I must begin today by thanking outgoing Mayor John Gonçalves for having held the Office during the most difficult year that Gibraltar has gone through in its recent history.
John took on this role in April 2019 with the same enthusiasm and vigour that has defined everything he has been involved in, professionally and in his alternative career in sport.
Although he has had tough opponents and situations in involvement in basketball, none have come near the adversary we all faced in March of last year.
COVID-19 put an abrupt halt to the programme of events and activities that John had planned for his term of office.
COVID- 19 double- dribbled its way through his tenure fouling him and us all.
However, as soon as he was able to do so, John took up where he left off and has been unstoppable in the last few months.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, John, for your time in office and for all you have achieved in the last two years, which were forcibly condensed into just 15 months.
I also wish to thank Laura for supporting you in your role and for giving up of her time too in representation of the People of Gibraltar.
Thank you, John and Laura.
I am delighted to be standing here today to be the first person to officially welcome Christian Santos to the role of Mayor of Gibraltar.
Christian Santos is a young man who continues to do a magnificent job in the Gibraltar Academy of Music and Performing Arts, and before that in Santos Productions.
Together with his script- writing partner Richard Mor, he is responsible for bringing to our stage magnificent Yanito plays, where the dialogue represents the way that we Gibraltarians tend to talk to each other. In doing so Christian has played an important part in recording our culture in its rawest and funniest form.
But before settling back in his native Rock, this is a man who was established as an entertainer. He has been in the employ of the biggest companies in the world outside of Gibraltar.
He is a singer, a composer and also a teacher and he has taught now a number of generations of Gibraltarian children in the performing arts.
He has given life to the Academy of Performing Arts which we devised in our first manifesto and to the name of which he persuaded to add the word ‘music’.
And in local theatre, he has just won some more awards at our recent Drama Festival, including Best Director for his play “Girls Like That”, presented by GAMPA Teens.
We have seen how he has taken Gibraltar choirs to a number of competitions and they have brought back to Gibraltar medals from around the world, and the magnificent way that he has mentored and inspired young people.
Some of those who have been coached and mentored by Christian have gone on to even greater things outside of Gibraltar.
Another of his flagship projects is the Gibraltar Festival of Young Musicians, again encouraging our young talent to grow and shine.
I think it is important that the Mayoralty continues to be open to young people and that our City Hall and our civic representative, the Mayor, is not alien to young people and is somebody who young people consider approachable.
With Christian Santos we will achieve that by dint of him being a younger man and indeed somebody who is involved in teaching of young people and involving them in the performing arts.
And what better point to say a few words about the woman who will be Christian’s Deputy Mayor and who will, eventually, take on the role of Mayor herself.
Carmen Gomez is somebody those of my generation have all grown up seeing representing Gibraltar internationally or on our own local television screens.
Those of an older generation saw her trajectory as a great Gibraltarian talent who started in Gibraltar Drama Festivals, went through the early days of GBC and ended up on the West End stage.
Carmen is a Gibraltarian who has travelled the world, who has brought art to the world internationally and who has consistently been a defender of Gibraltar, wherever she has been.
As I said in Parliament at the time that I presented the motion putting forward Carmen’s name for Deputy Mayor, it is not lost on me that we will go from a sportsman today in John Gonçalves, who has represented Gibraltar internationally in sport, to a Mayor in Christian Santos who has represented Gibraltar internationally in the arts, especially in the musical arts, to a Mayor, after Christian Santos, in Carmen Gomez, who has represented Gibraltar internationally in the arts, in particular in drama.
That, I think, is a demonstration of the depth of Gibraltar beyond its politics. In Sport, in Music. In Drama. And beyond the headlines that so often are about Gibraltar relating to the politics of our relationship with our neighbour. We refuse to be defined by someone else’s invalid claim to what is ours.
And today we are demonstrating a cultural and sporting depth in our community which I think is very well suited indeed to our representation in the mayoralty and the municipal representation of all Gibraltarians.
Carmen, welcome to the role of Deputy Mayor. In theatrical terms, I know you will see this as your ‘dress rehearsal’ for the role you will take on in two years’ time.
The Robe and Medallion will be your ‘Carmen Miranda’ costume for the role to come.
It is appropriate that Christian Santos’s investiture as Mayor of Gibraltar should take place today, 1st June.
As Equality flags fly from some of Gibraltar’s main flagpoles in celebration of the start of Pride Month, we celebrate our own diversity by welcoming to this Civic Office our first openly gay Mayor.
Christian Santos is perfectly placed to spread the message of equality and diversity that we so cherish in Gibraltar.
Christian will represent every single Gibraltarian of every religion or none, of every sexual orientation, of every ethnicity and he will do it with the love that he has shown us all that he has for his Gibraltar.
Together with husband Samuel, they will ensure that Gibraltar continues to shine the beacon of community diversity and harmony that we so cherish and enjoy.
Although Samuel has already done us proud as a guide to his adopted home on ‘Madrileños por el Mundo’.
Christian, I warmly welcome you to the role you are about to take on as Gibraltar’s highest civic representative.
Please embrace this Mayoralty and make it your own as only you know how.
And remember that you are walking in the footsteps of giants- like Sir Joshua and Adolfo Canepa.
But today, you are taking quite a giant footstep for yourself and all of us.