Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 13th 2017 Contents A12 news
guardian.co.tt Saturday, May 13, 2017
Jewel of great price
Describing the one-off First
Peoples holiday on October 13,
2017 as a "jewel of great price",
the Santa Rosa First Peoples Com-
munity says it's the beginning of
restoration of their culture.
Chief, Ricardo Bharath Hernandez,
welcomed Cabinet's announcement
Thursday to grant the public holiday
for this year alone saying they have
been lobbying a long time for mean-
"Past governments have taken in-
cremental steps towards recognition
of the First Peoples but this decision
is a major one in that it will cause the
national community to stop and fo-
cus attention on the First Peoples of
"This holiday highlights the fact
that the First Peoples have made their
contribution to the development of
this land, and continue to do so."
Bharath said many citizens still
do not know about the First Peoples
Community even though it was es-
tablished in 1976.
He said 25 acres of land was al-
located for a First Peoples village
by the former People's Partnership
administration in Blanchisseusse
and they have already moved in and
taken possession of the land but, to
date, it has not been officially handed
over to them.
Arima MP Anthony Garcia said the
land is deemed "reserved" State land
and there was a process to go through
to get it de-reserved.
Bharath said while other ethnic
groups got their holidays and were
able to tell their stories to the national
community, the First Peoples never
got the chance to do so.
He said this was why they relent-
lessly campaigned for the holiday.
"The purpose of the holiday is to
build a greater recognition of the ex-
istence of the descendants of the First
Peoples of T&T.
"Even with the celebration of the
Festival of Santa Rosa, the oldest con-
tinuously celebrated festival in T&T
which spans 230 years, it is a huge
surprise for many that an Amerin-
dian heritage exists in this country,"
In a T&T Guardian interview, Bhar-
ath Hernandez said, "We don't want
a holiday for a holiday's sake, to lime
and go by the beach.
"We want the national community
to stop and reflect on the first people
who were here before Columbus.
"Trinidad did not start after Co-
lumbus came or after the major ethnic
"For Divali and on Emancipation
Day you hear the stories of the Indians
and Africans who came here but you
don't hear anything about the first
"It's as if we have been written off
the psyche of the national community,
as if we didn't exist."
He said there are 700 to 1,000 First
Peoples descendants in Arima and a
"few thousands" scattered all over
He said the first people all but lost
their culture when they moved out of
ancestral lands like Lopinot, Maracas,
St Joseph, Santa Cruz, Tamana, Brasso
Seco and La Pastora.
Bharath-Hernandez said the holi-
day will give the First People a chance
to tell how they suffered and had their
lands taken away and to dispel some
of myths around the First Peoples, like
He said the Amerindians who lived
in T&T before Columbus came did not
practice cannibalism as was believed.
"It was not like they went about
looking for people to kill and eat. If,
in defending themselves they had to
kill, their beliefs allowed them to keep
some of the remains of the conquered.
"There is no evidence in archaeol-
ogy and anthropology that they ate
people." Bharath blamed Columbus
for projecting this idea to justify kill-
ing off the Amerindians.
He said the First People Communi-
ty have to meet and decide how they
will celebrate their holiday but said it
will be preceded by activities educat-
ing people on their history.
Santa Rosa First Peoples on one-off holiday:
FLASHBACK October 2016 Chief of the T&T Santa Rosa First Peoples,
Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, right, leads the First Peoples procession in
Port-of-Spain. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
ARIMA MAYOR RESPONDS
Arima mayor, Lisa Morris-Julian,
a First People's descendant, and
the Arima Borough Council are
elated the First Peoples have been
granted a one-off public holiday in
commemoration of their contribu-
tion to the nation, a release from
the mayor yesterday said.
"The council especially rejoices
with the Santa Rosa First Peoples
Community whom they hold in
high esteem as a treasured staple
of the borough.
"The Mayor, herself, takes ut-
most pride in the holiday since she
is both maternally and paternally
a part of the lineage."
The Mayor said the statue of
Amerindian war-chief Hyarima at
Hollis Avenue is her daily remind-
er of the First Peoples and their
significance as guardians of the
She says Hyarima's struggle
to ensure his people's safety
and continuity amidst colonisers
provides a stellar example for all
leaders who are entrusted with
the task of protecting their com-
She applauded the work of San-
ta Rosa First Peoples Community
Chief, Ricardo Bharath Hernandez,
who relentlessly called for all First
Peoples to be acknowledged by
way of a national celebration.
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