Sunday 14 July 2019


Cocoa estate. Watercolour © Peter Shim.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the artist.
The Cocoa Economy in Trinidad

The Inca regarded cocoa as a drink of the gods, and it was reserved for the high nobility of this empire that once existed in the cloudy mountaintops of the Andes.
South America’s great jungles with their vast river systems of the Orinoco and the Amazon are the true home of the ‘Golden Bean’.
In Trinidad, cocoa has been cultivated since Spanish times, with varying degrees of success. After the abolition of slavery and the collapse of the French planters’ cane economy, the planters turned to cocoa cultivation so as to save the day. In the 1840s, when the nearly bankrupt planters, who were by now in their second generation, moved deeper into the valleys of the Northern Range, Grand Couva and the Montserrat Hills, cocoa was only moderately successful.
But little did those ‘cocoa pioneers’ know how right their timing was! Within another decade cocoa became a staple in Trinidad’s export market. Cocoa is a different crop than sugar: whereas cane is only viable with vast acreages, people with small plots of  land were able to participate in cocoa cultivation. 
The effect this had on the structure of the society was very positive: the middle classes of all races became if not wealthy but really very comfortable. Country people, the Hispanic-Amerindian population, also benefitted from the cocoa economy, clearing the forest and cultivating with loving care the cocoa fields. 
The cocoa industry in these islands played a key part in the socio-economic development between the 1860s and the 1920s. It was driven by the manufacture of eating chocolate which had been introduced by the Cadbury Brothers in Great Britain, as well as by technological advancements made in the production of cocoa as a drink.
The industrial revolution and the emergence of Europe’s middle class with its predilection for the ‘finer things of life’, served to create a very large market for cocoa and chocolate. For nearly three-quarters of a century, the Afro-Franco creole culture, together with its older ‘cocoa pagnol’ cousinage, boomed. Many small and medium businesses blossomed as a result of exporting cocoa and importing and distributing goods. Many families of the coloured lower and middle classes were able to own small cocoa estates, live comfortably, educate their children, and maintain the values and morals of that respectability so vital in colonial life in those years. In fact, the cocoa boom is what is referred to as the ‘good old days’, the longtime days of the collective memory of Trinidad as it has come down to us over the years.
Hon. Arthur Hamilton Gordon C.M.G., who was governor of Trinidad from 1866 to 1870, encouraged the opening up of crown lands for the cultivation of cocoa. As much as two thirds of the land were utilised, and by the 1870s, cocoa exports exceeded that of sugar. By 1884, with the depression of sugar releasing land, labour and capital, cocoa development increased in profitability.
In Port-of-Spain and the other main towns, development became increasingly apparent. New neighbourhoods came into existence. One could even say that the pretty little gingerbread houses of Woodbrook, Belmont, in San Fernando south of the Paradise cemetery, moving towards Rushworth Street, at St. Joseph and in Arima came about as the result of the ‘Golden Bean’.
The ‘cocoa pagnols’ were in fact the pioneers of the industry. They established the estates in two ways: one approach was for a family to acquire crown lands, fell the trees and plant the cocoa. Upon maturing of the trees, the family would sell the estate at a good profit, and go to repeat the process somewhere else. In so doing, they were making a small fortune over two or three genereations. 
The other approach for plantations to be established was through the contract system. These contracts would last about five or seven years, with an agreement made by the owner with peasant families to develop an area of forest into a plantation. The family had free usage of the land, with the stipulation to plant and care for a certain amount of cocoa trees per acre, and plant and sell their own market garden crops. When the trees reach maturity, the owner would take over the land and paid an agreed amount for each bearing cocoa tree to the family.

Cocoa served to develop Trinidad in those years in a variety of ways. New villages came into existence, with schools, churches, chapels, masonic lodges and friendly societies, post offices and warden’s offices, markets and shops. Old towns like Arima and Sangre Grande, Princes Town and San Fernando became active, busy and prosperous. The island’s population moved out of the original centres of settlement which had formed after emancipation. There was prosperity in the countryside. A new verve in the folk arts of the patois-speaking people expressed itself in dance and song. For the first time, it became possible for people of all races and combinations of races, to enjoy the benefits of the economy.

