Influencer Angelo Felisimo La Cruz: critical, energetic, analytical, secular and humanist
Interview May 2, 2021
Could you share with us some information of your family life? Were you born here in Curaçao? How supportive were your parents in letting you become whom you are right now?
I was born in Curaçao 1965 in Otrobanda went to kindergarten in Otrobanda, moved to Wishi Marchena, went to Santa Theresita primary school, went first to Sint Thomas College and after a year went to MIL for my High School education. My mother was an entreprenuer just like my grandmother that also was a small business owner. My grandmother came to Curaçao in 1917 on her way to Venezuela from Martinique and married my grandfather who was from Curaçao. She had a guest house where workers that came to work in the refinery and for the bridge stayed, people that came from all over the Caribbean. My grandmother also had a small shop, a window grocery. She had a big influence as an entrepreneur on my life and my love for the french language. During my time at MIL, I excelled in French. My mother also had an entrepreneurial spirit and she taught me my love for mathematics. My parents especially my mother, was a very strict disciplanarian and she didn’t hesitate to use the rod if needed. As a young boy I was very quiet, but my little brother, I have only one brother, was more active and energetic that me, so he experienced the rod more then I did. He now lives in Holland is married and has four daugthers and four grandchildren. Moving to Holland was very crucial in his developmen as a man and person although he went through 4 recessions he is doing well in Holland.
My grandmother and mother formed me in the field of mathematics. They way they organized their business, she used me to do calculations very quick and this inspired me. She was very dedicated to improving her life conditions and that of the family. When she passed over in 2017, I promised that her house would be a center of knowledge, guidance and information to the neighborhood. A place to study for neighborhood’s children. The rebuilding of the house due the Covid-19 pandemic delayed and my income dropped also. We can’t just let it stand there without it being put to use as they have already broke into and stole some stuff. Before 2025 it will be the educational center of the neighborhood. These things are very important for me and especially my mother played and important role in that. My father wanted me to go to work after finishing my secundary school.
My wife Marilyn I met when I came back from Holland in 2001 and we were part of a group Les Amies a social group where we had get togethers talks and so forth and there we started to go out and later engaged and in 2004 we married. We have the same passion and we started promoting the African culture, especially the family as “an institution”. Marilyn studied Business Administration in Groningen and got her MBA degree here in Curaçao. She works for the government and she also helps students to get intern positions at government departments and ministries. She is a very practical person that loves to link theory and practice.
I am a very non-public person. Marilyn is a public person, linking theory with practice we started with African Fashion Cooperative Intitiatives in 2013, we took great steps doing small things. We made a quantum leap to more public events and there were up to now 7 editions in total and now due to circumstances in 2017 (my mother passed away) and now Covid-19 we didn’t organize one. We also started the Kwanzaa celebration that is related to family values in Curaçao. Everything that we do, we do it together Marilyn and myself, always keeping the family in the focus and attention in everything we do. It is very important for us to strengthen these families principles and we wrote some articles on this subject matter.
Could you share something of your educational background and your experiences? How long have you been a teacher?
I went to MIL and in 1987 I went to Holland to study at the University of Leiden at first pure mathemathics but I ended up studying more the applicable part of it and that is numerical analyses. I graduated in 1994 and started working in the IT sector and furthermore I was the founding member an African Center Organization that did work in Kenya East Africa, and I was the first chair of Stichting African World Studies Institution The Netherlands, short St.A.W.S.I., in the Hague. We organized lectures with influential lecturors from the USA, London and Europe. I also have worked in Kenya as founding member of Stichting Nubian Quentessence. Our work in Kenya was to build educational institutions as part of an educational agenda. I also studied programming and in 2001 and I came back to Curaçao to become a Mathematics teacher. I started Konseho di Skol í Instituto pa Inisiativanan Independiente Kòrsou (Short Kon.S.I³. Kòrsou) . Btw since 1993, I helped students with Mathematics from other faculties during my studies.
