Dia di Betico is hands down my favorite Aruban holiday. This is because in my opinion, Betico Croes is THE most important cultural marking for Aruban identity. In my bachelor's dissertation, I argued for Betico Croes as Aruba's lone social hero, and proposed that celebrating Dia di Betico is a fundamental practice anchoring the national identity of the Aruban people.
When I moved back to Aruba and started my first full-time job, I was disheartened when I found out that we did not get a day off for Dia di Betico, nor were we allowed to leave early to participate in the celebrations.
It might seem like something inconsequential, but not for me. I did not write my bachelor's dissertation merely as a thought exercise. I wrote it because I realized what the story of Betico Croes meant for the identity of Aruba and wanted to explore this relationship.
The general gist of the argument is that, every time people gather in a group at a specific location to re-enact and remember specific events, it helps the new generations feel personally connected to the event. The energy of the crowd, all focusing on one thing, as well as the location (transformed into sacred space) serves to create a memory, one that is as if one had experienced it oneself from the start.
So, by going to the plaza together, wearing Aruban flags and singing our anthem, while listening to Betico Croes' speeches on loud speakers and watching old films on big screens, we all feel like it was happening right now. We feel connected. The myth of Betico Croes comes alive in all of us.
It translates our current struggles into the language of our origins. It's once again, us, the strong but small island, fighting bravely to defend and demand what is ours by right, out of love for our country and our people. It is a single most defining moment for every Aruban, the time when we got to call ourselves Aruban, and wave our own flag.
There is no other single event that can serve the same purpose, socially, for Aruba. It is essential that we honor this tradition and celebrate Dia Di Betico faithfully and consistently. We must do it to renew our patriotism, to renew our identity, and to create a strong social anchor for the future generations. I don't think it is a responsibility we can take lightly.
Ideally, we should all get the day off to celebrate and remember. The more people attend the celebrations, the stronger the myth. Is this something we should fight for?
I'll let each of you decide.
Felis dia di Betico!