Despite issues in acquiring the funding needed to host all of their planned activities, members of the Amerindian community in Trinidad are now celebrating their indigenous heritage in a week of activities. Amerindian Heritage Day was celebrated on October 14 and activities will continue until October 20.
Kamlan Aleong, project co-ordinator for the week’s activities, explained that in previous years, events were held in the week leading up to Amerindian Heritage Day, but this was not possible this year due to financial issues. “This year we launched activities on the actual heritage day because we got budgetary allocations late.”
Aleong explained, “We were transferred from the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism to the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration and it seems that information was not conveyed from one ministry to the other on time.” Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez, chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community, said Amerindian Heritage Day is a day of recognition of the descendants of the first people in Trinidad and was granted 12 years ago by the government.
Bharath-Hernandez said, “In the 1970s there was a revival, a resurgence of interest in Amerindian culture that was once stifled by the Spanish colonisers.” He said this week’s celebrations aim to promote and preserve the culture of the Amerindian people. Aleong said a contingent of 45 Amerindian descendants from Guyana, Suriname and Dominica is present to take part in the week’s activities. The week kicked off on Sunday with the smoke ceremony at the Hyarima Statue in Princess Royal Park, Arima.
On October 19, said Aleong, patrons could enjoy the Heritage Cultural Fair at the Santa Rosa Park in Arima which will include activities such as wildlife exhibits, interactive games, indigenous face-painting and archery. This will be followed by a cultural show which will feature top performance groups and live parang music. Aleong and Bharath-Hernandez both regretted that a few activities had to be taken off the agenda but they believe that the ministry will be more prepared for next year’s celebrations.
Last December, the minister of Arts and Multiculturalism at the time, Winston “Gypsy” Peters, offered the local Amerindian community 25 acres of land to construct a heritage village. Bharath-Hernandez said they had been agitating for lands and he did not see this offer from the government as a handout. “These were lands that belonged to the Amerindian people,” he said. He said though no construction has begun on the land, they have started setting boundaries and making plans.
He said, “We are going to recreate an indigenous village with different components. It will have a residence for the Carib queen, an indigenous food-processing factory, an indigenous craft gallery, a museum with indigenous artifacts, a guesthouse for indigenous visitors from other countries and agricultural plots with cassava and so on.”