Historical and Statistical View of the Island of Trinidad  
This excerpt from Daniel Hart was written in 1890  

The principal articles of produce exported are sugar, cocoa, coffee, rum, molasses, and cotton. Indigo is also exported, but not raised in the island; it is brought from Venezuela for exportation, but in 1783, there were plantations and manufacturers of the article established  in the island. The number of sugar estates does not exceed from 152 to 155, and those of cocoa and coffee, 700. The total extent of land under cultivation is as follows:—canes, 36,739 acres; cocoa and coffee, 14,238 acres; provisions, 9,914 acres; pasture, 7,356 acres. Total, 67,247 acres.
The correct name of the cocoa is ‘cacao’. The cultivation of cocoa, with the exception of a small quantity grown in the island of Grenada, is peculiar as an article of British production to Trinidad. With the exception just mentioned, Trinidad is the only colony throughout the wide extent of the British Colonial Empire producing the materials for this wholesome and palatable beverage. In 1827, the number of cocoa trees amounted to 3,091,945, and the quantity exported that year was 3,696,144, valued according to official returns at £57,851. The value of each tree being then taken at two dollars, or eight shillings and four-pence.
After 1827, a sudden depression in the price of the article reduced the cocoa proprietors, at once and without warning, from a state of affluence to one of comparative—nay, in many cases, real—destitution. For the last ten years, however, the article has maintained a fair and remunerative price. The culture of cocoa is the only one of our Tropical productions at all adapted to the constitution of Europeans. The cocoa tree itself of some 20 feet in height, and affording a grateful shade from the blaze of the sun, is again shaded in its turn by the bois immortel, whose protecting services have justly obtained for it among the South Americans the appellation of La Madre del Cacao. The weeding of the soil, picking of the pods, husking them, and carrying the produce to the drying house; in short, the whole of the agricultural operations and all but the last stage of the manufacturing process is carried on under this impervious and ever verdant canopy; the air gently agitated and refreshed by the river or mountain stream, upon whose vegas or banks these plantations are invariably established.
Here, and here only, the European may measure his strength with the descendants of the Africans and derive direct from the soil without the intervention of the latter, the subsistence which in every other kind of agricultural pursuits seems denied him by his own physical exertions. Under the double shade of the cocoa tree and the Madre del Cacao, the European feels himself as in his native climate. By official returns made in 1842, there were 182 small plantations having from 100 to 500 trees; 147 having from 500 to 1,000 trees, and 268 having from 1,000 to 5,000 trees; 55 having from 5,000 to 10,000 trees; 29 having from 10,000 to 20,000 trees; 28 having from 20,000 to 50,000 trees, and I above 50,000, making a total of 710. Upon a general average, each cocoa tree ought to yield annually two and a half pounds net of cocoa. The distance at which cocoa is planted in this island differs from four to five varas. I have taken the latter as the basis of my calculations. At that distance, there are about 800 trees in a quarrée, which is the old Spanish measurement of 3.1-5 English acres.
Consequently, 40,000 trees occupy fifty quarrées, and the average yield bring something near 2 ½ lbs. per tree, 22 fanegas per 1,000 trees, and $12 (with few exceptions) to be the highest price obtained in the market in 1865. Pruning is an essential operation. Five years would be sufficient to intervene between the pruning; and on an estate of 40,000 trees, I would do it by using the knife to 8,000 trees only in one year, and continue at such rate until the whole shall have been pruned-to re-commence again by the first 8,000 trees. Forty-eight dollars is put down to be expended in that operation, not that the whole of that amount would be expended (for the pruning should be light), but because in that sum is included the cleaning of trees from moss, parasites, ants, and guatepajaro—a work which, though strongly recommended to both men and women (for on many estates picking is performed by women) employed in picking pods, it is, nevertheless, very imperfectly done, or not done at all.
