16th Article “RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA – TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL”

RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA – TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL

Francis Morean @6th June 2019

(This is the sixteenth in a series of articles being published here by Francis Morean with the focus upon the history of Arima.)

Yesterday was World Environment Day. I was hoping to publish this piece to mark the day. It was however unable to do so. This post is a modified version of a much larger piece, which I first wrote over a decade ago. It is the first of a number of pieces, which I plan to publish about water utilisation and water resources in and around Arima. I appreciate that the availability of water is a sensitive matter these days, not just in Arima, but in Trinidad and Tobago as a whole. So articles about water could create some “tension” if I may borrow the word of the late Shadow. That is not my intention. So, if this article triggers too much heat, I am asking in advance that readers “take a bath” (if they have water.)

Go through, go through the gates!
Prepare ye the way for the people.
Cast up, cast up the highway.
Gather out the stones.
Raise a banner for the people.
Isaiah 62:10
RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA (TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL)“The Intake” near the two mile post along the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road is a popular bathing area along the middle course of the Arima River.

The walk from the hillside districts of Calvary Hill and Mt. Pleasant and the low-lying areas of “The Bypass”, Maturita, Jonestown, Torrecilla and elsewhere in the town of Arima to “The Intake” is very popular among youngsters and adults alike on weekends, public holidays and more so during the school vacations.

Located near the Northern extremity of the old Torrecilla Estate, “The Intake” was initially part of a potable water supply network which was created during the latter years of the nineteenth century to cater for the needs of the growing chartered borough.

Around 1903, in the wake of volcanic eruptions in Martinique, Maximilliane Herde migrated from that island to Trinidad. Settling in Arima, he utilised his mechanical skills in the establishment of an ice factory a few miles downstream from “The Intake”.

The water from “The Intake” flowed by gravity to the reservoir at Mt. Pleasant and from there was used to generate hydro-electric power for the operation of the ice factory. Later on, the competition from ice suppliers in Port-of-Spain as well as other factors had led to the non-profitability; of the ice factory and its eventual closure. In future posts I propose to focus more specifically upon the history of the Arima Waterworks –which was set up in the late nineteenth century – and upon the ice factory.
RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA (TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL)By 1937 the construction and commissioning of the Hollis Reservoir along the Quare River led to an additional source of water to the town and a decline in the reliance of the burgesses on the water supply from “The Intake”.

The death-knell of “The Intake” as a source of potable water was however the outbreak of World War 2 and the subsequent presence of American troops in Trinidad. The construction of the military base at what at the time was known as Ma Fookoo Estate, but later renamed Waller Field by the Americans was closely associated with the establishment by the Americans of a quarry near the five-mile mark along the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road and the widening, straightening and paving of several parts of the roadway up to the location of the quarry. Many residents of Arima and the Arima Valley called it the American Quarry.

Prior to the beginning of the quarrying activities in the area by the Americans, crystal-clear waters had flowed in this river and its tributaries and many people who lived in this mountainous area freely collected water from this river for drinking purposes. The establishment of the quarry was to dramatically alter their lifestyle. Several other quarrying operations subsequently started in the Arima Valley and the operation of these peaked during the late nineteen seventies and throughout the eighties and again over the past decade and a half. That’s another long story right there.

The plans to supply the town with water from “The Intake” were abandoned by the early nineteen forties. By the end of the 1941, both the quality and quantity of the water provided by the Arima waterworks had been badly affected by “The American Quarry”.

“The Intake” thereafter evolved into a popular recreational venue. The concrete barriers that were built across the water course created artificial bathing pools which enhanced the value of the area for recreational purposes. Many relicts from the old waterworks can still be seen there. The prevalence of a variety of wildlife species in this area had also made it a natural haven for outdoor enthusiasts desirous of a “river lime” and who could rely upon a ready harvest of “wild meat” in the adjoining forests.
RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA (TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL)Manicou crabs or mountain crabs abounded during the rainy season. The river itself yielded an opportune supply of crayfishes or “books”, guabins, river lobsters, coscarobs, sardines, guatamals and tetas which were often cooked on make-shift firesides constructed along the river bank.

