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Carib queen gets ceremonial send off
The late Carib queen, Valentina Assing Medina, had three wishes. They were granted. Paying tribute to Medina, her daughter Loretta Medina-Grant said, “She wanted a pink rose in her hair. She also asked to see several people including Senator (Penny) Beckles (who read her eulogy), and Councillor Metevier. She especially asked for Msgr Christian Perreira to do her service.” The celebration and thanksgiving for the life of Medina, fondly known as Mavis, took place at the Santa Rosa RC Church, Arima, on April 29. Among those present were acting Prime Minister Winston Dookeran, Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Winston Peters, and president of the Santa Rosa Carib Community Ricardo Bharath.
Lopinot/Bon Air West MP Dr Lincoln Douglas and chair of the Amerindian Project Committee Vel Lewis were also present. As a lagniappe, she was sent to the Great Spirit via a traditional Amerindian ceremony at the nearby Santa Rosa cemetery. Leading the cortege, was flagsman Peter Diaz. The strains of Pedro Lezama’s saxophone were replaced by the infectious sounds of traditional parang which permeated the landmark kirk. From vantage points at the Santa Rosa park, mourners, including filmmaker and journalist Tracy Assing, watched the celebration unfold. Delicate poui blossoms formed a purple carpet closer to the boys’ school. The cortege was en route to God’s acre to bid their final rites to Medina. Another famous Arimian, calypsonian Aldwyn Roberts, fondly known as Lord Kitchener, was buried there.
Clutching palm fronds, members of the Carib clan decked in traditional vestments followed reverently. Their pretty faces were wreathed in smiles. Retired Spanish teacher at Arima Government Secondary School, Beryl Almarales, was spotted. She was joined by Jennifer Cassar, Antonia and Catherine Calderon, Maria Hernandez and Mary Noreiga. Elders, including Ramona Lopez and Metrina Medina, paid their final respects.
Even the menfolk such as Partners for the First Peoples, Roger Belix, donned waistcoats etched with bird figurines. As they wended their way, traditional Arima families like the Martinez clan watched the procession from their home—which was a blend of modernity and colonial architecture.
Amerindian ceremony send off
In the cool of the evening, Bharath and medicine man or shaman, Cristo Adonis, officiated at the smoke ceremony. They were assisted by her grandson Zachary Medina. Among those present were Arima Mayor Ghassan Youseph, and Arima MP Rodger Samuel. The aroma of forest incense wafted. Mourners coughed, and some retreated as the fire blazed. Under the boughs of a mango tree, neighbours espied the religious spectacle. Quizzed on the ceremony, Bharath said, “It is a smoke ritual. But it has different components to it. It is done in begging for a request from the Great Spirit. It is done in thanksgiving and at the death of someone. Depending on the ceremony, you will use different ingredients. In the case of death, we used tobacco, incense and some medicinal herbs.”
During the ceremony, Bharath said, “We prayed to the Great Spirit (Tamushi) to allow the guardians of the four directions to guide the soul of the departed to find rest and peace. It was simpler in the send off.” As custodians of the environment, Bharath said he prepared the incense from trees growing in the forest. “We use what is indigenous to the area. We get if from the gum trees in the forest.” Earlier on, in his tribute, Bharath had lamented that several traditions had died. “In the earlier days, they would have placed tools or what the person used in life. “If it was a medicinal man, they would have put herbs. If it was a hunter, they would have put his bow and arrow. They might have even put some food. But some of those traditions we don’t practice. The heavy traditions have died,” he said. After the religious formalities, traditional paranderos shook their chac chacs and strummed their guitars as they celebrated the life of a proud Arimian, who was “humble, dedicated, caring and loving.”
Santa Rosa Festival
Throughout her reign, she remained devoted to Santa Rosa. Accompanied by Father Perreira, Medina led the procession through Arima. The statue of Santa Rosa, was decked with rows of beautiful roses and a bouquet of red roses, perfected by whites, pinks and yellows. The celebrants sang hymns and chanted the Our Father. The Carib community and other participants clutched tropical blooms like anthuriums, ginger lilies and roses.
During her tenure, the government declared October 14 as the official day of recognition. In 2006, T&T was given the chairmanship of the Regional Council of Indigenous Peoples. She expressed gratitude to Works Minister Jack Warner, George Hadeed and Mayor Youseph for their assistance. Bharath said he regretted her passing without witnessing the land handover. In a previous interview, (August 11, 2002) Medina said: “If we get the land we will plant cassava, corn, too. “We want a place for agouti and deer to run. It will boost our heritage and culture. “We do not eat people—only wild meat like agouti, deer and tattoo,” she had joked.
About Valentina Medina
Valentina Medina lived at Wattley Street, Mt Pleasant, Arima. In 2002, she was one of many indigenous peoples celebrated by the United Nations on International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. She was born to Clemencia Hale Assing and Thompson Hale Assing at Rapsey Street in Caura. She was the wife of the late John Medina. She was the mother of Loretta, Camilus, Octave, Herbert and Bernadette. Medina grew up in Paria, a very pristine neck of the woods, in Arima. She lived and worked there. She was Carib queen for 11 years. She felt it was a “special experience to be queen of the Carib community.” She was elected based on her knowledge and history and traditions of the Carib community. She was the fifth Carib queen in the history of the Santa Rosa Carib Community.