Hence, at the proper season, which is immediately after the December crop, say, in March and April, a skilful gang should be employed to trim and clean the 8,000 trees apportioned for the season. The expenses and net revenue of cocoa estates are subject to  variation, according to extent and locality:—an estate of 30,000 trees requiring almost the same establishment as one of 40 or 50,000—hence the increase or decrease of the net revenue and cost per bag of cocoa on different estates. The amount paid for cutlassing 100 trees varies from 30 to 60 cents. Some estates in the quarter of Maracas, not having labourers located on the property, are in the habit of cutlassing their estates by ‘gallapa’, a system much preferred by small proprietors, though it raises the expense to the ruinous amount of $1 20 per 100 trees. The 2 ½ lbs. that I have put down as the yield which each tree in the present imperfect state of cultivation can produce; but I am quite certain that with increased care and attention, a cocoa tree at 13 feet apart can be made to yield double that quantity. As a proof, on the estate of Mr. Victoriano Gomez, in the Ward of Maracas, there are 200 trees planted at 22 feet apart that yielded 6 lbs. per tree.
A quarrée planted at that distance holds 288 trees, giving a total of 2,128 lbs. At 13 feet, a quarrée, as already stated, contains 800 trees, at 2 ½ lbs. per tree gives 2,000 lbs—a difference of 128 lbs. in favour of wide planting. But is wide planting more profitable? The following particulars will show. Cocoa planted at 22 feet apart require 139 quarrées for 40,000 trees, at 6 lbs. per tree would give 24,000 lbs.; 139 quarrées planted at 13 feet apart would contain 111,400 trees, which, at 2 ½ lbs. per tree is 278,000 lbs.; planted at 22 feet in 50 quarrées there are 14,400 at 6 lbs. is 86,400; at 13 feet, there are 40,000 trees, which, at 2 ½ lbs. will give 100,000 lbs. Difference in favour of narrow planting in 50 quarrées, 13,000 lbs. or 123 ½ fanegas, which, at $12, would give a total profit of $1,480. In addition to the foregoing remarks, it is necessary to state, that on every well-regulated cocoa estate, there should be a nursery of cocoa trees of the best quality, in order to supply ‘fallos’ or missing trees. The following is a statement of the expenses of a cocoa estate of 40,000 trees, and cost per fanega (110 lbs.) or bag:—
It is worthy of remark that a cocoa estate by the planting of provisions and the raising of Stock ought to considerably tend to decrease the expenses above given, because the labourers are only required to pick twice in the year:—June and December. Each estate of the size herein given should also be provided with 8 or 10 good donkeys for crooking, and 25 good steady labourers would be sufficient to carry on the working of an estate of 40,000 trees. It is necessary, however, to state that for the last 3 or 4 years cocoa has been disposed of in the London Market from 65s., 70s., 80s., 90s. and as high as 110s. per cwt., nor has it been under nine dollars in the Trinidad Market. Indeed as much as 13 dollars the fanega (110 lbs.) has been paid, hence the net annual income should be much more than is herein given. There is however, a want of energy on the part of the cocoa planters in regard to planting provisions and the rear of stock. It is, at the same time, just to remark that they labour under great difficulties in the way of procuring labourers. A Negro can live for 24 hours on a sugar cane. Hence, he would rather work on a sugar estate for one shilling a day than for two shillings on a cocoa estate. In former years when the price of cocoa was low, little or no attention was paid to the cultivation; the increase of price has, however, acted as a real stimulus to the planters of the article, and greater attention is now paid both to the cultivation and to the curing and preparing of the article.

