Elma Lathuillerie Reyes “Real Gens D’ Arime”
Elma Lathuillerie Reyes was born on March 14, 1935, to Errol Lathuillerie and his wife Milred nee Betaudier.
Both her parents were members of long-established Arima families who intended she should be born in the hometown. However, her father a minor civil servant was then based in Sangre Grande where she was born.
Two weeks later he was transferred to St. James, which is located in West Port of Spain, and the family soon joined him there, to move in rapid succession to addresses in South-East Port of Spain, Diego Martin and Tunapuna.
These places provided her earliest memories as each place has a character of its own, these memories were useful to her in later years, when she became a fiction writer and journalist.
World War 11 motivated the “Bases Agreement” between US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill. In exchange for some desperately needed second-hand destroyers, the US Military was allowed to establish bases in Trinidad.
This was necessary because the island is at the entrance to South America, being situated at the mouth of the Orinoco River and a mere seven sea miles from its Venezuelan coastline.
Trinidad also contained oil fields and was the principal supplier of this commodity to all vehicles used by Britian’s military forces.
Bases were established at Carlsen Fields in Central Trinidad, at the Chaguaramas peninsula at the extreme north-west; and in the former agricultural villages of Cumuto, Aripo and Maturita, adjacent to Arima where Fort Reid Army Base and Waller Field Military Air Base were situated.
When Elma turned sixteen, her mother Mildred Betaudier Lathuillerie was offered a job as a cashier/bookkeeper with the Sangre Grande branch of a large mercantile enterprise which she accepted, therefore Elma’s schooling in Port of Spain was cut short. The company had acquired a cash register and there was no one else with the capability to operate it.
At that time cocoa was the principal export of Trinidad, and both Sangre Grande and Arima were important trading centres.
Her mother had stopped working to raise her young family, but when the bases were established and Arima became a “boom town” she was asked to return to work in 1941.
Errol Lathuillerie’s father, although not a rich man, had been able to endow to each of his children an individual parcel of land, and the couple decided to build and establish a permanent home on his inheritance.
The house was completed in 1942, and it was there at 1a Gordon Street, Arima, that Elma Lathuillerie, (later Reyes), spent most of her life.
The long-established families of the north-eastern municipality identify themselves as “Gens Arime” which is pronounced in the French-Creole language of their ancestors “Jah Weem”. Growing up with the “Gens Arime” did not only shape the personality of Elma Reyes, but influenced the writing style she developed when she became a member of the working press and occasional fiction writer.
Elma Lathuillerie was married at age 19 to fellow Arimian John Reyes. Her marriage to John Reyes ended in separation in 1961 and thus Elma continued to educate herself so that she can provide for her then six children. Leaving her children in the care of her parents, she eventually journeyed to the United States for further education in the area of Journalism/Photography.
Elma eventually became employed in the United States where she became friends with Amos Earle Chisolm (deceased) who was then employed at the Village Voice Newspaper in New York. Chisolm would later become the father of Elma’s youngest child Caitleen who was conceived in the US but born in Trinidad in August 1970. Elma never remarried but continued to work in the media all of her adult life.
Elma was the mother of seven children – four sons, three daughters: Candace, Kendel, Gabrielle, Harlan, Sheldon, Miguel, and Caitleen.
Elma began writing short stories for Caribbean publications in 1960 and became a member of the working press in 1962, as the only female member of the “SUNDAY MIRROR” staff.
When her schooling at Tranquility Girls School, located in Port of Spain, was cut short due to illness, her parents arranged private tuition for her, and later, when she was already married and with a young family Elma Reyes attended the Arima Evening Institute through which she was trained and sat the General Certificate of Education examination.
Learning that IPC, the British publishing company and producers of the popular tabloid “THE DAILY MIRROR” planned to establish a branch of the paper in Trinidad, Elma Reyes applied for selection as “District Correspondent” and was chosen after being interviewed to train as a staff feature writer.
This job came to an end when political interference caused the “MIRROR” to fold, and the investors to sell it to rival mogul Lord Thompson, then owner of the “Trinidad Guardian” who shut it down completely.
Elma was educated at Tranquility Girls’ Secondary School, Trinidad. She was provided private tuition in General Education and Life Skills after which she studied Liberal Arts and Humanities.
In 1960 she attended the Arima Evening Institute and was successful in General Certificate of Education (London) (GCE) English, and (GCE) Embroidery as an Art and Craft.
In 1968 she studied Photography at the New York Institute of Photography.
Elma Lathuillerie Reyes lived a full life. Sadly she succumbed to cancer and passed away quietly at her daughter Garbrielle’s residence at #5 Rosalino Street Woodbrook on August 25th August 2000. She has passed on but her memory and writings will live on for generations to come!
Career Information: Fiction Writing published by
RADIO/TV/TIMES, WEST INDIAN HOME & FAMILY;
BIM (Magazines followed by) 2 years as a member of the working press with SUNDAY MIRROR (IPC, (“London Mirror” publication).
“ACTION” (with ex-MIRROR workers).
TRINIDAD PUBLISHING COMPANY (Guardian newspapers and Evening News).
TRINIDAD EXPRESS & SUN (Evening) Newspapers.
