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The Cedros Races

Published: 
Saturday, August 5, 2017
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Cedros races by Rudolph Bissessarsingh.

It becomes vitally important for outlying rural areas to create their own brand of tourism. This encourages the flow of traffic into these areas and the investment in trade and development. Paramin and the THA have recorded successes in this direction. Cedros, decades ago, was on the right track. This sadly has been neglected. —Rudolph Bissessarsingh

One of the most splendid beaches on the island is Columbus Bay. Named in honour of the great discoverer Christopher Columbus, its broad sands are set against a backdrop of endless coconut trees. It is differentiated from other beaches by the unusual eroded stacks known as the “Three Sisters” which are all that remain of an ancient peninsula. On the far end of the wide sweep of the Bay is Constance Estate.

Jean Majani (1881-1951) came to Trinidad from Corsica in 1900 to work as manager of the coconut plantation in Icacos, south Trinidad, which was owned by his rich grand-uncle Francois Agostini.

About 40 years before his arrival, Francois had acquired the land through foreclosure of a mortgage. Initially a sugar plantation, it was converted to a coconut monoculture with thousands of swaying palms eventually enhancing the already breathtaking landscape. Like his grand-uncle and employer, Jean was enchanted by the sea-girt beauty of the place and remained its manager from 1908 to 1951.

He was also a lover of horses. Cedros, one of the most isolated areas in Trinidad, had little on the social calendar. The many coconut and few sugar plantations which comprised the bulk of the land boasted several horses which was a good thing since the young Corsican was an excellent rider. Years before, in 1884, some of the colonial officials and larger planters of the area joined to hold a series of races at Columbus Bay. The sands were firm enough for the purpose.

The event, which came off on September 18, was held under the patronage of the Governor, Sir F B Barlee. He came down for the occasion along with many guests aboard the island steamer, which plied between the remote districts of the island from 1818 to 1928. It was then an annual affair, being held on New Year’s Day, thereafter. Race meets like the Cedros one were common in the era of horses and mules.

They were a major interruption to the monotony in far-flung country districts. Moruga, Manzanilla and Toco were among the coastal communities where such entertainments could be seen. The runnings were often well-organised with separate classes for mules and horses. These races served an important function as a sphere on interactive integration for whites and coloureds.

The annual prize was a silver cup and a purse of $40 which itself was quite a tidy sum. Majani threw himself into the horse racing with full force, owning some fine steeds which he kept stabled separately from the other mules and horses of Constance estate, near to the manager’s residence which has since been eroded into the sea. Jean’s horses won the Cedros Cup nine consecutive times.

From the 1920s onwards, the races were held every two to three years and not at all from 1934 to 1940 as the area was recovering from a devastating hurricane which struck in 1933. The last races were held in 1950, and a year later, Jean died. Today, wild descendants of his horses still roam the area and may be seen at Columbus Bay.

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