Santa Cruz, Trinidad. Originally the property and residence of Don Antonio Gomez, Senior Judge at the time of Governor Sir Ralph Woodford, 1813 to 1828. La Pastora was later acquired by Hippolyte Borde, Esq. This picture was originally published in J.H. Collens’ “A Guide to Trinidad” and was redrawn by Peter Shim in 1987, © Paria Publishing Co. Ltd. 

The largest cocoa estate in the island is the ‘La Pastora’, situated in the Ward of Santa Cruz, and belonging to Mr. H. Borde. On this estate there are 50,000 trees, but this estate, like others, in 1837 (a year also that the cocoa planter laboured under very great disadvantages for the want of labour) only yielded a crop of 70,200 lbs. In the year 1727, the cocoa trees were greatly injured by the severity of the north wind—a disaster which the priests represented as a judgement upon the inhabitants for their enormity in refusing the payment of tithes. Alcedo relates this ridiculous story—‘The production of the greatest value in this island’, he says, ‘is the cocoa which from its fine quality, is everywhere in request, in preference to that of Caracas, and the crops were even bought up before they were gathered, so that the person to whom they belonged refused to pay their tenths to the clergy, and strange to say, that, as it should seem, Heaven in chastisement of their covetousness had entirely deprived them of this means of emolument in as much as, since the year 1727, the whole of their crop have turned out fruitless and barren, with the exception of one that belonged to a certain man named Robles, who had continued to pay his tithes and whose estate is the only one in which that production is now furnished.’ Unfortunately for the theory of the monks, and the faith of Alcedo, the crops of cocoa have been, and I hope they ever will be, exuberant since Trinidad has been cultivated, as the tables of exports herein given fully proves. It is worthy of remark that the ‘Robles’ mentioned by Alcedo was the father of Christoval de Robles, who inherited from his father the San Antonio and Santa Catalina estates in the Ward of Santa Cruz.

A lovely old cocoa tree (from:

Cocoa, the Golden Bean
Cocoa and the Second Frontier (1870-1920)
by Bridget Brereton
from: The Book of Trinidad

Trinidad was first opened up for plantation development and large-scale settlement in the 1780’s with the influx of French speaking immigrants after the Cedula for Population of 1783 was promulgated. (There were 1,093 European French people in Trinidad and 2,925 French speaking Afro/French people in Trinidad in 1797. The total 'Free' population was 7, 536, enslaved Africans 28,000) The first phase of rapid development—the first frontier—was dominated by the expansion of sugar production and could be said to have lasted from the 1780’s to the 1820’s. Yet, even by the 1830’s, Trinidad was still an undeveloped country. Vast amounts of potentially fertile land were still untouched by human enterprise. In 1838, only some 43,000 acres were cultivated out of a total acreage of 1.25 million. Much of the island was still in the hands of the Crown and under its original forest cover. Only a fairly narrow band of territory stretching west to east from Chaguaramas to Arima and north to south from Port of Spain to San Fernando was extensively settled and cultivated. The southern half of the island, the north coast and its hills and valleys, the whole of the east coast and much of Central Trinidad were virtually untouched and unpopulated. Trinidad was still a frontier colony by the middle decades of the nineteenth century. (In 1838, at emancipation, the population was:

Free Black and people of Colour…............. 16,412

Carib…………………………………………   727

                                                                                             Total  49,721)
The second phase of internal colonisation of the island began around 1870 and was associated above all with the expansion of cocoa, though later on (after 1910) the development of the oil industry was also important especially for the southern half of the island. But it was cocoa which dominated the second frontier; settlement and population followed the cocoa trees into the newly opened up districts.
