RADHICA DE SILVA
Princes Town is a community named after royalty and steeped in history so rich that legends have been born out of it. The Great Orisha King Papa Neezer and the feared spiritual healer and sorceress Mother Cornhusk frequented this little town which has grown from being a nondescript village to being one of the fastest-growing towns in south Trinidad.
A melting pot of Shango, Baptists, Orisha, Hinduism, Islam, and Catholicism, Princes Town is generally a peaceful unified town. However, the area has not been spared from crime and many killings have been linked to drug abuse and organised crime.
Within the last decade, the community has grown with the construction of 2,500 homes at Fairfield, Princes Town, by the Housing Development Corporation.
Perched on an incline on the outskirts of the Southern Range, Princes Town overlooks the rolling hills owned by Caroni 1975 Limited where vast quantities of sugar cane were once produced. The ruins of the Usine Ste Madeleine sugar factory is noticeable from Cedar Hill which produces internationally acclaimed Ramleela festivities during Divali time each year.
Shaz Mohammed, who has lived in Princes Town for 56 years, said business continues to boom despite crime.
The establishment of shopping centres has generated much of this economic beehive and store owners compete by offering ridiculously cheap prices.
"Princes Town is one of the best places to shop if you want bargains. Some items are half the price of what is sold in other areas," Mohammed said. As the owner of Shaz's Automotive Supplies Limited, Mohammed said he has been doing business for 19 years and despite the downturn in the economy, Princes Town entrepreneurs have continued to stay afloat despite challenges.
"More businesses have developed in and around Princes Town. Thirty years ago we had only two banks, now we have four. We have a better police station. The old post office has been condemned. We had two cinemas at Bonanza Street and Tramline Street where entertainment took place but those are no longer operational but people continue to come to the town to shop on our malls," Mohammed added.
Frank Kissoondan, the owner of Auto-Spot agreed that Princes Town was one of the fastest-growing towns. He said while crime and infrastructural problems hampered development in the area, businesspeople have continued to be successful despite their challenges.
Vendors also contribute to the bustle of the city and unlike other towns, many of these vendors sell undisturbed on the doorsteps of businessplaces and the sidewalk.
Vendor Carl Paul said recently crime has spiked in Princes Town because of drug dealers. He said many residents have opened up their homes to Venezuelans who require lodging.
"People rent the downstairs part of their homes for $2,500 or $3,000. Lots of stores are looking for workers and many of these Venezuelans work better than locals," Paul said. He said that Venezuelan culture will lend to the diversity of the Princes Town region.
"We already have so many religions and races and this is what makes us unique. Princes Town is a great place to be," Paul added.
Resident Reena Shah said Princes Town was one of the fastest-growing towns in the South.
"In the days gone transportation was difficult to come by. If you got caught after 6 pm in Princes Town you have to walk home," Shah recalled. She said the boom in business has made the town more appealing.
"Princes Town is unique because of our religious diversity. There are many eating facilities, great specials on furniture and appliances," she added. Narisa Maraj said Princes Town's plurality has made the area unified.
"We see more interracial marriages because of religious and racial diversity. Our uniqueness as a town has much to do with our plurality," Maraj said.