These traditions of bathing by the rivers and cooking whatever could be harvested from the rivers went back to a period when the first peoples of this land lived in much greater harmony with this land than we do today, and they knew it as their common heritage.

Unfortunately by the time of the establishment of the Mission at Arima in the mid-eighteenth century, the surviving first peoples of Cairi or Chaleibi had already been deprived of the majority of their lands with (in the words of former Arima Mayor FEM Hosein)

“The flowers, fruits and trees, the gaily plumaged
Birds which whirl aloft in flaming colours
Borrow’d from the rainbow’s glorious tints

In fact, at the time of the reestablishment of the Arima Mision by Chacon, the land space occupied by the indigenous peoples here and at the other surviving missions amounted to much less than one per cent of the land space of the island. They had been effectively dispossessed of what Hyarima considered (again, in the words of former Arima Mayor FEM Hosein)
as:

“The freedom of this land in valleys, mountain,
Hills and dales was given me by my father
And the tribe of which I’m chief ….”

Their men and women had fought back valiantly at times. Many times they were prepared to face death rather than to surrender. In the end however, they had been forced, to:

“……cringe and bow to strangers
Who have hither come from heaven knows where
With no more right than what a conquering sword
Confers”

The question of the rights of the descendants of the indigenous peoples of Trinidad to lands remains one which many would like to remain unanswered. It is one which would not simply go away with the recent lease of a few acres of badly degraded hillsides north of Arima to one of the representative groups of the descendants of the first peoples. Any efforts to address this unfinished area of our nation’s business could lead to more questions that some would rather confine to the middens of our history.

Arguments would be raised like stumbling blocks and hurdles about the need for a process to determine who should be the legitimate beneficiaries of the reparation of lands of the indigenous peoples as well as about who should be excluded. Fears there would be that any efforts at land reparations to the indigenous peoples could expose some painful historical wounds and would open the floodgates to claims for reparation by other groups in the society, which have been quietly gaining momentum.

In the meantime, the loss of the lands of the indigenous peoples represents some of the darkest phases of our nation’s history. It is an area however upon which some light needs to be shed, even as we try as a nation to grapple with some of our current problems. The darkness had been made worse by the fact that Trinidad changed hands from one European colonial power to another, a little more than a decade after the indigenous peoples had been removed to Arima.

These words I share here today are so self-evident, yet it baffles me that our leaders have failed to properly appreciate it. It is almost as if our leaders cannot embrace the “calls of the wild” which appealed to the indigenous peoples although they themselves sometime find the need for it, albeit with the trappings of contemporary comforts.

Once clothed in guacamayo and other forest plants, the hillsides above the Mission Village were part of the area once known as the Cabeceras or Heights of Arima. The Cabeceras extended for about six miles beyond Calvary Hill as can be noted in many of the reports of the Arima Road District which came into existence late during the first half of the nineteenth century.
RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA (TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL)The forested nature of the Cabeceras up to late in the nineteenth century created a haven for wildlife as well as for the indigenous peoples. In fact, the historian Bridget Brereton has cited the fact that around 1840 “Occassionaly surviving members of a group of Chayma Indians used to come down from the heights beyond Arima to the Farfan estate, to barter wild meats for small household goods.”

An idea of the extent of the proliferation of game in the Arima Valley and adjacent areas during that period can be seen in an article published in a local newspaper of 1878. There it was noted that “A small party of three men, having five hunting dogs with them, lately returned from the woods of Guanapo with the following bag, after a week’s absence from their homes: 11 quencoes(Peccary), 3 porcupines, 6 Lappes (Cavia Paca), 2 Tatous(the 9 banded Armidilio), and 6 Pawees (the crested Curassow). A good bag, though not considered a great one – considering the time spent. The above list was the whole bag, including what they cooked for their own use while sojourning in the bush.”
SIR EDWARD BEETHAM, THE WATER RIOTS, THE HISTORY OF ARIMA AND TWO PLACES OF WATERThe streams of clear running water in the Cabecerras were like the life blood to the indigenous peoples.

