CHARLES KONG SOO
The banners yesterday bore ‘Angel’ before Christopher Mohammed’s name.
Arouca is a community that is east of Tunapuna, west of Arima, south of Lopinot and north of Piarco but very little is known about its deep French and Spanish roots. According to Stacy De Freitas, secretary of the Arouca Community Council, during most of the Spanish rule, Arouca was a settlement reserved for Amerindians who initially called it Arauca.
However, when the French arrived the Amerindian population was displaced and most of the land in Arouca was split between prominent families who developed many sugar, coffee and rum mills. Arouca steadily grew into a major agricultural centre, but due to the extension of the railroad to Sangre Grande in 1898 many people from Arouca were lured to relocate to Sangre Grande.
Although, Arouca is not considered a town or a borough, its history puts is squarely on the map adding rich stories to the overall history books of T&T. The 1891 riot which started at the corner of Waterloo Road and Ford Street, is one such story. Many lives were lost and hundreds injured because persons decided it was time to stand up for what they believed in.
Now, every year members of the Orisha movement gather on that site to commemorate the infamous incident and the site was marked with a plaque in 1984 by members of the Confederation of African Associations of T&T, making it an African landmark.
Yet another “landmark” is the Arouca Community Centre which was first built in 1966. It received its first facelift in 2003 and 15 years later, refurbishment works have restored its glory once again. On Tuesday, March 13, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, rededicated the Centre with the community on hand. From babes in arms to school children to longstanding community members, they all were present for this much anticipated event to sign the guests’ book, a small but significant symbol of etching their names into this moment into Arouca’s history.
The young people of the community took centre stage as the Arouca Youth Group, comprising students from schools in the area, entertained the audience with their Chorale Speaking. Haddyah Cyrus, a pupil from Bishop Anstey High School, performed a religious dance to the song When Jesus says yes.
MP for the area, Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development, remarked that this community centre is one of the most well used centres with activities such as after school lessons, Best Village practices, fund-raisers and teaching of dance and instruments.
She likened the rededication to a vow renewal indicating that it, “provides an opportunity to return to the original values, to rededicate ourselves to the original intent and purpose of these centres as community meeting places.”
In her feature address, Gadsby-Dolly expressed the sentiments that, “a community is as strong as its roots, the people.” She also noted that the passion and commitment of the Arouca community is evident and she knows that, “this centre will once again become the hub and nexus for the community which will allow to facilitate the improvement of skills, communication, enterprise, recreation and cultural practice.”
Seven members of the community were honoured for their service to the community.
1: Henley Ashe — for General Service to the Community
2: Enid Mary Reid — for Youth Development
3: Anna Maria Mora — for Women Affairs
4: Neville Edwards — for Education
5: Claire Moreau — for Culture
6: Mike and Phillip Limited — for Business
7: Hilda Bryan (Posthumous) — for Community Service
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