Bati Bleki Buzz, Weekly Recap, Dec 1st, 2019

The 4th edition of Art Fashion, Breaking the Silence, 2019

We were again proud to be sitting in the audience, on the Lolita Plaza, in San Nicolas, as a group of local designers paraded their work, on an extra-long circular runway, against the urban-scape of the sleepy town, under a starry sky.

The spectacle blended Art, Fashion & Awareness on issues of our generation, from Self-Love to Foreignness, Mental Health, Digitalization, Freedom of Speech, Diversity, and Cancer.

Issues made appearances on hand-carried signs, and in the narration by emcees Hilyann Croes and Leonardo Philips, representing the Millennials, heroically trying to fit into and thrive in, the conflicted and divided universe we inhabit, by BREAKING THE SILENCE.

Designer Fabiana Colemenares put the show together. In recent years she’s had a significant influence on fashion here, working with local talents, especially Gigiola Gomez, in her forays onto the international stage, and with bag & accessory designer Valentina Terra. Where there is fashion on Aruba, you’d find Fabiana, with a body language that speak of focus and attention to detail.           

The show consisted of segments, with short, repeating interludes of fire dancing and twirling. Artist Freddy Montoya, accompanied the fashion show with a four-hour long theatrical performance, as an indigenous fire-age man, exploring his own roots, digging in the soil, tirelessly and incessantly toiling to define his identity. At times disturbing, at times poetic, his dedication to his craft is commendable, and more than obsessive.   

While Montoya was digging in the dirt in search of clues, the models, perhaps more than 100, of all ages, sizes and shapes, showed off collections, made in honor of #ArtFashion2019.

Javan Croes: I’ve seen his designs already at the Lindy’s boutique show in town. He dresses every body shape with flair, and proudly shows his latest under the Self-Love theme, including a wedding gown. He’s been creative since very young and favors uniquely styled dresses. 

Valentina Terra: She is the queen of cute, bags & accessories, with lovely detailing, in contrasted colors and textures, beautifully finished with quality hardware and expert stitching. Her collection under the Foreignness theme explored the belong/don’t belong push & pull endured by many immigrants. Her models radiated great spirits and their basic white men’s shirts highlighted the bags they carried, beautifully.

Erika Moran: She used her simple cotton fabric dresses as canvases for colorful birds, butterflies and flowers, speaking up on behalf of nature and conservations, paying tribute to the beauty of the universe under the Show Me Your Color, theme.

Fausta Luna: This Mexican-born artist, reflected on the abundant arts & crafts of her native country combined with her own creativity, delivering an original ornamental fusion. She titled her accessories Uniting Culture with Art. I enjoyed her show-stopping pizzaz, each item carrying a special meaning such as Luck, Peace, Love or Abundance.

Milena Reyes: We dubbed her the world’s happiest designer as she was dancing down the runway, ahead of her diverse and distinctly different models. A psychologist by profession, she says, fashion has always been an excellent way for her to express herself and to communicate her thoughts and feelings. We should all follow her lead, for a better mental disposition.

Marlon Dubero: He showed a very strong collection, his own label, MD fashion, taking on Mental Health, in the wake of losing his mom to the illness. Lots of black, and red, with tattoos, complex hair styles, and blackened eye-bandeaux, as part of the presentation.

Clayten Mogen & Clint Gosepa: A duo of colleague from Curacao, friends from a young age, who created the label SWAY together. Their love for fashion made them brothers, starting their journey with small designs, and when people reacted positively, they attempted more courageous styles and more meaningful collaborations. They took on Black Power and I loved what they presented in Aruba, from the sound to the look, thank you for your visit, and the opportunity to experience SWAY.

Victoria Secrets: For the first time ever, we saw undergarments on parade, with a tasteful display of undies. The segment was dedicated to Breast Cancer and the struggle to win the battle with the disease. Three spectacular Carnival Costumes in pink, white and silver, added drama and glamour to the visual impact of the presentation.

Pauser: This metaphoric artist, a Czech graffiti painter, took on digitalization. He created an augmented reality mural for ArtFair2019, and his mural inspired a parade of colorful silk scarves which were part of the fashion show, and helped introduce his fellow-muralists who lent their talent to the fair and appeared on the runway: @mrdheo, @parizone, @fio.silva, @farid_rueda, @insane51, @suglas. and @chemisgraffiti.