You are a teacher and civil society leader that is very active in the area of family, cooperativism in African Fashion and since March 2020 also in Agenda 2049? I hope I am not missing something? Could you tell us what these different platforms and/or settings entail, and why did you started them?
I never use the word social leader to describe what I am doing. I create movements where all the participants are all leaders, like the African Fashion Cooperative Initiatives and even before that Kwanzaa Kòrsou movement that deals with the institution family. And all these together with my wife Marilyn Alicia Isaac.
During the month of December from 26th – till the 1st of january those following Kwanzaa are stimulated to organize a lot of meetings with different families to celebrate the family and the extended family as an institution. We still do it. We have a year calender consisting of a total of 8 seasons. The first season deals with “healing, reconciliation and reparation” in the family and in the extended family and entails a total of 71 days (or 72 days during leap years ) starting January the first. Then the second season deals with “unity” and entails a period of 42 days etc…for a total of 365 days. The last 7 days each of of each of these 8 seasons we celebrate Kwanzaa. In the first season the last 7 days, deals with how the healing helped to create a stronger union in the family and the community. During these days, the family engages with each others about these things. The second day deals with self determination how the healing can help to be more self determined. The 3rd day has to do with social economics and how these healings can help the social standing and stamina of the family. And so on.
We started with the coaching, tootering via Kon.S.I³. Kòrsou, which stands for Konseho di Korsou i Instutopa Inisiativanan Independiente Korsou. Marilyn is focused on the primairy, secundairy and higher education level especially the Dutch language and English arithmethic and for secundary economics. I myself do the secundary school and higher school mathematics and teach research skills in mathematics and sciences plus how to study efficiently and how to get the best out of your study.
The African Fashion Cooperative
The African Fashion Cooperative Initiatives started at a small scale, then we made a quantum leap. It was an initiative that was born out of all the activities we were doing. One day we decided to go for a bigger public with the African Fashion. Next to modeling and fashion all our models take part in the different workshops and lectures that we organized as part of the African Fashion Cooperative Initiatives Season. We had Prof. dr. Rose Mary Allen, drs.. Richenel Ansano, drs. Jeanne Henriquez, mr. drs. Elgenia Pieternella and many more that gave lectures and workshops on culture, history, cooperativism, healthy eating and more. Apart from modeling, via these workshops and lectures the models participating in the African Fashion come into contact with these influencers. We started in 2013 with African Fashion, which later also included hair fashon and hair care, healthy eating, combining theory and practice.
In 2020 we started with “Agenda 2049”
We organized work meetings and the first 3 workmeetings were guided by social influencersand anthopologist drs. Richenel Ansano. He dealt with the first entry in the agenda, the constructive inspiring and impact of religion from 1954 – 2019 in Curaçao. We always hear the negative things about the impact of religion on the island and he illustrated the positive influence religion had in cooperativism, workers union formation, education and all these things were put in the agenda point “religion”.
We believe that if we don’t deal with religion and spirituality everything we engage in, will be futile. It is so important in the daily lives of more than 90 % of the people of Curaçao. If you want to be effective you have to confront religion or you will be confronted with religion.
The second agenda entry was planned to be facilitated by andragogy specialist drs. Johnny Tujeehut addressing the social economy of cooperiativism and the reality of food security on the island. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic this was postponed as we consider it important to be physically together. After we have managed this disease we can start to have those meeting combining them with virtual meetings also btw.
The third entrance on the agenda will be on food and our nutritional reality. There are a lot of things we can eat and as we don’t have the information about these things, it is not popular. Other wise we just eat a lot of unhealthy food, unaware of its nutritional value and we also have many children that don’t have a breakfast or healthy food avalaible at their home’s.
Why did you choose 2049?
We started in 2020 and will move on till 2049 and it is not that something will happen, it is the process, it will happen a long the way, combining theory with the practice and documenting it. Our main goal is to report on our findings and give advices and then hand it over to social groups and political organizations. This is now planned for 2022 . After that we will be implementing these suggestions and unite theory and practice. In food security and alimentation we will teach how to deal with plants around us that humans we can eat and bring then in a more representative form to the public. Healthy foods are growing around us and we are unaware of that.