In the Cabecceras they were able to retrieve some of the freedoms which they once knew. There, among the dancing guacamayos, among the festering guacos (huacos) and between the thick clumps of quebra quebras they regained something of their lost freedoms. There, protected by the thorny roseaus and the irritating huaritot (waritot) they felt safer. There they enjoyed the sweet taste of the cocorites, the balatas and the gommiers. There, resting in their hamacas under their timite covered ajoupas they had found their comfort zone. There, on the thick carpets provided by the beautiful yellow flowers of the paramin trees they also found rest. There they spent time admiring the colibris feeding upon the nectar of the cascades of light purple flowers, of lianes such as the yuqui yuqui.

There, they sometimes dozed asleep; intoxicated by the fragrant blooms of the tabac warai. Here and there they found the occasional Yuyba palms and the anares. From the latter they selected very durable and effective walking sticks. There in the shade of the guatacares, the carapas, the couroucays, the aguatapanas, the acajous, the guatamares, the mombins or jobos, the laginettes, the tapanas, the maraquils, the apamates and the host of other native plants, they renewed the way of life which they knew before the coming of Europeans to their lands. There they collected the rootlets of the high climbing mammure and the stalks of the tirite. Walking amidst the large expansive clumps of the tirite they occasionally twisted small pieces of some of the leaves into whistles which they would use to attract agoutis. From the harvested mammure and tirite they weaved their manares and couleves and other utilitarian items.

On small plots they cultivated the manioc, the mays and other crops. Sometimes they felled the towering manacos and collected the heart of the palms for cooking. There in the Cabeceras, they collected the balbac vine which they used in catching the cascaduras, the guatamals, the guabins and the yarraos. There, under the meesi trees they hunted the lapas and the agoutis. There, even on the low branches of the tabac warai they hunted as many as they needed of the abundant number of the pajuis which fed upon the clusters of sweet orange berries of the plants. There too they hunted the cachicams, quenks and guazupitas. There they prepared the boucans with the harvested game. The delicate chiqui chiquis they collected to heal their fungal infections. With the secua and the refriyau, they treated the occasional bite of the mapipire. Under the cajuca trees they admired the beauty of the flocks of toucans that came by to feed upon their fruits. They quenched their thirst with the liquid from “water vines” like the abuta and the pulcherro. There, they had re-established something of their own sense of government.
This was a freedom which the indigenous peoples tried to exercise even in the face of European colonisation.
HOSEIN CELEBRATIONS IN ARIMATorrecilla Estate was first established near the end of the eighteenth century. Many sugar estates were still present near Arima around the time and some were still producing sugar canes as a crop up to as late as 1935 and the generally flat aspect of much of the lands on the southern part of the estate would have predisposed it to sugar-cane production . The estate however also included hilly terrain which would have made it ideal for cocoa production and by 1803 it was already a thriving cocoa estate.

The estate was established by Don Manuel Thomas Sorzano de Tejeda, a Spanish aristocrat who was a high-ranking officer in the administration of Don Jose Maria Chacon, the last Spanish Governor of Trinidad.

One of its earlier inhabitants and perhaps an owner of at least part of the estate (and or lands adjoining the estate) was Leon de Gannes, the descendant of an aristocratic French family which had come to Trinidad from Grenada. The de Gannes had migrated from Brittany to Tourain in France and then to Acadia and New Orleans in America before moving to Martnique and eventually Grenada.

Leon de Gannes was a fairly prolific writer for his era and many of his articles were published in French in local newspapers. At Torrecilla de Gannes and his wife Selima entertained many guests. In one of his articles published in 1875 he described the environment in which they entertained visitors:

“A stew chicken with Angola peas and a dish of cushcush (yam) nothing better, as you are seated under the coffee trees in flower, in the shade of the most beautiful trees, among others a ‘palo de rosa’, which make of the basin of the Torrecilla a wonderful bathing spot.