Gionina Engelhardt: She presented a sad and didactic collection dedicated to the heartless silence of child abuse. Her layered clothing hid secrets, and her teddy bears lost much of their stuffing.  She went down the runway with her daughter at the end of the segment, a warrior, determined to break the cycle of violence. Notably, this segment was presented in collaboration with SPC, a comprehensive government social plan designed to tackle grave social ills, involving four ministries: Health, Social Affairs, Justice and Education, with no fewer than 31 projects currently ongoing.

Gigliola Gomez: She tackled Freedom of speech. As a well establish runway designer, in Aruba and abroad, she strayed from her signature feminine flowy gowns, and/or athletic clothing, side stepping into jeans, geometric forms and collage.

Great make up by L’Oréal Paris, and overall responsibility for the production, by mother & son duo Diana Croes and Tito Bolivar. Thank you Alice Van Romondt for having a blessed connection for funding.

Thank you H&H Fine Wines & Spirits for the free-flowing Prosecco!

#ArtFashion #AAF2019

About The Boardwalk with Claudia Ruiz Vasquez Nooren

We appreciated the invitation to the ribbon cutting event at the Boardwalk Hotel, on October 15th, and complimented owners, Aruba-born twin sisters Kimberly and Stephanie, on the incredible, two-and-a-half-year project of expanding their gem from 14 casitas to 52, to the tune of $10 million dollars, adding a multi-experience pool, fitness & spa facility, an inviting, modern lobby and spectacular rooms, all graced with a unique Caribbean character and flair.

Artist Claudia Ruiz-Vasquez Nooren was also showered with compliments for her brilliant work on the project.

I recently sat down for coffee with her.

Claudia reports getting involved with the Boardwalk under the previous ownership, when Julia de Ruiter and Geert v/d Berg were getting ready to perhaps refurbish and upgrade their no frill, aging windsurfing village, established in 1989, into what Julia called, the most beautiful boutique hotel in the Caribbean.

She consulted Claudia, and they both started hatching a plan, but then plans changed, and in 2011 new owners took the property over, inheriting Claudia, and the vision, in addition to the charming brick and mortar cluster of casitas, under tall palm trees.

Julia left behind a fantastic, perfectly-chaotic and abundant garden, and the new owners set out to preserve the property’s barefoot oasis-feel, and complement it with vibrant color, picturesque hammocks, and creature comforts for discerning individuals who deliberately wish to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the high rise hotels.

Guatemala-born Claudia, was right there with an intuitive, bold and fresh approach to color. She handled that initial, modest-budget reno-project and over time the Boardwalk Hotel earned optimal TripAdvisor rankings and was voted among top 25 Best Caribbean Hotels for service, maintaining its exceptional Instagram appeal all along.

Finally, over the last two and a half years, the team at Boardwalk tackled an ambitious remake.

About her role in the creation of the masterpiece, Claudia sees it as the guardian of the project’s integrity, so that the design elements always conform to the original concept of creating a chic, bohemian, inviting environment, that inspires thought, and is relaxing and romantic, at the same time.

“I am not an interior designer,” she says, “I am a conceptual designer, a curator, one cannot separate the interior from the exterior, as they both work together if you aim at delivering greatness.”

While Caribbean chill is palpable around the property, skin deep the project is totally green constructed with Nudura and Insuldeck insulating materials, with an ultra-efficient energy management systems and 100% LED lighting, and solar panels.

That marriage of eco-friendly construction immersed in a mature, and lush garden took some planning and maneuvering, and it is a source of great pride to all those birthing Boardwalk 2019.

The piece de resistance, the new lobby is truly a work of art boasting a profusion of harmonious natural materials, and an airy, breezy feel, where the interior is in constant conversation with the exterior.

And the aqua-duct, the immense wall of flowering creepers, setting the resort apart from its verdant parking lot, is a one of a kind, breathtaking, oversize living wall, that pulls the two wings of the l-shaped hotel together.  

The ribbon cutting was performed by Aruba’s Minister of Tourism Dangui Oduber, Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, A.T.A., and Tisa LaSorte, CEO and President of the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, AHATA, along with Boardwalk Hotel’s owners, Kimberly and Stephanie Rooijakkers.

Minutes later, the very first quests, Kenneth Navarro and Lupe Leito from Curaçao, checked-in to start their island vacation.

Local contractors include Coburg Construction, project management; Claudia Ruiz-Vasquez, Interior and Conceptual Design; Fantastic Gardens and Caribbean Drip, landscape design and landscaping services; Ecoled lighting; Crystal Pool, pool installation; HJC Structural Engineering; Banjolux bathrooms and Berloni kitchens. Aruba Aloe bathroom products in eco-friendly dispensers and local art by Arte Sano Foundation and other local artists contribute to the casitas’ interior décor.