THE NEW YORK COURIER & AMSTERDAM NEWS.
COMMUNITY NEWS SERVICE (New York, USA)
THE HORIZON (Grenada)
CARIBBEAN WOMEN NEWS SERVICE (As regional correspondent)
CANA (As regional correspondent)
KEY CARIBBEAN Publications
ART A MAN/FEMME/ TOPIC (Magazine).
THE TRINIDAD NATURALIST
Freelance contributor: fiction and features
1970 – 1980
Better Living: Homemaker: Key Caribbean Publications: Trinidad, West Indies.
Femme: Trinidad, West Indies.
ART and Man: Trinidad, West Indies.
1961 – 1962
Trinidad Radio & TV Times: Trinidad, West Indies.
West Indian Home & Family: Trinidad, West Indies.
BIM: Barbados, West Indies.
Freelance feature writer: Newspaper and News Syndicate
1980 – 1982
Caribbean News Agency (CANA).
1979 – 1982
Caribbean Women Features Syndicate (CWFS).
1978 – 1980
Trinidad Naturalist Magazine: Trinidad, West Indies.
1974 – 1990
Trinidad Express: Trinidad, West Indies.
1971 – 1992
Amsterdam News: New York, New York.
1971 – 1972
The Horizon: St. Georges, Grenada, West Indies.
1966 – 1967
Trinidad Guardian & Evening News: Trinidad, West Indies.
Staff copywriter, tourism information, promotion
D. M. ****** Associates: Trinidad, West Indies.
Staff Newspaper feature writer.
1973 – 1977
Trinidad Express: Trinidad, West Indies.
1962 – 1966
Sunday Mirror: Trinidad, West Indies, Ltd.
Researcher & coordinator: The Greatest Show on Earth. Produced by Tony Brown, and directed by Stan Lathan for Black Journal – WNET-TV, New York.
Researcher & coordinator: Beating Pan. Produced by Tony Brown, and directed by Stan Lathan for Black Journal – WNET-TV, New York.
1965 – 2000
Researcher and writer: Annual Trinidad Parang Presentation for Trinidad & Tobago Television. Produced by Holly Betaudier and Paul Castillo.
Voluntary Community Involvement: Trinidad, West Indies
Coordinator for Amerindian Heritage Presentations for CARIFESTA V.
1990 – 2000
Appointed member by the Trinidad Government Cabinet:
Amerindian (Caribs) Projects Committee.
Public Relations, researcher, writer: Arima Borough Centenary Celebrations Committee.
1987 – 1989
Public Relations/Press Representative: Melodians Steel Orchestra.
1987 – 1989
Public Relations: Arima Children’s Music School.
1975 – 2000
Research Officer: Santa Rosa Carib Amerindian Community.
Regular participant on discussion panels on the Amerindian Community (Caribs) on Trinidad & Tobago Television, and Radio stations.
Lecturer: Amerindian Survival Skills and Aspects of Amerindian Culture retained in Trinidad and Tobago. Lectured to members of the Trinidad History Teachers Association: Students Biological Society at University of the West Indies – Trinidad, St. Augustine Campus: Primary and Secondary students and teachers:
Coordinator “Creative Skills Caribbean Exposition”, Restoration Corporation Building, Brooklyn, New York.
BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS
Informational booklets on:
PARANG; the SANTA ROSA CARIB COMMUNITY.
Melodians Steelband 25th Anniversary.
The T&T Heritage at Christmas
With artist/cartoonist SEL QUAMINA: The Story of the Steelband in comic strip format.
The Clearing in the Forest (KEY CARIBBEAN series)
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO NATURE ALPHABET
Universal book year 1972 Award
Best Children’s Illustrated Book
Natural Cultural Council
National Text Book Competition
National Textbook Award – A Nature Walk with Trini and Toby. The book is an alphabet written in rhyme and illustrated with drawings of local birds, animals, flora, and plants. Unpublished manuscripts.
Best children’s illustrated book, Universal Book Year Competition – A Nature Walk with Trini and Toby. (Same as above).
The Legend of Santa Rosa de Arima. A children’s colouring book.
Legends of the Carina. A children’s colouring book.
The Carib Community. (1976) Arima, Trinidad: The Santa Rosa Community.
The booklet briefly discusses some aspects of the Carib community in Arima, Trinidad, West Indies.
The Clearing in the Forest. (1980) Port-of-Spain, Trinidad: Key Caribbean Publications.
Harris Peter & Reyes Elma (1990) Supervivencias Amerindias en Trinidad y Tobago. In J.M. Mar & M.A. Garcia Arevalo (Eds.)
Pueblos y Politicas en el Caribe Amerindio. (pp. 55-64). Mexico.
D.F.: Instituto Indigenista & Fundacion Garcia Arevalo, Inc.
This paper was presented by Peter Harris at Memoria del Primer Encuentro del Caribe Amerindio. Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana. 11 al 17 de septiembre de 1988.
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Elma Lathuillerie Reyes – “Real Gens D’ Arime”
By Kazim Abasali
Kazim Abasali is a multimedia artist who enjoys creating his empowering and inspiring art, music, videos, ebooks, published articles, and websites, for himself and others. To access his artistic projects, kindly visit his website.
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