Agenda 2049’s purpose is, to unite theory and practice. Organize work meetings not lectures.
I notice that you also have a Science Facebook page, what does it entail, and why did you start this Facebook page?
When I finished my university study in Holland, I always wanted to introduce as subject matter “reading in mathematics” in Curaçao. But it was difficult to do as the curriculum that they have to go through during a schoolyear, don’t allow them to have time to do this. So I used a lot of magazines on mathematics and novels of mathematics, I would make copies for the students and used it during my lessons and at Kon.S.I³. Kòrsou we try to inspire our students to read scientific articles at their levels. This effort is still work in progress.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now and doing what you are doing right now?
I use to say “if someone tells you what you are doing is a “calling”, I will ask them if breathing is a calling”. I have always loved what I am doing, I cannot escape in not doing what I am doing. When I met Marilyn from the start, we started and that drives me: “building institutions” and engaging with other people. It is natural thing for me to do. Institution building is so important. As I was studying we were so engaged in mathematics, so much that the things that happened outside of the university had no place in the faculty. I heard a lot of things happening by I myself didn’t experience none of that, I wasn’t hampered in my development in the faculty of Mathematics. I can only recall a rare incident that I could label as racism and it was a student from India, which btw I can understand based on their spiritual background. He told me: “Black people are dumb”. I wasn’t very enlighthtened as I am now, but it was the first time I heard it on the university ground. Some fellow indian students sided with me and took it up for me and some became good friends of me. I believe that the institution, the faculty of Mathematics, makes it almost impossible to be dumb and be engaged in destructive behavior.
I was a mathematics and ICT teacher at Sk.A.I., of Fundashon Skol Humanista na Papiamentu at a certain moment and I was in charge of organizing the team of mathematics, the natural sciences and ICT for the purpose developing and expanding the list of terminology nesesary for creating the Institution’s own books of mathematics, the natural sciences and ICT in Papiamentu. My goal was to produce our own materials instead of tranlating the Dutch ones.. So I firmly belief that institional building is important. Why? Institutions have principles and values and they can form the person to become critical and more intelligent in their relationships with others. It is natural since I finished my studies in Holland because of the Institution where I studied. For me that is sufficient prove of this belief we have.
When do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
We will be successful if we can see those who come in our ambience that they first of all see value in what we do and take our idea and take it a step further. I was co-founder of an organization that went to Kenya to promote education. We gave our Organization’s Blueprint to everybody to inspire other people and to let others do what we are doing and make it bigger and better. Thus we are successful when they can do it better.
With African Fashion in 2015 btw, we reached international attention but not in the local papers. NBCBLK had a special feature about us and how we use history and culture to create a sense of unity among the participants. One success story was a young model that was very shy and she was not engage in many things, after she passed through the process and teachings we offer, she became very self assured, she became more aware of all her potential and she is now studying in Holland.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
Finances and also how to cater for continutiy for what we are doing. These challenges inspire us to create new ideas to surpass them. I am personally dealing with a health condition, high blood pressure since 2001. One thing that I have to do is start doing more exercies. Like walk more and do more exercises on top of working hard in the garden what I am doing now, anyway I have to do it in a more responsible way.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
One thing I always do, when I am engage, like for example taking care of my mother during her last months of her life, I would walk from Buena Vista to Cas Chikito and always think of different things, challenges I had to surpass, sometimes plans or mathematical challenges. When I am in the garden, if I am dealing with some question it is the time that I can go deep into my thinking and come up with certain answers or strategies that I can undertake. I also write a lot of my ideas down. I could wake up right in the middle of the night write it down of late I can record something that is on my mind. Like a word came up and I wrote it down and later googled it via on line dictionaries and it was a word I never heard of it.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
What I do, I read a lot of mathematics books articles and I am part of a community of mathematicians. I also used to be a member of “de wiskunde vereniging” in Holland. In 2007 we started a mathematics society in Curaçao with the idea to engage with other teachers on the island to exchange experiences and inspire each other so that we can be more effective. But it wasn’t succefull (yet).
