Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 17th 2015 Contents B5
May 17, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
ATLAPA CCONVENTION CENT
Panama, Republic of Panama
Around the end of the 19th
century, Siparia was gradually
changing from a sleepy hamlet
of a couple hundred souls into a
Paramount among the reasons
for this transformation was the
high price of cocoa. Little and big
estates sprang up in the district.
Most of the smaller ones were
of five and ten-acre parcels worked
by people of mixed Spanish
descent called cocoa panyols.
Theirs was the culture of parang
and the traditions their forefathers
brought from Venezuela but by the
early 1900s, they had become a
minority as compared to a half
century earlier when they were the
dominant people of the area.
In 1912, a traveller to Siparia
described them thus:
"Siparia being still a rather
remote place, a few Spanish-
speaking people may yet be found
in it. Most of these so-called
Spaniards are not of pure white
race, but although a certain
amount of negro blood is mixed
with their white ancestry, they
keep their language in a fairly
grammatical state, which never
degenerates into a form like the
French patois, or Creole French as
its adherents prefer to call it. As
before remarked, these Spanish-
speaking people gradually disap-
pear when a district becomes
opened out, and their number here
is said to be now considerably less
than it was even in recent years."
An important fixture of Siparia
that emerged around this time and
indeed lasted until its demolition
in 2006 was the large wooden
structure known first as Canton s
Palace and then later, simply
Kong s shop after the family which
operated a cocoa agency here.
Upstairs was a dancehall and
downstairs a bar and grocery with
the classic "western style" wooden
porch and swinging half-doors.
On a Saturday night, this is where
folks congregated and society was
in full swing as H Marshall
Saville wrote in 1912:
"Instead of closing early in the
evening, as is usual in larger towns,
the store was kept open almost until
bed-time, while the inmates for the
most part sat down in the verandah at
its entrance. Occasionally someone
might enter to make a purchase, so sel-
dom, however, at this advanced hour
that the reason for the habit was evi-
dently social rather than mercantile.
"Saldni," " Salud caballero," "Bonsoi ,"
"Goodnight." Such were the salutations
given to the passers-by in wonderfully
mixed languages, to suit the person
Siparia was finally declared a parish
by Archbishop Vincent Flood in 1906
with its own resident priest since it
had formerly been served from the vil-
lage of St Mary s in Oropouche. In
1900, the parish had received its per-
manent school ( now Siparia Boys RC),
with the first schoolmaster being Mr
E J Alexander.
Communication with Siparia by road
was always poor, and the major road
into the village (Siparia Road through
Oropouche and Avocat) was a muddy
and sometimes impassable track. This
situation was much improved on
November 14, 1913, when the Trinidad
Government Railway extended its line
to the town, thereby linking it with San
Fernando as well as the emergent bread-
basket regions of Penal and Debe. The
old railway station on Railway Road,
was a hive of activity. The main plat-
form, and the houses of the station-
master and gatekeeper are still in use.
The former is now home to the
Petrotrin Deltones Steelband Orchestra,
which was founded in the 1960s by
veteran panman Ellis Knights.
Siparia was the last stop on the
Trinidad Government Railway network.
The coming of the trains boosted devel-
opment in the village itself.
In 1918, Thomas I Potter advertised
lots for sale, which is now the pres-
ent-day Potter s Lane and the residen-
tial area adjacent to it. One of the more
important changes at this time was the
creation of the Ward of Siparia. For-
merly the town had been a part of
Oropouche administratively, but now
received its own Ward Office, court
house, post office and police station.
Asgarali Syne was a Siparia busi-
nessman who had come out to Trinidad
in the 1880s as an indentured immi-
grant, having formerly been a railway
porter in Calcutta. He owned a small
transport outfit with several mule carts
but in 1909 made history by establish-
ing the first bus service in the island
between Siparia and San Fernando. The
buses were Republic truck chassis with
wooden bodies and benches. By 1910,
two more buses had been added to the
fleet and the route extended to Erin
and La Brea. Syne later founded a large
contracting firm which still bears his
name albeit under new ownership.
Next week, we conclude our look at
From sleepy hamlet to bustling village
SIPARIA ---PART III
The old Siparia Police Station and later, Community Development Office and
Library which was built in 1916 and burnt down in 2006.
Canton's Palace circa 1905 by Rudolph Bissessarsingh.
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