Cocoa is indigenous to the New World—it was the Aztecs’ chocolate, Moctezuma’s favourite drink—and it had always been cultivated in Spanish Trinidad. By around 1850, it was quite insignificant as an export crop. Its take-off into a period of rapid expansion can be dated to around 1870. As eating chocolate, and cocoa as a beverage, became items of mass consumption in the industrialised countries, demand for cocoa in Europe and North America expanded tremendously; this was the most important single reason for the expansion of cocoa in Trinidad.
Locally, the opening up of Crown lands through a change of government policy in the late 1860’s and the gradual improvement of internal communications after 1870 (roads, railways, bridges) had the effect of removing serious obstacles to the progress of settlement and cultivation. Capital, labour, and some land became available in the years between 1884 and 1903 because of the sugar depression in that period. For instance, workers retrenched by the sugar estates might enter cocoa as wage labourers or as peasant growers, money received through sale of small, marginal sugar estates to big firms could be invested in the establishment of cocoa plantations, and in some cases, abandoned sugar land could be switched to cocoa. Since the establishment of a modest cocoa estate did not require a massive outlay of capital (unlike sugar), many local families could mobilise their personal resources and finance the gradual building-up of a cocoa property.
While the market situation remained favourable, therefore, and it did right up to 1920, all the ingredients for a rapid expansion of production were present. Exports had averaged 8 million lbs. a year in 1871-80; by the decade 1911-20 they averaged 56.3 million, a seven-fold increase. By the turn of the century, cocoa had overtaken sugar as Trinidad’s most valuable export; King Sugar had been dethroned.
The new King Cocoa, during his short ascendancy, profoundly influenced many aspects of Trinidad’s social and economic development. Previously inaccessible areas which had been barely populated at all were opened up  to cultivation and settlement, especially the valleys of the northern range, the country between Sangre Grande and the east coast, and parts of central Trinidad and the deep south. New villages sprang into life, with their churches and chapels, schools, lodges and friendly societies, post offices and warden’s offices, markets and shops. Old towns like Arima took on a new lease of life as cocoa marketing centres. The population spread out from the original centres of settlement along the Eastern Main Road to Arima and from Port of Spain to San Fernando. People of all races were involved in this movement:—the Creole blacks, the peons who had been the first pioneers of cocoa, the African and West Indian immigrants, the ex-indentured after 1870.
Cocoa, however, was never exclusively an estate crop. Thousands of peasants of all races cultivated the cocoa trees as contractors (raising trees on land belonging to estates) and as small producers on their own land. Cocoa contributed very significantly to the growth and prosperity of Trinidad’s peasantry, and these small farmers created new settlements and new social and cultural institutions all over the country. To take just one example:—parang and the culture associated with it are inseparable from the cocoa peasantry. As cocoa prospered, some of the profits filtered down to the labourers and small producers, and many of them were able to educate their children, contributing to the growth of the middle class and the general spread of literacy and modernisation.
King Cocoa fell, in his turn, in the 1920’s and 1930’s; but not before he had played a key role in opening up the island, strengthening its economy and enriching its social and cultural development.

San Juan Estate, Gran Couva.
Country residence of Francis Agostini, ca. 1900.
Illustrated by Peter Shim from a photograph by Hélène Farfan.
© Paria Publishing Co. Ltd.

Excerpt from the List of Trinidad Cocoa Estates 
in C.B. Franklin’s Year Book 1916

Arima Ward Union
Mon Repos, La Reunion Hrs L. Centeno
L’Espérance, Verdant Vale          “
Willow Vale, Trinidad Cocoa and Coffee Co. Ltd.
St. Patrick, La Razón,
San Mateo, Cedar Hill
Mount Pleasant Hrs. de Lapeyrouse
El Retiro Hrs. De Martini
Mon Plaisir F.J. Le Blanc
La Compensación S. De Gannes
San José          “
Buena Vista Hrs. Jules Cipriani
La Victoria, Belle Vue Wm. E. Foster
Prospect J.S. McDavid
Oropuna H. Machado
San Antonio A.M. Tinoco
San José A. Harry
Torrecilla M.S. Strickland
Santa Rosa Hrs. C.G. Seheult
Sin Verquenza, Hermitage F.A. Neubauer
La Ressource Robt. J. Miller
Mausica & Trianon Hrs. C. Cleaver
Valley Vale F.W. Meyer
San Francisco, Orange Hill C. Leotaud
El Ricon, San Felipe
Mon Repos C.O. & L. Robertson
La Retraîte L. Hamel-Smith
S. Carlos de Caigual West Indian
St. Patience Trustees
Agua Santa C. Blasini
St. Adelaide L.A. Riley
Spring Bank, El Socorro Gordon Grant & Co.
La Solidad, Prosperidad
Sta. Isabella, La Soledad
Santa Crux S. Bercon
Felipé C. Pamphile
San Carlos C. Stollmeyer
Candelaria L.A. Sellier
Experanza A.D. Brown
Santa Cruz Jos. N. Maingot
San Antonio Heirs of Garcia
Santa Maria, Glencora, Perseverance F.A. Neubauer
Piedmonte, La Fertilité Paul Caracciolo
El Carmen, Monte Cristo
Jouvence, Santa Barbara Hrs. of Hospedales
El Combata, La Concepcion H.J. Delisle
La Horqueta Hrs. Joa. Ribeiro
Belle Vue J.R. Metivier
Jouvence P. Stevens
San Rafael A. Angeron
Los Armadillos C. Faustino
Sta. Catalina Thos. Lacon
Santa Rosalia, San Gregorio Manuel Luces
San Rafael          “
Prosperite Hrs. C. de Verteuil
Havering W. Carpenter
Laventille Heirs of Llanos
Monte Cristo Paul Caracciolo
San Jose M.J. Roach
L’Agnesia Dr. R.C. Bennett
New Providence G. de Verteuil
La Cruz P.R. Pierre
La Soledad Carmona
El Regalo, La Corona A. Giuseppe
La India M.A. Vignale
La Esmeralda George F. Huggins
Arizona H. Monceaux
San Bartolo, Providence H.K. Viera
Murray’s Vale Henry E. Murray
Santa Maria Hy. Court
New Providence, Val de Cacao Alb. H. Cipriani
La Romancia Dr. A.H. Burt
La Marouna Heirs of J. Payne
C. Stollmeyer San Juan J.A. Aquie
Paradise C. Luces
Santa Maria, Spring W.S.E. Barnardo
Dios Me Ayudes A. de Matas
La Ventura, Good Hope Alfred Mendes
La Providencia M.D. Smith
El Carmen, San Antonio Heirs C. Lange
La Concepcion, San Juan
El Carmen A.V. Stollmeyer
Prospect Madoo Lala
Santa Rosa Chas. Cleaver
Spring Hill F.W. Meyer
La Prospérité, San Antonio N. Cowlessar
San Antonio T. de Soublette
Melton R. Hamlyn Nott
Brothers F. Léotaud
El Cedro M. Quesnel
Naranjo Hrs. J.A. Rapsey
San Frederico & La Violeta C.O. & L.N. Robertson
La Trinidad S. Thannoo
Mon Bonheur, Providence G.R. Alston & Co.
San Expedito A. Albert
Mt. Hope H. Josse Delisle
San Salvador A.C. de Verteuil
Perseverance C. de Verteuil & J D’Abadie
La Conformidad A. Gómez
Buena Vista M. Martinez
La Gloria Jos. de Verteuil
St. Ann P. Pampellonne
Prosperidad A. de Verteuil
Talparo T.H. Warner
Spring W.E.S. Barnardo
Santa Ignalis, Santa Barbara C.A. Pollonais
Spring & Armonica Hrs. Edgard Borde

Perseverance estate house at Moka in Maraval, was the home of Jeanne Besson, born 1822, and her husband Louis Latour. Jeanne was the daughter of François Besson III and Marie France Olivière. She took into her home the children of her husband, Louis Latour, and Léonide (Lorraine) Besson, as teenagers, upon the death of their mother who may have been a person of colour. It is likely that Louis Latour and Léonide, also called Lorraine Besson may have had a plaçage relationship over several years. The children’s names were Frederick Louis Latour and Louise Ultima Latour. I have not been able to discover the parentage of their mother. In her will she leaves them, as teenagers, in the care of their father, Louis Latour. Louise Ultima Latour married Jules Cipriani, also known as Cipriani de Rose or Jules De Rose Cipriani, reputed son of Léon Cipriani and a woman of colour by the name of Rosalie Labastide, (she may have been a relative of the Bessons and de la Bastides). One of their children was Michael, “Mikey” Cipriani, sportsman and pioneer aviator. Jules de Rose Ciprianis’ sister, Marie Alix, married Charles James Milne.This house and its extensive grounds, gardens and cocoa fields was eventually bought by Albert Henry Cipriani (Baba), son of Albert Henry Cipriani, brother of Emmanuel Cipriani, who had married Lucy Ganteaume, whose mother was Theresa Adèle Besson, the second wife of Pierre Alphonse Ganteaume.Albert Henry’s (Baba) brother was Captain Arthur Andrew Cipriani, several times Mayor of Port-of-Spain. He was a labour leader, and champion of the poor. Perseverance estate passed into the hands of the Battoo family and was used as a music hall for several years, until it was eventually abandoned, and destroyed by fire in the 1980s.
Illustrated by Peter Shim after an old photograph. © Paria Publishing Co. Ltd.