Are you an artist! Take up your paints. In the middle of the river, the washerwoman, each one is (carrying a bundle) or beating their clothes on a rock. Elie is singing. Others are chattering, and are not sparing of the gross epithet or the down-to-earth truth.

Let us go up to the basin.
Two water-sprites, young Indians with plaited hair, are bathing. They are playing at being ships – they jump from the plank – their head under water, their convex body alone above water, they float downstream; they come up against the current using only their feet which serves as paddles; they pass by like little steamers.

See them diving to fish for prawns in the cavities of the huge rock. In a moment they are going to surface blowing like little whales. Voila, sprite number 1 has nothing this time. Sprite number 2 shows you her catch.

Yes, it is gentil, refreshing, this bathing spot at Torrecilla, – with the young Indian girls.”

Nearing the end of the nineteenth century the Arima River was such a popular bathing locality that the practices which were observed generated regular criticism in the media.

One writer noted in a letter to the editor of a local newspaper for example that:

“We beg to call the attention of the Police to the gross indecencies which are of daily occurrence, and we regret to say especially on Sunday morning, in the Arima River. This nuisance has been spoken of on several occasions in these columns, but nothing is done. In other rivers such occurrences are not permitted, why should Arima enjoy a privilege?”

It should be noted that during that period the local authorities were clamping down upon river bathing in Trinidad. The newspapers from that period are replete with reports of arrests being made in the San Juan River.

The tradition of bathing in the Arima River – sometimes in the nude – which was noted over a century ago, evolved in an era when the upstream areas such as Cangrejal, St. Patrick’’s Estate, San Isabella Estate, Verdant Vale, Heights of Arima (El Cabesterre) Bon Aventure and Spring Hill were not subjected to the widespread utilisation of agricultural pesticides and weedicides which today filter into the drainage system.

Neither were there the problems of elevated faecal coliform levels brought about by the rampant use of pen manure by farmers in the area. The use of native saponiferous plants such as lianne savonnette, rayo, lang bef and mayok shappelle, was still commonplace. The question of household chemical effluents or run-offs from ecotourism developments was unknown. The major environmental hazard was siltation as a result of the occasional slash and burn cultivation on the hillsides which overlook the Arima Valley.
HOSEIN CELEBRATIONS IN ARIMAOver the years, several popular bathing spots had been developed along the middle and lower stages of the river course. A warm bath was even possible in a pool – near the ice factory- which received hot water discharged from the power generation system.

The ice factory however now stands in ruin, covered in snake vine, soapvine, Christmas bush, candle bush, bois cano and other plants.

The harvests of guabins, coscarobs and shellfish along the river have long been significantly reduced. Gone are the lappe and the deer, the iguana and the agouti,the porcupine and the poor-me-one. Once “in a blue moon” one of these creatures may wander along or near the stream banks from the adjacent forests and almost inevitably they come to an unfortunate end. All that is left are a few manicous, protected in part by their necrophilia and scavenging feeding habits which deter some “wild meat” lovers. Increasingly prevalent over the last three decades have been the matte or tegu lizard, encouraged no doubt by the rising levels of pollution in the valley.

It is not only the wildlife which has been decimated as a result of human activities. Many of the bathing pools and bathing areas have also lost a lot of their splendour, in spite of efforts over the years to keep them in good condition. In a subsequent post I plan to take a more detailed look at several of the bathing places – along the waterways – close to the town centre of Arima.
RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA (TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL)A journey from Arima to “The Intake “today, reveals many a tale of environmental woe and urbanisation.

Climbing to the top of Prince Street and continuing past the entrance to Marie Street, a few relict trees of yellow poui, Chaconias and other native plants can still be found on the steeper stone faces of the hillsides where houses could not have been constructed.

A short distance further along the Mt. Pleasant Road, the damaged concrete bridge which spanned the Mt. Pleasant Ravine has been replaced and the entire route is now accessible to vehicles once more. Over 25 years had elapsed and the landslips in the area had remained unchecked. Eventually the bridge was fixed. That is probably the most apolitical way it can be said. But let us at least give Jack his jacket.

