From treading the floorboards to donning the mayoral robes, Christian Santos is about to embark on a big change as he steps into his new role as Mayor of Gibraltar. However, after speaking to him and hearing his plans for our community here on the Rock, it would seem it’s a role he has unwittingly been preparing for his whole life…
Hi Christian! Congratulations on your appointment. How did this all come about?
Well, I received a call one day during lunch, and was told: “I need you to come in to NO6 right now!” I was met by the Chief Minister and Mrs Picardo; we sat down in his office and he said: “I have a few hours to make this announcement. I wanted to ask you if you would like to be the next Mayor of Gibraltar? Those weren’t exactly his words, he was much more official about it, but that was the sentiment.
It’s a role that I’ve always wanted to take on. My decision was very easy and made on the spot… and I think the Chief Minister knew that would probably be the case!
I wanted to ask you if you would like to be the next Mayor of Gibraltar?
How do you see your role, and what will it involve?
It’s a non-political, civic and ceremonial role; one that represents our people and our community. I’m very proud of who we are in Gibraltar, and a lot of my work involves celebrating our Gibraltarian identity. This new position gives me a platform to continue doing what I enjoy doing, but in a more official capacity.
I have a voice and a platform now, and I want to use it to help.
We’re very free to develop the role how we feel is best within our own capacity as individuals. I’m working on a year-long campaign, called ‘We Are One’, to celebrate our diversity as a community; how we all live together as one despite our different religions, gender and sexual identities, and backgrounds. I will be getting in touch with local organisations and charities to help bring awareness to the issues affecting our society.
I also want to educate people about the various religious events within Gibraltar We live together in harmony, but a lot of us don’t know the full ins and outs of the other religions and cultures that make up our diverse community. I was invited to Iftar last month and it was so wonderful to learn more about it.
And not forgetting the international awareness days like International Women’s Day, World Diabetes Day, World Autism day or Gay Pride among many others that are so important in raising awareness for different causes. During these periods, one week will be dedicated to providing informational videos and infographics so as to learn more about each event. I want to promote and feature these occasions so that the whole community can feel a part of them.
Most importantly, I want to participate in these events, as opposed to just being present. Engaging and connecting as much as possible. Listening to what people have to say, and thinking about how I can make that happen. I have a voice and a platform now, and I want to use it to help.
I also want to hold weekly open days at City Hall, so people who might not have had a chance to be invited otherwise can book a time and be taken on a tour of the Hall and the National Gallery, finishing at the Mayor’s Parlour. I want to open the building up for the community, to feel like City Hall belongs to all of us in Gibraltar.
What have you admired in the way past mayors have done things?
I’m extremely proud to join the ranks of our past mayors and what they’ve achieved locally. I looked up to many of them before they were appointed, like Adolfo Canepa, who has played a key role in our community, or Julio Alcantara, who was the Director of Education and a great man in general. I have something nice to say about each of them. Anthony Lima who was integral in recognising different sectors of our community. Kaiane Aldorino is a good friend; we worked closely together before she became Miss World. She brought a new outlook to what the role was. My predecessor John Gonçalves, who has been a great mentor and I know he is unaware of all he has taught me these past two years. Olga Zammitt, Momy Levy… they all paved the way and added their own personality and individuality to the role, and that has made it grow into something I can now take on and make my own.
Every member of our community is so integral to what Gibraltar is all about
What are you most looking forward to?
Making people feel like they’re worth it and that they’re enough. Making everyone feel like they’re equally important. Every member of our community is so integral to what Gibraltar is all about. Sometimes we as people choose to make our differences noticeable; I want to bring us all together – hence ‘We Are One’.
You have done a lot in the way of education and affordable scholarships through the Gibraltar Academy of Music and Performing Arts (GAMPA) and the Parasol Foundation. Do you have any more plans to continue this in your new role?
As Mayor I’m planning to give back to people who have taken part in the programmes as well as those who have achieved something due to their education. It’s not necessarily about excellence, it’s about those who have demonstrated improvement, self-betterment, progression.
I will continue to work with the Department of Education to find different ways and different courses that I can combine with GAMPA. I want to make sure every young person feels their achievements are recognised.
At the end of June, I’ll be holding an event for all the winners of our cultural festivals – the Festival for Young Musicians, Drama Festival, Art and Dance – and invite them, with their teachers, to come to City Hall for an evening do. I’d like to do the same for sporting events. I believe people should be rewarded for what they’ve achieved, big or small.
I want people to feel that I’m doing a good job on their behalf.
Next year I want to work together with schools to promote the empowering message behind the We Are One campaign, and give kids insight into the fact that you don’t need to be a certain type of person to achieve your dreams and ambitions.
And lastly… are you ready?!
I think I am! I’m very excited to start. I’ve spent the last two years working with John Gonçalves on how to take on this responsibility in a respectful way, giving the role the gravitas it deserves whilst being authentic and staying true to myself. I want people to feel that I’m doing a good job on their behalf.