Boardwalk Boutique Hotel, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The hotel is family-run and operated and employs 20 local staff members. More information on

 #ArtFair2019, we had a great time

It was smaller this year, but size doesn’t matter in this case, because it was a memorable #ArtFair2019.

I showed up with visiting friends from Canada on opening night. Some of the artwork was still wrapped, waiting to be hung.

True to its promise #ArtFair2019, delivered Art, Culture & Movement, and was dedicated to Elvis Tromp, celebrating 50 years as an artist.

At the end of the three days in November, our outdoor gallery in San Nicolas boasted about 60 murals. Ten were added just now, but the night we were there I wasn’t quite sure where they were.

Book me on a return trip to see them.  

The godmother of culture was at the entrance, at the ticket sale booth, Alice van Romondt, we should thank her for her ties with Dutch cultural foundations, where she manages to drum up funding each year. She also curated the excellent art exhibitions, with three galleries, set up in the main street’s abandoned stores; we went through just one and a half that night.

The folkloric dances on the street drew us out, then hunger drove us to dinner.

One night is not enough.  

I saw some excellent work by artist Ad Rekkers, painting black & white portraits on stones, fantastic iguanas by Anita Hugen, detailed, folkloric work by Miriam del’Isla, charming collages by Diana Hopman Betjes, a large evocative canvas by Mo Mohamed, fantastic realism by Nigel Mathews, mixed media with bold palm fiber fabric by Miriam Gielen, and tropical flair with Sharina Gumbs. There was a rich display of local arts & crafts at Cosecha.

The street vending artisan booths were fewer in numbers, I hear the $100 fee scared some of them off, opting to stay away. From among those we visited Cara Elexia with Ayron Kock made an impression. The young man finishes fedoras to help us express ourselves, under the motto: At Cara Elexia we believe that everyone should wear their story.     

Art Sano Foundation featured the biggest booth and most artwork, all produced as a social enterprise by a vulnerable segment of our community, those in rehab, or homeless, in prison or under guardianship. The program, under the direction of artist Claudia Ruiz Vasquez @artesanofoundation, creates local souvenirs, based on the island’s natural and cultural heritage.

I also bought delicious home-baked cookies from master-baker Willeke Kok and got delicious mini Dutch Pancakes from Premal van Pofferdorie, Echte Hollandse Poffertjes, that relocated on the occasion from the DoItCenter, to SN.

Best of all dinner, and drinks, at the Indian Pop Up by Renaissance, Dhaba. The restaurant set up shop in an abandoned main street structure, dramatically lit, with an inviting décor by Fernando Mansur.

When we arrived Friday evening at main street SN, it wasn’t busy yet, but it was hopping when we left, Organizer Tito Bolivar, he was the one still hanging stuff up, seemed pleased with his handiwork.

Our art fair is organized by a foundation, a private-sector nonprofit, and as such will always struggle to sustain itself.  

Happy Thanksgiving

Hilton sponsors Aruba birdlife calendar 2020.

Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino has again sponsored the new Aruba birdlife calendar. The 2020 calendar was presented to General Manager Vasco Baselli by cute twin sisters Kim and Liz Peterson. If the name sounds familiar then sure, they are Greg Peterson’s nieces.

The 13 bird photographs were made available by 7 bird photographers.

Two of them are related to the national Shoco conservation project. The funds generated by the sales of the calendar support this conservation initiative designed to support Aruba’s indigenous Burrowing Owl, by placing artificial Shoco burrows around the island at favorite Shoco habitats.

The 2020 bird calendars can be purchased for Awg 12,50 at Huchada Bakery in Santa Cruz, Best Deal Aruba in Paradera, Veterinary Clinics Aruba in Wayaca and in Noord, and at CONVET – Contreras Veterinary Services in Shaba. All proceeds go to the Aruba Birdlife Conservation Foundation.

Into the Future with Utilities, WEB & ELMAR

They kissed and made up. WEB & ELMAR, under the umbrella of Utilities NV, signed on the dotted line to received 500 million florins, a comprehensive JOINT financial deal, guided by Finance Quest.

After one and a half years of negotiations, the money was made available by 10 participating lenders, the locals banks, insurance companies, and pension funds, here and in Curacao.

