The historic Ganteaume Tombs in Mayaro belong to one of Trinidad and Tobago's oldest, wealthiest and most influential lineages. It has links with more than 20 prominent families with ancestries through European, North and South American, Asia and the Caribbean.
LiTTscapes author, Dr Rampersad and a group of people on the inaugural LiTTour– Journeys Through the Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago, came across the defaced and vandalised tomb while on their way to meet with the Mayaro Historical Society to offer them ideas for restoring and resuscitating the old Mayaro Post Office which is represented as a key literary house in LiTTscapes–Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago as the setting of several of the novels and short stories of Michael Anthony, who accompanied the tour and led them to the tomb.
Calling for urgent move to restore the tomb, Rampersad noted that the neglected tomb is located in the Mayaro-Guayaguayare district that supplies Trinidad and Tobago with most of its oil and is a sad testimony to national attitudes to heritage and culture and history.
"To me, the story of this early colonial period–of the neutralising of Spanish, French and British animosities towards each other in Trinidad-is one of the defining moments in Trinidad and Tobago's exemplary multicultural journey," Rampersad added in her posting on the tomb entitled, "Defaced and Vandalised" in her blog, Demokrissy.
The lineage represented by the tombstone
Rampersad also noted that "the lineage represented by the tombstone of the first family of Ganteaumes in Mayaro includes admirals and captains, planters and slaves, legislators, ministers of government and the church, clergymen, businessmen, judges, media moguls, derby winners, sportsmen in cricket and football, historians, bankers, insurers, educators, senior civil servants, national and international award winners among them with blood ties to our Spanish, French, British African and Asian colonial history, Rampersad states, "These descendants include not just the Ganteaumes as business magnate Peter Ganteaume; clergyman Father Ganteaume and cricketer Andy Ganteaume; but also the Seigerts (the founding family of the world-famous Angostura Bitters), the Pantins (including deceased Archbishop Anthony Pantin, Father Gerard Pantin and Minister of Education Clive Pantin), Rostants, Bessons, de Verteuil, de Silva, de la Bastide, Quesnel, and de Monteau among them. It also bears relations to Spanish/Venezuelan lineages of the Torres, de Freitas and Carvallo and British heritage as the Hamel-Smiths as well as Agostinis, O'Connors, Guisseppis/Giuseppis and Ciprianis and Scotts and those of Chinese lineage as the Chens among others."
Michael Anthony explained that the defaced Ganteaume tombstone marks the graves of Mayaro's first administrator under the British, Francois Alphonse Ganteaume and his family. He was the grandson of the man credited as the European founding father of Mayaro which also had vibrant native peoples communities at the time of his entry.
He was a French planter who was shipwrecked on the coast en route to Venezuela from Martinique in 1794 during Spanish colonial rule, and was granted land under the 1783 arrangement between French and Spanish rulers to populate Trinidad called the Cedula of Population.
According to Dr Rampersad, "Such defacement is exactly the kind of actions that we, through our LiTTours, LiTTscapes and LiTTevents, are hoping to educate and sensitise our populations against. "If people understood their heritage and how such heritage elements can also bring sustained economic value to themselves and their communities they may be less inclined to destroy them. They might even be less inclined to commit other kinds of crimes as well," states.
She added, "The handful of us trying to put together the scattered fragments of the headstone, had no personal relations to those buried there.
This encapsules the sad state of heritage conservation and the range of processes that needs to be addressed in reversing this-from local/community/family sensitisation, to involving local, national and international authorities. I have visited so many tombs and sites like these across the globe which function as vital elements of community integration, solidarity."
She said LiTTevents are functions with a difference which amalgamate built, natural, cultural and literary heritage into stage or performance activities available and custom made on request for any occasion for those who want to add that touch of difference to Christmas, corporate, district or even family functions and LiTTours can also be custom made to various interests on request.
(For more on LiTTscapes, LiTTours or LiTTevents, email lol[email protected] or call 1-868-377-0326 and details in the blog by Kris Rampersad Demokrissy: www.kris-rampersad.blogspot.com. (Quotes and photos reprinted with permission)