THE Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Saint Lucia in collaboration with Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) recently organized a forum on the life of Jean Baptiste Bideau for the benefit of the students at the college.
The activity was one of many planned to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of the death of Bideau. This Saint Lucian hero and martyr, known to only a few, saved the life of the Venezuelan Liberator of the 19th century, the great Simon Bolívar.
The forum, called “Jean Baptiste Bideau: A man of his time”, was facilitated by Dr. Gregor Williams, a local historian and lecturer at SALCC who has done extensive research on Bideau. It was well attended by the young students from the following disciplines: Informatics, Sociology, Arts and Sciences, Agriculture, Health Sciences, Administration and Languages with the students pursuing Spanish in larger attendance.
Venezuelan Ambassador to Saint Lucia, LeiffEscalona, in her address to the participants stressed that: “Today, we will have the opportunity to know more about this hero, Jean Baptiste Bideau, who is a very important Caribbean character in our history, and who is also the bridge that connects us to Saint Lucia from a historical and cultural perspective.”
The Ambassador also thanked the SALCC administration for the opportunity to share this part of history with the students.
In his introduction on the untold story of Jean Baptiste Bideau, Dr. Williams stated that, “Very few people know about the famous Saint Lucian Bideau, whose name is spelled in various forms such as Bideau, Videau, Bido, Bidau and Juan Bautista Bideau, and the most important thing to know is that it has never been mentioned in the history books of St. Lucia. The research confirms that Bideau was real and that what was written about him was true.”
Dr. Williams emphasized the elements linking Bideau to the French Revolution in the Caribbean, his struggle for freedom and equality in French colonies, with Saint Lucia being French then. He also pointed out that Bideau worked as a diplomat for a French General in the Lesser Antilles and also did diplomatic work with the English government of Trinidad and Tobago after which he went on to join the Independence movement in Venezuela.
By all accounts, there are historical documents that outline Bideau’s distinguished career as him being “first a sailor, captain, corsair, diplomat, ship owner and boat builder on the islands, then as a corsair, a fundraiser, naval officer, soldier, military strategist, governor, and finally, adviser to Simon Bolivar in the war for the independence of Venezuela. “
The students of the SALCC Spanish Club added their own touch to the forum by sharing their presentation of a collage of photos taken on their visit to the island of Margarita in February this year when over 200 students went on the Spanish practical excursion to the Venezuelan island.
The curtains came down on the activity with a donation of copies of a biography on Jean Baptiste Bideau (Spanish and English versions) to SALCC in order to encourage students to do further research on the life and work of this great son of the soil.