Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust
Founded in 1984 as a non-profit and non-political organization, the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust is supported by members of the local community, as well as by interested donors around the world. The trust is run by a team of dedicated volunteers who are concerned with protecting the island’s unique archeological and ecological environment. Working with local authorities, the trust promotes awareness of the natural resources of Vieques, in particular the bioluminescent bays of the island and the turtle nesting beaches, highlighting what can be done to protect these precious resources, and appealing to both residents and visitors to refrain from upsetting the ecological balance.
The Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust (VCHT) runs several educational and research programs, including programs to educate young people about the importance of conserving their natural environment. Tourism is the biggest income generating activity on the island, with people flocking to the island primarily for its incredible biodiversity and natural beauty. The VCHT works with local communities, as well as with students on internship from the United States, to ensure that natural resources are not exploited and can continue to be a sustainable source of income.
One of the programs run by the VCHT is the MANTA program – Movimiento en Apoyo a Nuestros Tesoros Ambientales. Under three age-group categories, the MiniManta for ages 5 to 8 years; Manta Raya for ages 9 to 12 years ; and MANTA for ages 13 to 17 years, the program aims to educate and entertain participants with a range of activities, while equipping them to raise awareness among their peers and within their communities. The program includes research, analysis, assessment and peer group motivation, covering topics such as understanding bioluminescence, identifying the unique flora of Vieques, and understanding the various eco-systems of the island in the context of the global eco-system.
Visitors to the VCHT Museum will gain insight into the history of the island through its displays of artifacts from the pre-ceramic period (around 3,000 BCE) and the Taíno era, which stretched from 600 BCE to 1492 AD. There are also replicas of Taíno pottery bowls and antiques donated by older residents of the island. A visit to the Bioluminescent Bay Room will acquaint visitors with the unique characteristics of Puerto Mosquito, described in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most outstanding bioluminescent bay in the world. It also highlights the threats to the bay’s continued existence. The gift shop offers a variety of novelty items relating to the island, as well as environmentally friendly products, with proceeds going to support the work of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust.