Last Sunday, my cousin took me for a drive through Trinidad’s Northern Range mountains via a narrow, winding road to Lopinot Village. We passed all shades of lush green vines, trees and bushes along the road. The clean, cool air was a welcome change from the stuffiness in the city.
The spectacularly remote, cute village of Lopinot is home to year-round parang music and a beautiful historical complex. The weekend is the best time to take your family down to Lopinot village for clean air and a relaxing river lime under the grand old trees.
Here’s parts of an article by Louis B. Homer in the Trinidad Express newspaper from June 2013:
[quote]…It has a history of its own dating back to the early 19th century and a culture that includes lifestyles of Amerindian inhabitants, cocoa panyol, Spanish, French, African and East Indian inhabitants.
Almost without exception, the people of Lopinot live by agriculture and livestock farming.
Their meeting places are the shops, parlours, drinking places, schools, churches, and a community centre, all of which provide opportunities for dialogue and self-expression among villagers.
English is spoken side by side with Spanish and patois.
Aesthetically, the towering hills, steep cliffs and the Arouca River, which flows peacefully through the village until it merges with the Caroni River, are nature’s gifts to the village.
The lands which once formed the estate of Charles Joseph Comte de Lopinot have been subdivided into several small holdings to provide spaces for housing and recreational facilities.
Although the Lopinot of today is different from what existed in the 19th century, there are still many repositories of its past heritage that add charm and history to the village.
The village owes its name to Comte de Lopinot, a former Knight of the Royal and Military Order of St Louis.
When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, Count Lopinot was still a powerful French planter and when the English took possession of his former home at Dominique, he fled to Jamaica with his family and later to Trinidad.
With the help of former governor Thomas Picton, suitable lands were granted to Lopinot to cultivate sugarcane. When it was discovered that the soils were not suitable for sugarcane, the Count turned to cacao. With help from his slaves, Lopinot cut through the dense forest until they found lands suitable for growing cacao.
Lopinot obviously had his dream fulfilled when he found what he was searching for. Standing on the hilltop he marvelled at the natural wonderland below and decided to call his newly acquired estate La Reconnaissance.
Following his find, he developed the lands into one of the most beautiful estates in the valley. But when the price of cacao fell, Lopinot was unable to pay his debts.
Legend has it that his demise came about while returning from Arouca, in a landslide that carried him down a cliff and half-buried him. He died in 1819 and was interred next to his wife, Marie Cecile Dannoy, who had died before him.
The death of Lopinot was the beginning of a period of change in the valley. By 1845 there was a migration of East Indians into the village. They occupied an area called “Coolie Block”. Then came Portuguese and Chinese immigrants. By 1890 Lopinot was no longer a slave settlement; the estates in the valley were then owned by people of Asian and African descent.
Apart from the historic relics of La Reconnaissance, there is the church of St Phillips, built by Richard Foreman Brown, popularly known as “Pa Brown”. He was the first pastor and founder of St Phillips Anglican Church, also known as “Slave Chapel”.
The village has a historic connection with Caura, a small village on the other side of the hills.
Caura in those days was called Partido de Quare, it had a Catholic church dedicated to St Veronica. In 1945 there were plans to construct a dam in that village to supply water to Port of Spain and the villagers would have to vacate the land and be relocated to Lopinot.
The villagers were opposed to the idea because it was their ancestral homes. The evacuation order was dated October 31, 1945, and on November 4, the church was dynamited in the presence of the villagers and parish priest Fr Kieran Lennon.
In a fit of emotion, Lennon said: “This dam will never be completed.”
Such was the curse left behind as the villagers left Caura and trekked to Lopinot. Indeed, the Caura dam was never completed and was written off as a bad job.
It was not so much the loss of their ancestral homes that angered the villagers, but the ruthless demolition of their old church which had been the centre of communal life for many years. The remains of St Veronica’s church were transported in parts by the people of Caura and rebuilt at Lopinot.
Culturally, the villagers from Caura continue their musical traditions—parang music, maypole dancing and Veloria de Cruz (Cross Wake).
Sotero Gomez and “Papa Goon” became heroes in the cultural arena.
Like other villages in rural Trinidad, Lopinot is not without its own share of magic and superstition. Bits and pieces of this can still be found throughout the village.
Here and there, one cannot fail to notice the conspicuous presence of upturned blue bottles perched on slender bamboo sticks. These bottles serve two purposes. They are supposed to offer protection of crops against maljo (bad eye), as well as a warning to thieves that if they consume fruits from those gardens they would immediately suffer from “swell belly”.
But there is more to Lopinot. There are the known and unexplored caves around the village. The most celebrated is at Genville, about two kilometres north-east of Lopinot settlement. It was discovered by George Emmanuel Jeanville, an ex-slave who lived in the area many years ago.
Another popular cave is the Jaraba cave, a corruption of Yoruba, an African people who had settled in the area after Emancipation.
West of the village and across the hills from Caura is the Colado cave. It was once the shrine used by devout worshippers who went there on special occasions to make offerings and prayers.
Beyond the village centre there is the quaint village called La Pastora. Overlooking the area there is a small Catholic church which once housed a statue of La Divina Pastora. In earlier years the statue was taken in procession along the main road leading to the village.
Altogether, Lopinot is a tourist paradise set in an environment of the past and even the present. A place where many people have visited in search of many things. Of history and culture.
Some have found what they sought while others have found an incomparable place, rich in history and traditions of the past. [/quote]
Have you ever been to Lopinot Village in Trinidad?
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