What are your strengths?
I am a critical, analytical person and sometimes people tell me that on the social platforms where people with a different opinion can be very aggresive, I am able to civilize the discussion and make it more constructive. I always do this, apparently since my formative years when I studied in Leiden. In 2016 two contacts from us from Holland came to Curaçao and one recognized me and she told me that when I spoke:”I made sense”. For me it was like wow …..I made sense when I was speaking back then..
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Institutional building and strengthening of the family. We have an extended family, we do a lot of things together.
If you as Angelo would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Jamaica) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
In 2004 I was in Trinidad and when I had to introduce myself to a lady at the market, I told her I am an African born in Curaçao. And then she asked me from what tribe. I answered I claim whole continent. I would now say that I am mathematician, a math teacher. I am an African born in Curaçao.
How would you describe Angelo in one word or one sentence?
Secular, humanist and “I make sense”.
Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
• My grandmother and mother.
• In Holland one of my favorite professors was Professor of Mathematics dr. Bert Peletier. When we went to Holland in 2013, I visited Leiden like I always do and we met him during a lunch and he is Emeritus now. He told us that the group that started in 1987, that group was the group he most liked in terms of performance and those things. For me it was great to hear those things. I admired him always. Going to his lectures was like going to a show for me. The way he presented the things and dressed upped.
• Idris Fuquan Adu, I met him through a friend in 1994 before I finished my study and I became a co-founder of a foundation that was building schools and offering education on the continent of Africa. I even went to Kenya with him. He had a strong personality you have to be strong to get things done but I had to protect a good friend of my, she was young, from Idris. I still work with him as he is an inspiring and strong person. I have a character that I developed when I was living in Holland that can deal with these kind of strong persons that are well organized and open to ideas.
• Chip Dallison a mentor of mine.
• Dr. Barryl Biekman she was the stratigic director of Stichting African World Studies-Institute the Netherlands. I was the first chair of that foundation.
• Furthermore Professor dr. Rose Mary Allen, drs. Richenel Ansano, drs. Jeanne Henriquez, the late drs. Joceline Clemencia, in 2002 she was very inspiring to me and I was very close with her.
• Since 2013 mr. dr. René V. Rosalia based on an article that he wrote “Fundeshi di kambio”, explaining the fundamentals for change from a cultural historical perspective and this resonates very much with me.
• Mr.Suzanne Camelia Römer, seeing they way she handles things, inspires me.
What is a trait that is still work in progress?
One thing I need to improve drastically is being more organized in the business-financial level for all the years that I am giving guidance to students and parents, but also in dealing with the agenda 2049. I accomodate the students and family too much and we finance a lot with our own money in agenda 2049.
On the personal emotional level, I have to deal with some people making statements that deal with science that are very self destructive. It hurts me for instance when I follow the press conferences and I hear professionals and academics like Dr.Gerstenbluth, Prof.Duits, Dr. Semper simplifying things in their explanation to reach the public. This has the risk that other people use this explanation to distort the facts.
I have to get over it.
On the other hand as a teacher I don’t oversimplify things, but I present it as it is and then engage with students so they can master the subject matter in a responsible way and get a sense of it, that is comprohending it.
What was a defining moment in your life?
The last months being with my mother during her last days and the way the doctors and nurses dealt with her. I became more appreciative of them and I now deeply respect and love medical professionals. This made me become very open with my general practicioner. They can only do things if they are informed and if you don’t hide things. I once got a medicine and it didn’t go well with me as I started using it and went back to my doctor and he told me to let’s change it and that worked. So open communication between patient and the medical professionals are very important in medicine and health care in general.
Where do you want to be 15 years from now with your career?
