By Kaelanne Jordan
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Trinidad and Tobago, an agency of the Ministry of Education, has approved the sum of US $26,000 under its partnership programme with the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Community to finance construction of phase one of the Heritage Village in Arima.
Speaking at the sod-turning ceremony Tuesday, February 4 at the Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Community Centre, Paul Mitchell Street, Arima, President of UNESCO Trinidad and Tobago and Minister of Education, Anthony Garcia said the investment highlights how critical the construction of the buildings are for the preservation of history and culture.
In his feature address, Garcia said that the day was a “historic day” for the community in T&T. “Not only will we be breaking ground on the first phase of the traditional buildings of the First Peoples’ Heritage Village, but we will also be cementing for so many persons within and outside of this community, that the Santa Rosa First Peoples are important to the fabric of this country.”
The site, he said, will be testimony to the role of the culture, cultural retention and education for all.
The first phase of the Heritage Village which will consist of a building depicting the traditional home of an Amerindian cacique/chief, traditional home of an Amerindian family, and a traditional kitchen for the preparation of indigenous foods. These structures will serve as the genesis of an established physical community for the Santa Rosa First Peoples, Garcia explained.
The Santa Rosa First Peoples’ Community is recognised by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago as the official representative of our indigenous people and as a result, in December 2012 the Government of Trinidad and Tobago agreed to allocate 25 acres of forested lands in the Arima Forest Reserve to this community. Garcia said that the intention is to demonstrate how a community could engage in sustainable forest-based livelihoods and contribute to socioeconomic development of the wider community, while maintaining traditional cultural and spiritual values.
Through the involvement of UNESCO, Garcia said they will be able to share insight into a culture that is so integral into who we are as people today with the wider society of Trinidad and Tobago.
He said Trinidad and Tobago boasts of an eclectic and cosmopolitan mix of religions, people, traditions and beliefs and this, is evident simply by looking around at the persons gathered that day. “For many of us, tracing our lineage and understanding our heritage is difficult because of generations of misinformation, separation or migration. Therefore, to be able to engage in the establishment of this Heritage Village will be to the benefit of so many people who will now be able to have a better understanding of where they came from and what has contributed to the life that we know today.”
A release from the Ministry of Education mentioned Senator the Honourable Clarence Rambharat, Minister of Agriculture, Lands and Fisheries attended the sod-turning ceremony. He urged society to begin recognising the First Peoples with a degree of preeminence which they deserve and which is now the norm in other countries, such as Canada.