The temporary wooden pedestrian bridge which allowed passage across the ravine was eventually removed about 8 years ago. A few clumps of Chaconia can still be found near the roadside in the area, if one looks closely.

The reforestation of the slopes above the bridge may help to stabilise the area. One’s mind wanders back to the town below where not too long ago a Government agency had been set up to address issues of reafforestation in the Northern Range. Moving gradually downhill and with the foothills of the Northern Range coming into view one’s attention is drawn to the changing landscapes to the right. Across from a triangular shaped park now stands “A River runs Through It”.

For several years, a sign there had announced the development of housing lots near the edge of the forests by the Urban Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago. One is on the Arima Bypass Road. The plans seemed to have died for some years, then quite rapidly, over the past 3 to 4 years, the concrete rapidly encroached upon the jungle as a series of townhouses were quickly constructed by the HDC.
RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA (TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL)Continuing northwards one quickly passes the one mile post, with its clump of monkey bone plants with its milestone in the small shrubs at the right side of the road just beyond the point where the Mount Pleasant Road meets the Bypass Road.

The massive mango tree which once provided shelter there for pedestrians and hitchhikers is gone.

One can still encounter in this area a few Chaconia plants all along the left side of the roadway in the disturbed forests until one gets to the base of the Calvary Hill Road which dissects the Calvary Hill district.

Scarred landscapes are present on both sides of the roadway as the march of urbanisation spreads up the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road. One may learn that there may have been some illegal quarrying activity conducted in the close vicinity over a decade ago by the family of a senior official of one of the major political organisations in the country. In recent years the vegetation has been devastated on both sides of the roadway to make way for housing plots and recreational activities.

The sounds of the Arima River on the right is quite soothing as one makes a quick descent past the fire-disturbed agricultural plots on the left with their scattered banga palms characteristic of these areas of poor soil. Immediately however one forgets this as one is distracted by the terrible scars on the left which were obviously left by a major landslide. The almost bare slope portends another landslide should there be heavy or persistent rainfall. Concrete reinforcements which have obviously only recently gone up can be seen above the river. Not a Chaconia plant is in view.

The village with the misnomer of “The One Mile” welcomes you as does Mannette’s Ranch, a spread of land near the river which was once used by the Boy Scouts of St. Mary’s College but which has now been developed by a private entrepreneur into a picnic and recreational area. Even here a few Chaconia stumps were present a few years ago. Now they are almost all gone.

Across the main road from the village is the former residence of the “Forest Ranger”, located on the periphery of the Government Forest Reserve which also extends several square miles back from the roadway.

The Forest Reserve itself has been adversely affected. Cocorite palms, bois flot and bois cano trees everywhere reflect the regular bush fires which have affected this area over the last three decades.

A short distance away is the roadway leading to the proposed site of the “Amerindian Village” where the current administration has recently leased 25 acres of lands to the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community. The leaders of the group seem to be comfortable with the arrangements. Emphasis in that sentence however needs to be placed on the words leaders and seem. In the minds of some members of the organisation, it is better than nothing. It must be noted however that although that organisation has been officially recognised by the government for more than 30 years, it is not the sole voice of the descendants of the indigenous peoples in Arima or the rest of the nation.
RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA (TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL)A few gentle bends along the roadway, a few gentle dips and rises past in abundance of la craie and bird of paradise heliconias bring one at last to a grassy knoll on the right near a small wooden structure.

It is a walk I have often made in various capacities and for various reasons. One of those activities has been an attempt to document the surviving Chaconia plants around Arima and to educate the public about them. Up to a few weeks ago, the wild Chaconia was the National Flower of Trinidad and Tobago. On many of those walks it struck me as frighteningly strange that most of the youngsters I met along the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road could not recognise the Chaconia. Neither could the majority of them tell me anything about the plants. Yet here and there, almost everywhere along the route, a few Chaconia plants can be seen.

