Because we value who we are
By Dr John Cortes
Politics, of course, was not my original career. If I’d had the opportunities young people have today, I’m sure I would have gone for the Performing Arts. If while at school there’d been the number of dance and acting schools and academies we have now, my life would have been very different.
As it is I went for my other love, Nature, and trained in biological sciences, ran an environmental NGO and for 20 years lived and breathed the Alameda Gardens as we transformed them into the beautiful botanic gardens they are today.
Why is all that relevant here? Well for one, that is who I am. For another, many of the opportunities young people have now to pursue their dreams are thanks to successive GSLP administrations, with the scholarship system, support for the Arts, etc. And my opportunity to create the new Alameda was thanks to the GSLP too. Because it’s a party that ‘thinks out of the box’ that takes up challenges, charts futures even when they are not obvious to all.
And all of this is so, so relevant to who we are, and that, our identity, is so relevant to where we are going, to where we want to be.
I have had the honour and pleasure to have many different portfolios. I’ve worked hard in all of them, and my driving force has been dual – my desire to help as many of our people as I can, and my striving to enrich and consolidate our identity as a community, our Gibraltarian Llanito identify.
In health I worked long hours in support of patients, while renewing the GHA and introducing key changes such as more GPs, the Day Surgery and Chemotherapy Units and Ocean Views.
The education revolution we have seen – and which is not yet over – has fulfilled both of those aims. Undoubtedly our new schools and facilities have made a huge contribution to teachers and learners. But it’s a lot more than that; our new learner-centred method of teaching, led by our excellent teaching and support staff, our increased provision of support for Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND), including new Learning Support Facilities (LSFs), our making second degree scholarships mandatory and extending the discretionary awards system, are just some of the clear examples of this commitment. But happier, more fulfilled leaners will also absorb more, learn more and better appreciate what Gibraltar offers – and who we are.
In environment, all my work in protecting and enhancing nature, bringing trees and green areas into the heart of our city, increasing awareness of the importance of living in consonance with our environment and not polluting it, is aimed not just at achieving a better quality of life, or at contributing responsibly to global efforts, but also at stimulating a deeply caring aspect to our identity.
Protection of our heritage, from Neanderthal caves, to city walls and historic buildings is protecting our past, a past that has shaped us. A past in which we take pride and from which we gain strength – a strength that has seen us through so many challenges.
And key to all of this is how we express ourselves – our art, our literature, and our languages. English, Hebrew, Hindi, Moroccan Arabic, Spanish, all have a key place in our community and all contribute to our diverse collective identity. And of course, Llanito, product of our history and our culture, with influences from across the Mediterranean and beyond. A unique way of expression that we must not allow to die but which we much cherish, protect and promote.
No one before the GSLP/Liberals has seen what we do in this light; has done so much for education, environment, culture, for heritage, for our literature and language. Because no-one else values it as we do.
That is just one more of the many reasons why we need to be voted into Government. Because apart from guaranteeing continuity in critical negotiations, from being the safe option, from us being the ones who get the job done, we also care, and care deeply about who we are. ¡Somos quienes somos, y juntos, con los GSLP/Liberals, llegaremos a mucho más!