Congratulation. You now have money to take us into the future, stepping away from heavy dirty oils, into a more efficient, cleaner, environmentally-friendly production system, maybe even natural gas down the road.

Perhaps make energy cheaper??

We wish.

Spend carefully! This is not YOUR money. It is OUR money. Treat it with utmost respect and care.

35 Million? Bubali could use the money.

Remember the Bubali Aeration System, report, the one that warned us that Bubali Plas, is full of s.h.i.t., and can no longer handle the amazing quantities of waste we produce? Running at 50% efficiency, and costing a ton of money to manage, because of these inefficiencies?

DOW made a presentation to AHATA recently in which it reiterated the URGENT need for funding to repair the plant BEFORE an environmental disaster.

The project requires $350,000 for the basin, and around $10 Million for the plant itself, if GOA is about to demand a 35-million-florin kickback from tourism, the money should go toward that.

The Cost of Doing Business in Aruba

I get mail worthy of printing:

Rona, it cost me Awg 750 to ship, and home deliver a $250 fan, plus duty.

Are fans now a luxury item???

Then, I was charge Awg 65 “duty” on a credit card?

My mom mailed me my new credit card, via FED EX to Aruba.

It cost her $65 to ‘overnight’ it.

It arrived here on the ninth days!!!!

AND Fed Ex refused to release it until I paid ‘duty of Awg 65.

How is this sustainable?

In the long run, small businesses cannot wrangle all this in and still make a profit.

AHATA Excellence Awards 2019: The Aruba Oscars

The Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, AHATA, hosted its annual Excellence Awards celebration at The Ritz Carlton just recently.

Of the ten thousand individuals working for tourism, 57 were nominated and 8 won in different categories. It was an excellent evening overall from glamorous décor to delicious food, and no boring speeches, just heartfelt camaraderie, spontaneous cheers, and hugs, and mostly pride, in our most precious natural resource, our people. 

Congratulations to:

“Employee of the Year Small Company”: Lisyene Becker, The Mill Resort & Suites Aruba;

“Employee of the Year Large Company”: Edmond Kock, Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort;

“Supervisor of the Year”: Justine Cremony, The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba;

“Manager of the Year Small Company”: Jagdish Dialani, Diamonds International;

“Manager of the Year Large Company”: Edgar Cornet, RIU Palace Antillas;

“Young Tourism Professional 2019”: Manon Scholte Lubberink, De Palm Tours;

“Sustainability Champion 2019”: Frank Sabajo, La Cabana Beach Resort and Casino;

“Lifetime of Service 2019”: Victoriano Quant, Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa & Casino.

Compliments to the AHATA CEO Tisa LaSorte on keeping the program kort en krachtige, short enough to retain our attention and powerful enough to move us to standing ovations.

De Palm Corporation, remained the main sponsor of the recognition event. They take it seriously and generously allowed for gold, black and white, art deco Great-Gatsby style menus, table clothes, ornaments, and towering-feathery table center-pieces. The room was embraced by a gallery of faces, as the nominees’ pictures formed a circular hug around the festivities.

The evening’s form and format were conceived by perfectionist Irma Bijen, of De Palm Tours Destination Management Services, and flawlessly executed by the banquet and event team of the resort.

Thank you Tropical Bottling for the wines accompanying our meal.

Emcee Larissa Bermudez got through the program efficiently never mispronouncing any names, and the photographers, an army of three, nicely disappeared as soon as a picture was snapped, never blocking the view of the stage.

Artist Gilbert Senchi was entrusted with the creation of the award and he picked a conch, a life-sustaining symbol in the Caribbean. Each winner got to take one home.

The evening included professional TV coverage and personal interviews which was also very well done, as each nominee and winner got their pictures of the night, on the spot, nicely framed as a souvenir.

That took some strategic planning.

The hardest job was naturally, that of the 3 judges, on faculty at the Universidad di Aruba. They had to pick and choose the winners from among our top performers, not an easy task.

Guest of honor, Minister di Tourism Danguillaume Oduber, watched as the industry reaffirmed its commitment to excellence and continuity, with two scholarship checks donated, one to Colegio EPI unidad di HORECA, and the other to the Universidad di Aruba, faculty of Hospitality & Tourism Management.

Armin Solognier, representing Caribbean Mercantile Bank, presented the checks dedicated to a scholarship fund.

AHATA is grateful for its sponsors: De Palm Corporation, Caribbean Mercantile Bank, The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, Tropical Bottling and High Performance. They couldn’t have done it without them

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December 01, 2019
Rona Coster