A rural village located on the east coast of Trinidad, just a 20 minute drive north of Mayaro and less than a 30 minute drive south of Sangre Grande.
In 1942 during World War II, the area of Manzanilla became the temporary home of US soldiers. This was as a direct result of a wartime agreement between British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt. During the six years of war a military training camp was established, soldiers who were assigned to the camp, trained in jungle warfare and were then dispatched to serve throughout the Caribbean.
The area was populated by disbanded soldiers who were expected to cultivate the land in cocoa, yam, cassava, rice and bananas. The villagers were also commissioned by the government to build a 10 mile macadam (large stones) road from Sangre Grande to the Manzanilla beach. Manzanilla was sectioned into three areas. Manzanilla one included the small village of Comparo, Manzanilla two included Cacao Wharf and Manzanilla three ended on the beach and included the fishing industry.
By the end of the 19th century, the area was booming with cocoa plantations, and inhabited by many squatters on government/crown land. 1886 brought the railway, however by then a good macadam road was already completed.
We found the drive to be short and uneventful. The busiest time was going through Sangre Grande, else smooth sailing or should I say driving, out to Manzanilla.
At the beach I was confronted by an elder lady who wanted to know if I was already leaving. She had a young lady visiting from Boston (and quite frankly I was wondering if she thought that I was the life guard). I thought them an odd combination. Primarily because when speaking to the young lady, I did not hear any hint of Trinidadian and wondered how she came to be in the presence of an older lady who referred to her as a friend. However, with chatty older folks the story often comes out with no prompting. She told me that she met the young lady at the mango festival (a festival celebrated annually currently in its 5th year – by The Network of Rural Women Producers teamed with UWI and the Ministry of Food Production) which is hosted at the UWI field Station, Mount Hope. (A little about the festival -- Sweet, juicy, versatile and delicious mangoes of every size and variety is the focus of Trinidad and Tobago’s fifth annual Mango Festival. It featured a mango market, mango products, grafting demonstrations, exhibitions, children’s activities, games, mango eating competitions and other entertainment, Trinidad and Tobago’s Mango Festival offers mango lovers every imaginable mango-made delight, from soaps and preserves, to candles and gift paper. A highlight of the Festival is the mango market where a variety of the locally grown fruit can be purchased, including the sinfully sweet Julie, considered the Queen of mangoes, which was developed in Trinidad, as well as other varieties with whimsical names such as Rose, Hog, Calabash, Douxdoux, La Brea Gyul, Turpentine, and Graham – a seedling of the Julie mango. Trinidad and Tobago’s Mango Festival promotes economic opportunities through the sustainable use of the mango and educates participants on the many benefits of the much loved fruit).
I then found the young lady to be rather brave to meet a stranger at a festival and follow her home. She told me that the young lady was a student at a university in Boston and was awarded a scholarship to go visit multicultural nations and study the diversity of the people and whether they live harmoniously or not. The young lady first travelled to South Africa where she found that even though the culture was diverse, each nationality stayed to themselves, forming areas or villages of a particular race with not much intermingling. She found that Trinidad showed a multitude of people living mixed with one another and even though we may have political strife, for the most part had no problems with our fellow man or neighbor. She found a food so diverse and infused with each other’s seasonings that it was unique to the land. She found that we had named the mixing of races, for example douglah: when one parent is East Indian and the other African. Another example CocoPyol: when one parent is African and the other Spanish, Portugese or French. She documented us and was on her way back to present to her professor and class.
When we returned home, my husband showed me the older lady that accosted me on the beach in the local paper receiving an award at the mango festival for the best mango chow. I then realized that the two must of met at the older lady’s stall.
This beach was filled with sea shells, apparently there is a season for it, at one time the beach is littered with them and at others none to be seen for miles. My husband, mother and daughter walked along the beach picking up sea shells for a later project.
It was a beautiful and relaxing day. The beauty and peace of tranquility, the sunlight reflecting on water, the spray of salt in the air and coconut trees swaying in the breeze. This is yet another chance to drive around our island to see, taste and smell, and as the locals say, “Welcome to Trinidad”.
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