actually had to make this journey. Though the organisers tried to make it as authentic as possible we are still in 2016. We had jeans, and shoes, and phones to help us light the way while our ancestors did not.
It is definitely an experience worth having. But please, if you’re not going to take it seriously don’t take part. It is not a stroll through the hills. It is fast paced walking, sometimes running, lots of stooping and realising there are people looking for you that want your life for their benefit and not your own.
After the run was over, there were performances by local artists, poets and dancers.
*all photos courtesy of Robin Peters