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Exploring Diego Martin’s African Heritage
The National Trust of T&T took the T&T Guardian on an exclusive tour of the Diego Martin Valley on July 25. The tour was to highlight the rich African heritage that exists in the area, but more importantly it was also to mark the commemoration of the 174th anniversary of Emancipation in T&T.
Tour guide Analicia Boyce gave a brief history of the valley that was initially inhabited by the native Amerindians, then the Africans (free slaves) from Sierra Leon and Congo. And later, by the Jews from Israel, French creoles and Chinese settlers. Along the way, Boyce also pointed out the many street signs that reflect the people that once occupied the region, such as Congo Village located on Dillon and Gookool streets.
Another was Covigne Road (also called St Mary’s Village or Witches Den, after a folk tale)—historically where slaves from the Yoruba tribe settled. The road which is also the highest point of the Diego Martin Main Road was also home to the first Spiritual Baptist church in Diego Martin, called Mt Rose Spiritual Baptist Church. Today the annual Emancipation flambeaux procession begins right at the Church and ends at the River Estate Water Wheel.
Some of sites the T&T Guardian visited included Orisa Oko Palais (Orisha Shrine), River Estate Water Wheel, the Cocoa Museum Factory and Rain-o-Rama (Lord Kitchener’s former home). It was explained that Kitchener’s home which was turned into a museum showcasing the calypsonian’s life, is thought to be close to where the slave and chantwell Gros Jean entertained the guests of his master, a slave owner called Begorrat.
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