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Introducing All Things Caribbean

Hey everyone! This is your official Caribbean tour guide and expert, “Zestoile Rivett,” bringing something hot and tropical to SwagHer Magazine! 

This SwagHer woman is educated, entrepreneurial, and inspiring. She is open to new things and willing to explore the fullness of life. This section of SwagHer will send you on a journey, uncovering hidden jewels and treasure of the Caribbean islands – providing insight, cultural connection, and more! Every week, we will discover a new island and all that makes that island, RICH!

 

First stop, Trinidad & Tobago! My Homeland

A Little Bit of History

Spain claimed Trinidad remained in Spanish hands until 1797 but was largely settled by French colonists. Tobago changed hands between the British, French, Dutch, and Courlanders and eventually ended up in British hands following the second treaty of Paris (1814). In 1889 the two islands were incorporated into one single colony. Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from British Empire in 1962 and became a republic in 1976.

The early settlers of Trinidad and Tobago range from Archaic or Ortoroid. The Archaic population was pre-ceramic; the first ceramic using people were the Saladoid, coming from the banks of Venezuela. The third group was Barrancoid, who settled in the south. New groups appeared and introduced new cultural attributes, such as the Mayoid culture who represent the native tribes. The Nepoya and Suppoya were generally called the Arawaks and Caribs, which are known today. 

 

Contributions to the World

Fact: Trinidad and Tobago is the home of the first black Miss Universe in 1977 – Mrs. Janelle Penny Commissiong-Chow. For me, growing up in Trinidad, I always thought she was the most beautiful and inspiring woman.

Fact: The steel pan was invented in Trinidad and Tobago. It was developed during the 20th century, and it is likely the only instrument made out of industrial waste as metal objects such as car parts, paint pots, dustbins, oil drums, and biscuit tins began to be tuned.

– Source: BBC News

Fact: In 2018, Paula Mae Weekes became the country’s first female president.

– Source: BBC News

Fact: The world’s largest natural deposit of asphalt is located in Trinidad and Tobago. The La Brea Pitch Lake in southwest Trinidad holds around 10 million tons of asphalt.

– Source: UNESCO 

Fact: The country’s capital city, Port of Spain, is located on the island of Trinidad and takes its name from when the city was known as “Puerto de Espana” by Spanish colonizers. The name became anglicized following the British capture of Trinidad in 1797.

– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Fact: The country’s capital city, Port of Spain, is located on the island of Trinidad and takes its name from when the city was known as “Puerto de Espana” by Spanish colonizers. The name became anglicized following the British capture of Trinidad in 1797.

– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Fact: Due to its large reserves of oil and gas, Trinidad and Tobago is one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean.

– Source: BBC News

Fact: The limbo dance was invented in Trinidad and Tobago. The dance originates from the country’s African heritage, and can see dancers cross beneath a stick – which is sometimes set on fire – just 22cm off the ground.

– Source: National Geographic

Fact: Trinidad and Tobago is famous for its Carnival, which centres around Port of Spain. Pre-season soca fetes (dance parties) begin as early as August before it climaxes during the two days before Ash Wednesday in February. Celebrations include costumes (known as mas), calypso, and steel pans.

– Source: Lonely Planet

Growing up in these two Islands was a beautiful, breath-taking experience. Getting up every morning without a care in the world, hearing the rooster crowing in the morning. I would walk outside to the front of the house, which was called the “Gallery,”; for the neighbors to come out and say, “Good Morning.” 

I would patiently wait for the bread man to come down the road ringing a bell, yelling “Bread Man.” Grandma would say to me, “Lovie, go get the bread. Get 10 Hops bread and a loaf”. I remember like it was yesterday. The bread would be hot, and I would wait for the “Bread Man” to give me a piece of bread for myself. I was in love! I would start eating it before getting back to the house every time! Getting dressed in the morning for school, I remember putting on my white button-down shirt with a collar and my green overall dress with sneakers. I loved going to school and playing soccer with friends.

Every Saturday, my family and I would head to the beach. Oh, there is nothing like Caribbean living! I remember long drives to the beach, with my head hanging out the car, looking at the sites. One thing about growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, you are always learning and there were always folk stories to hear and learn from. The singers even told stories with their Kaiso, Calypso, and now Soca tunes. 

And the food? Oh my God! Smelling Grandma cooking saltfish and stewed tomatoes with roti. This was a big deal for me growing up! Eating good, wholesome, refreshing, satisfying food. Sunday dinner was always at Auntie’s house, with her signature crab callaloo and macaroni and cheese pie. 

But I can’t forget going by the river watching the older women wash clothes on the rocks. What a sight to see! We would leave them and go bathe in the glistening river. You really appreciate the earth and what God provides bathing in the elements and enjoying the simple things in life. 

February was special…Carnival! A parade of beautiful costumes on the masqueraders, coming across the stage. Masses of people showing off colorful feathers, amazing glittery costumes and dancing to the beautiful music of the land. Trinidad and Tobago, the land of Oil and Music, the biggest colorful show in the world! When I grew up, I was able to play mass, and even make costumes. My dream is still to make a costume in Trinidad and Tobago for one of the Bands. I had the pleasure of seeing the work of a master designer, Peter Minshall! One of the top designers for Carnival.

It was a joy growing up in such a diverse land. I was born Roman Catholic, raised Hindi. Being of two different cultures under one umbrella was wonderful…Chinese on one hand, Indian on the other, however, I wasn’t by myself. Trinidad and Tobago shows an array of beautiful people that are uniquely mixed with different cultures…A melting pot… We are a people who do not see race or color, but only power and strength! I will leave you with this…I am not ashamed of my culture and for I am a real Trinidadian! Embracing all and loving life!

 

Article Written By: Zestoile Rivett |Born and raised in Trinidad, as Laverne Wong-Shing, this new writer love talking about her culture and heritage. Laverne loves adventure, traveling to exotic lands, and speaking with the locals. A Mother of three, a handsome boy’s grandmother, and an older sister to three brothers. Her dream is to publish travel guides and become a designer of Carnival costumes for one of the biggest Mas bands in Trinidad and Tobago.

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