I hope we managed to implement agenda 2049 and that we have “a new generation that can carry it on” within the 15 years. Our approach is that right from the start we engage them and demand from them to participate critically, bring in their ideas new ideas and bring in new perspectives. We don’t want them to be treated as a token. We have invite participants between 17 – 39 years and we treat them as equals. And we recognize that we are more informed, but we are equal.The youngest was 17 years old.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
I never celebrate my BD, ha, ha, ha, but if I am healthy and if it is a surprise party, they would say: “I make sense”.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
I have a more constructive approach of things, because we have a community of persons contributing to that vision and in the process and with their engagement, we are constructing in Curaçao those institutions we mentioned. For me that inspires me and it is not just talking about it, but we are very specifically combining theory and practice. It is the practice that will inspire the regular person from Curaçao so they can feel it and touch it. That is why I am optimistic about Curaçao.
Btw, anothe example of getting things done. When I was still in Holland dr. Barryl Biekman (then drs. Barryl Biekman), myself and others in 1999, we were having a dialogue with the Dutch government about the need to have monument that you can touch and see (that is you can walk in it too), that would conmemorate slavery that has existed in the past. From that conversation we got the African community in Holland consisting of networks from the descendants from Dutch islands, those from Surinam and from the African continent, all supporting the construction of this monument. This ended up in the Stichting NINSEE (Nationaal Instituut Nederlands slavernij verleden en erfenis) that is doing research of our slavery past and now we have a monument that you can feel and touch it in Oosterpark Amsterdam. That is what we intent.
More info or connect
– African Fashion on Na Kòrsou | Facebook
– Konseho di Skol i Instituto pa Inisiativanan Independiente Kòrsou | Facebook
– LEZEN EN SCHRIJVEN IN DE BÈTAWETENSCHAP, TECHNOLOGIE, TECHNIEK EN WISKUNDE | Facebook
– Download the file Suidadanonan Asosiá den e Asosiashon Monetario Kòrsou | 2003-2016
– YouTube: youtube.com/c/AfricanFashionCuracao/featured
One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Angelo Felisimo La Cruz is a critical, energetic, analytical, secular, humanist, African born in Curacao that “makes sense”. As a mathematician and math teacher, he always wanted to introduce as subject matter “reading in mathematics” in Curacao, as a way to inspire his students. At Kon.S.I³. Kòrsou he inspires his students to read scientific articles at their levels. Also trying to engage with other teachers to exchange experiences and inspire each other, so that they could be more effective. When he lived in Holland he was already socially active and the first chair of “Stichting African World Studies-Institute The Netherlands” (St.A.W.S.I. The Netherlands), that was at the roots of the negotiations to create the monuments to commemorate slavery (That is both as a monument and a research institution as dr. Barryl Biekman states it). He also went to Kenia as co-founder of Stichting Nubian Quintessence, whose aim was to build educational Institutions on the continent of Africa. This was and continuous to be their educational agenda.
In Curacao as an ambitious social entrepreneur, Angelo La Cruz with his wife Marilyn Isaac, is involved in the multiple initiatives aimed at enabling people to gain more awareness of their cultural heritage, their own potential and is actively trying to enable them to develop their potential. With initiatives like Kwanzaa, African Fashion Cooperative Initiatives, AGÈNDA 2049, while also considering education as the means for the coming generations to improve their overall well-being, Angelo says that his passion that is: “Building Institutions” comes as natural to him as breathing is considered natural to us. He firmly believes that strengthening of the family as one of the most important institutions. He continues to work relentlessly to have a community of persons that on equal footing with the next generations, contribute to a vision, where institutions form an essential part. It isn’t just about talking about these subject matters, but specifically about uniting theory and practice aimed at inspiring the regalur person from Curacao so they can also feel it and touch it.
Because of all these initiatives we dearly appreciate and respect Angelo La Cruz and consider him part of the 250 Influencers of the island representing the Cultural and Educational sector.