This is the entrance to the “Intake”. A sea of trees spread out ahead and away like waves towards the higher peaks to the east. A knowledgeable and discerning eye would easily recognise, especially when they are in bloom, the crowns of the tonka bean, apamate, yellow poui, black poui, serrette, jereton, mahoe and immortelle trees, at different times of the year. And a few Chaconias. The torrents of the water can be heard from along the main road like the sound of a small waterfall, however one has to descend to the river floor to appreciate the presence and true beauty of both the Chaconias and the watercourse.

The throngs of children visiting “The Intake” always appeared to peak during the “August vacation” and during the dry season. Like salmon returning upstream to their home streams, these descendants of Hyarima, Poonya, Pooyoung and Raymundo as well as those of “Anacaona, Oropuna, and Anapuya”, Don Lopez de Vega Cabrera, and Francisco Lopez often packed the roadsides on their way to “The Intake”in the heart of the ancestral grounds. So too did the descendants of Clemencia Eccles, Deyette London, Maria Werges, Elsie Rudolpho, Alexander Calderon, Claudine Hernandez, Clifford Caldera, Olive Eccles, Dulcina Galera, Callemera Hernandez, Jose Pena, Florencia Po, Ramona Mol, Juan Rosales, Memensio, Ambrosio Medina, Mary Lopez, Papit Lopez, Ton Toh Malting, a Polleh, Lawrence Augustus, Felix “Boyie” Caldon, Phillipa Borneo and Beesentay Diaz.
RIVER-BATHING IN ARIMA (TOWARDS A BETTER ENVIRONMENT FOR ALL)Were it possible to stand quietly and unseen in the shadows, as if in a vivid dream, and to go back in time and witness the regular procession of citizens to the bathing pools along the river, and converse with them, one may be able to retell much of the history of Arima, and some of the history of Aricagua (San Juan) Cuara (Caura), Tacarigua and Arauca (Arouca) and communities further afar in Matelot, Venezuela and St. Vincent. There go the descendants of Asento Hernandez, Melsey and Toto Calderon.

There go the descendants of Domingo Dias and Juana Pascuala. Goito Lezama, Cecilia Cardinez, Ignacia Beegeeta Guevara, Damasia Thomasia Cardinez, Maria Hernandez, Don Prieto, Maria Netto, Emanuel Farfan, Clarissia Calderon, Clarita Tores, Ruffino Martinez, Santo Hernandez; and Malting Martin, Nicholas “Doodoo” Hernandez, Modeste Calderon, Nosencia Maria Tores, Henorar Garcia-Mon Desir, Baldomero Jiminez and Juanita Hernandez. Sheemeto Boneo, Faustino Jiminez, Manzay Juanite, Malta Hill, Benito Hill, Graveoleeta Guerra, Phillipa Borneo, Canacion Torres Mama Sheeo and Rupelto Plaza.

Here now are the great grandchildren and great great grandchildren of Julie Calderon, Miguel Perreira, Clemencia Eccles, Deyette London, Maria Werges, Elsie Rudolpho, Alexander Calderon, Claudine Hernandez, Clifford Caldera, Olive Eccles, Frederick Valentine, Ninnin Liverpool, Peter Guevarra, Ma George, Marcelline Liverpool, Salvador Herreira, Lawrencia Mendoza, Locadia Herreira, Francisco Martinez, Pearline Martinez, Lilian Williams,Pedro Amoroso, Julia Raymee Castellano and Innocensio Borneo.

Every year the procession goes on and on. Knowingly or unknowingly; consciously or subconsciously they return to some of the wide open spaces where their ancestors walked and where an abundance of green leaves still pour out life-giving oxygen, in the cycle of life. Every year their souls connected in this spiral journey and this simple sacred unwritten ritual as the elders of their community quietly cried out for the return of their ancestral lands.

The historian priest, Anthony de Verteuil, writing in one of his books noted that: “Sometimes it is better not to know too much. This applies to the possible origins of the Spring Hill Estate, in the Arima valley. It has proved impossible to trace its history before 1906, when it was bought by Friedrich Wilhelm Meyer from previous owners (or owner?), who had developed there small cocoa and coffee estates, presumably in the 1860’s. The suspicion, nonetheless, must remain, however unfounded it may be, that the original proprietors did not acquire Crown land strictly so-called, but “Indian Land”, that is, the property belonging to the Indian Village of Arima.”

