Thursday, 31 May 2012

Arrival of the Coconut in Mayaro


From an uncertain date, perhaps in the first or second decade of the 16th century, the 1510s or 20s, Portuguese adventurers had set sail for the west. Their King, Henry the Navigator, had, some say, inherited the secrets of navigation from the sea captains of the disbanded and discredited Knights of the temple of Solomon, whose fleet vanished upon the arrest of their master and preceptors two centuries before.
Sailing under the pate cross of that order, the caravels of Columbus had crossed the Atlantic in the 1490s. With the same charge flying at their mastheads, the Portuguese explorers had sailed along the coast of west Africa, using the sea charts of Andrea Bianco and of Bartolomeo Benin Casa, in search of a passage to the spice islands of the east and their ... to follow the trade winds and the mile-long Atlantic rollers towards the western sun in search of an island known in legend as Hi Brazil.
Christopher Colombus had discovered in his voyage of 1498 the island which he had named for the Trinity, which was a point of sail. The Portuguese too knew of this destination which lay just about 10º north latitude, a degree that was ascertained by the observation of the stars and may have used this island's eastern cost, known in those days as the Bande de l'Est, as a port of call in sailing to or returning from their colony of Brazil which had been claimed for Portugal by Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500.
This was a period of a great exchange of both people and commodities, food from central and south America went to western Europe and from there to Asia went chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, maize, tomatoes, avocados, potatoes, pineapples papayas, kidney and butter beans, sweet peppers, chilies, and the turkey. To the New World came sugarcane, bananas, rice, citrus, wheat, cattle, chickpeas, breadfruit and the coconut.
Laden with a cargo of nuts, the Portuguese merchantman was under full sail, bound for Recife in Brazil. She was out of Java, making for the Cape of Good Hope, racing with a running sea, when she was overtaken by a powerful storm that drove her into the South Atlantic. Reducing her canvas and maintaining only her foresails and flying jibs for stability, she attempted to ride out the wind and driving rain. Just when the weather was appearing to improve, she was again caught in a new and even more violent storm. Born out of the furnace heat of South central Africa, this weather pattern surged into the Atlantic and swept northward, heading for the coast of the northern end of the South American continent.
The captain had by this time battened down all hatches and had reduced his sail to "sticks", meaning she carried topside just her masts, yards shrouds and rigging. Brave men took turns at the helm, lashed to the ship's wheel, in unsuccessful attempts to steer a course. The captain, an old hand, knew that the Atlantic hurricanes tended to smash their way through the Antillean chain into the Caribbean Sea.
On the fourth night of the storm, as the eye passed over, he was able to catch a glimpse of a certain group of stars that gave him the hope that the powerful wind and enormous seas would drive him towards an island, the island of Trinidad. It did. After eighteen days of buffeting, the Portuguese merchantman was driven ashore at Mayaro. Her holds burst asunder on impact with the shallows. Huge waves drove her cargo of Javan green coconuts towards the long stretch of deserted beach. Great rollers tossed them upon shore between  Guayaguayare to Radix Point. In the coming months, the coconuts took root. The year was 1760, and the coconut had arrived in Mayaro, Trinidad.x 

1 comment:

MariaBambina said...

I enjoy this website.
But - a question...Coconuts arrived in Trinidad in 1760? What about the coconut plantations destroyed in 1699 to starve the fleeing Naparima Indians responsible for the slaughter of Dec 1st, 1699?