My Report on the Monument Unveiled

It was a festive afternoon as the Ike Cohen monument dedicated to the island’s Pioneers of Tourism was unveiled at Plaza Turismo, with speeches by the CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, the MinTour and the MinPres. They each went on to say pretty much the same,  that we owe our solid tourism industry to the founding fathers, visionary politicians Juancho Irausquin and Oscar Henriquez, the enterpreneurs and businessmen who figured out mobility with De Palm Tours, Wichi de Palm, Ramon Richardson and Harold Malmberg, hoteliers and developers Ike Cohen, Raymond Maduro, Eduardo de Veer and Ewald Biemans, marketing guru Eline Bartels-Daal, Calypsonian Lloyd Baptist, musician Jesus Kock, show producer and emcee Louis Pavlis, colorful bar owners from San Nicholas Charlie Brouns Senior and Charlie Brouns Junior, the man who created our first glass-bottom boat, Herman Ponson, and the father & son duo who gave us our first beach hotels, the Coral Strand and the Basi Ruti, Chaubin and Maurice Neme, the island’s first home-grown F&B director and restauranteur Eduardo Ellis, and the man who saw the future in group travel, Simon Oduber Jr.

Left out unintentially, and will be added to the moneument sometimes in the future, I am sure, Rory Arends, Adwina Arends and Walter Wiggins. And if we dig deeper, we’ll find a few more deserving founding fathers, but the monument is big enough to accommodate them all.

The credit for the project initiative goes to Myrna Jansen who has been trying to get it done since 2009. Nice project Myrna, you deserve to have your name there, too.

Tim Werleman, a late executive with the Aruba Tourism Authority who had a small plaza dedicated to his name in Eagle, and lost his monument to a bouldozer, could fit in with the Ike Cohen monument as well.

Missing from the festivities, Oscar Henriquez. According to what I hear from tourism historian Event Bongers, Oscar wrote a thundering-report on the potential development of the Aruba Caribbean, when in 1956, the island government approved the plans for the building of a luxury tourist hotel on the still totally empty Palm Beach. Oscar together with Juan Enrique Irausquin did all the legwork, gathering the information to make sure the project delivers what it was designed to do. To complete their market-research, they traveled to Miami and Puerto Rico, to benchmark, and see what the other islands are up to, and they understood ahead of anybody else that the beaches should become the focal points and that by building a first class luxury beach hotel they stand a chance of taking the Caribbean travel market over, and firmly establishing the island as a tourist destination for ‘upscale’ clients. By pushing the construction of a luxury resort they were light-years ahead of their contemporaries. Remember these were the austere 50s, and luxury was an unfamiliar concept. Juancho Irausquin, a politician from the ruling PPA party, got the boulevard named after him. Oscar Henriquez is still waiting for his.

I also missed hotelier Ewald Biemans, who has always been Ike Cohen’s fierce competitor. Ewald recently received a lifetime achievement award from the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, and perhaps didn’t want to double-dip.

We had a great time after the official portion of the ceremony, it was a kiss and hug fest, a unique social opportunity with lots of commemorative photos. The cultural program that proceeded the unveiling was pitiful. Downright pathetic, though the little kids were cute. I believe entertainment and catering should be left to the private sector and government should stick to its core business which definitely doesn’t included event planning and coordination.

The monument, while a bit graceless and soviet in style – solid, heavy, no frill, two tone gray and black, is not the sort of monument which tourists visit, but it fits the plaza and pays homage to deserving individuals.