At some time, if the opportunity allows, I would explore that conjecture by the priest with some interesting historical details.

These however are questions that our society must address if we may find peace and a better environment for all. In the clamour for state funding and support among the larger and the more dominant classes in the society the voices of the descendants of the autochthonous societies seem to be almost lost among the din. They remain like voices crying in the social wilderness of Trinidad and Tobago. Yet, as one anthropologist commenting upon the land question in this nation has noted:

“Aboriginal peoples, and their modern day descendants, were the only ones to have lost their nation without having moved, and to have lost lands that ultimately only they could lay claim to.”

Yet, with few exceptions even the leaders of their community groups do not presently lay claim to possession or rights of the island. Neither do they claim even the lands which originally comprised the Arima Mission (which was established during the second half of the eighteenth century) which may have been illegally taken from them.

Indeed, even here in Arima, the remnants of the First Peoples of Cairi continue to share their space with other groups who came from other lands.

Were it indeed possible to stand quietly and unseen in the shadows near the bathing pools one would also find the descendants of some of the nation’s early European settlers such as Don Manuel Thomas Sorzano and Eucinas Farfan, Ludovic de Verteuil, Adhema de Verteuil, Henry Coryat, Charles Goin, John Lynch, Blaise Chaumet, Maria Charlotte Chomette, Gregoria Encinas, O’Mara, Pierre le Blanc and Gregorio Encinas de Segovia.

There in the shadows one may easily recognize the descendants of Manual Congo and Cyril Congo. One may easily be confused by the black complexion, and the other features of the descendants of Natividad Alfonso, Ernest Rudolfo, Charles Martin, Williamn Koquero, Facundo Subero, Paul Martin, Jose Alfonso, Manuel Hospedales, Popo Luces, Daniel Betaudier, Elacio Mundaray, Juan Bailey, Rafael Vignales, John Francis Wallen, William Duruty, José Antiocho Paredes, Carlos Faustino, Eugene Ellen, George Francis, George William, William Wattley and others.

One would also find the descendants of Aleong, Mahhai and, Koon Koon, Aqui, Chin Affat, Paul Ayong, Chows, Lees, Aleong, Chin-a-Fatt, Chin-Aleong, John Hing Quee, How Chong, Thompson Assing, Who Hoy, Choo Ying and Hillary Assam.

There too are the descendants of Gurdeen, Doon Pundit, Seenarine, Maradge, Rampersad Maharadge, Rampartap Pundit, Rameshwar, Bhagantia Chaitram and Edwin de Nobriga.

Then somehow in your dream, as you look for any of the descendants of the Khourys, the Hadeeds and the Yousephs in “The Intake” you are transported back into the Town Hall in Arima. You are upstairs in the Town Hall. You are perusing the photographs on the wall of the citizens who have served as the Mayor of the still supposedly Royal Borough. Even in your dream, you are still amazed at the uniqueness of Arima.

But then you wake up, and you decide that maybe you should take a bath in the river yourself. But, getting there, you find that the river is polluted and there is not much water in the river although it is the month of June. And then, when you do find a clean spot, some “WASA police” call you out of the river and they arrest you. They tell you that the water belongs to WASA and you are polluting it. And you wonder if you are still dreaming or if you are back in San Juan in 1898. Meanwhile, your callalloo of Amerindian, African, Spanish, Dutch, Irish, Chinese, East Indian and Lebanese blood is boiling as you look out to the hillsides that are burning. And you pray for a better environment for us all. And you pray and you pray and you pray.

And I pray that if you see the name of any of your ancestors in this article and there are errors in the spelling, that you would feel free to provide the correct spelling.

And I pray that if you and or your ancestors have also made that journey to “The Intake” but that is not reflected in the article, that you would feel free to indicate as much in the comments.

And I pray that in every respect we would work together towards creating a better environment for all.