Last update: 06-Dec-2013 8:12 am
Friday, December 06, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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From sleepy village to commercial hub
Chaguanas in the past few decades has grown from being a sleepy village set amidst sprawling canefields to being a borough and potentially the third city in Trinidad. The area takes its name from the Chaguanes tribe of first peoples who resided here until the late 18th century.
Sugar cane was cultivated in the district since at least 1800 when several estates were founded. The most prominent of these from 1820 were Enterprise, Endeavour, Felicity and Woodford Lodge. At the mouth of the Madame Espagnole River was a depot where the Island Steamer called from 1818-1928. Chaguanas was served by a line of the Trinidad Government Railway from 1880 until that system was shelved in the 1960s and gained importance as a major stop along the Southern Main Road.
Like Cunupia to the east, Chaguanas was once heavily dependent on the sugar economy, since the massive Central Usine at Woodford Lodge provided year-round employment and the annual sugar cane harvest, seasonal employment. With the closure of Woodford Lodge in the 1980s and the eventual demise of the sugar industry, Chaguanas suffered minor economic problems but managed to show exponential growth, especially after borough status was conferred in 1990.
The borough is bisected by the Uriah Butler Highway, formerly the Princess Margaret Highway. Chaguanas has long since outstripped Couva. Its expansion and development can be largely attributed to the fact that it has become a commercial and administrative centre that is relatively accessible and is outside the pale of the overcrowded East West Corridor.
Socio-economically, Chaguanas is very diverse. The borough has long been seen as a desirable residential area, as evidenced by the development of the upscale Lange Park area and other places which are rapidly becoming gentrified. Large HDC developments and older public housing infrastructure at Edinburgh also exist.
Chaguanas is the home of the annual Divali Nagar, which can be best described as a bazaar or theme park set around the Festival of Lights. It attracts tens of thousands of visitors, both domestic and internationally, annually. This is only fitting, as Felicity was the first village in Trinidad to commence a community Divali celebration—the annual ornate displays have become something of a tradition and is recognised as a major seasonal tourist attraction.
The seat of the Chaguanas Borough Corporation is on Cumberbatch Street and is located in a new and elegant town hall which has been recently erected to serve this central metropolis.
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