Annandale, Buenos Ayres, St. Michael L.F. Ambard
La Ressource, Providencia West Indian Estate Co.
Sta. Barbara, El Pilar          “
Bon Aventure, Santa Isabella          “
L’Union, La Stella and Buena Vista Edwin Clapham
St. Joseph Mrs. Solano
San Francisco Hrs. Mejias
Villanueva Malze Bros.
Erin G.F. Huggins
El Perial, San José and El Cocal Carmen Anduze
La Victoria G.F. Huggins
Good Hope Donatien Gervais
Sta. Maria A.S. Kernahan
Denmark Chs. Ker (Trustee)
Enterprise Geo. Grant
S. John A. Attin
Industry The Industry Est. Corporation of N.Y.
Monte Cristo L. Tanwing & Sona
Penbury E.C. Skinner
El Puerto P. Collington

Cocoloco J.B. Todd
Montrose Dr. A.P. Lange
Rich Ville A.B. Richards
Ednavale Geo. Bancroft
Edinburgh Hrs. S. Henderson
Esmeralda Gordon, Grant & Co.
Sta. Emilia Hrs. of Joyce Ltd.
La Providencia Fritz L. Boos
Henksdale Hrs. Hendrickson
Félicité Smith Bros. & Co.
Souvenir A.V.M. Thavenot
St. Marie Hrs. de Boissière
Roupell Park Dan McD. Hart
Bon Aventure Hrs. C. Robertson
St. Jules Jas. Stewart
Murrayvale Onnarey & Robertson
Eva’s Hope Heirs Langton
Waterloo Kleinworth, Sons & Co.
Pays Perdu, S. Madeleine J.R. Tom
Målaga Heirs H. Stone
St. Margaret J.W. Fletcher
Sta. Philippa, Hillandale W. Mills
Orange Field Beatrix A. Lange
La Soledad & Sta. Isabella E.W. Savary
Uquire, Las Lomas & Elibox E.L. Agostini
Palmiste Miss Léotaud
Tcarridonum Carr Brothers
Mes Voeux & Bon Accord Heirs of Smith and Langton
Friendship Hall Black and McLeod
St. Charles & Esperanza Heirs Hoadley
Verdant Vale Heirs Penco
Philippine Hrs. L. Preau
Balmain J.P. Bain
La Rosalia J.A. Ortiz
Belle Vue Boodhin
Peking Numa Nathaniel
Williams Nuseban
Good Luck Satuarine
Enaree Beddoo Bhagat
Sitar-i-Hind E.M. Madoo
Hope E.V. Downey
Carolina Agostini and McLelland
Prospect F. Isaac
Perseverance J.E. Bonneterre
Don José F.A. Gómez
The Hope & St. Luke Dyett & Grant
Bon Aventure & Mon Plaisir Heirs W.C. Dyett
St. Vale, Lee Vale C.P. Lee
L’Argenville Dr. A.B. Duprey

La Chaguaramas & Mt. Hazard Chaguaramas Estates, Limited
Crystal Stream Heirs of J. Dickson
Fond Palmiste & St. Sophie J.C. Benlisa
St. Lucien Croney & Co.
Richplain Enroll & A. Artfield
Les Fontaines, La Ressource, Bagatelle Michael P. Maillard
Cedar Hill F. & J.A. Jones
Hermitage, Esperanza Anna Lange
La Puerta Dr. J.L. Senior
Tucker Valley T’dad Ltd. & Finance
Haleland Park Co.,  Ltd.
Moka W.G. Gordon
Val de Oro J.C. Benlisa
Mon Espoir, Cascabelle & Vineyard Trinidad Produce Company
Belle Vue L.E. Bernard
River and Cascade Trinidad Government
Mt. Carmel Pitman & de Suze
San Diego & Victoria George G. Brown
La Ressource Catherine R. Rist
La Ressource Jean Isidore
San Carlos W.T. Campbell
Perseverance L.S. Disney
St. Emelia L.D. Alcazar
Mon Repos Edgar Borde
Covigne E. Hamel-Smith
St. John & Grand Fond Madeleine Joseph
Jamson J.A. Brown
La Fromage Mrs. C Fitzwilliam
Mount Catherine Louis Julien
La Oferta André de Verteuil
La Sagesse, Zig Zag Hrs. J.E. Coryat
Santa Barbara, Prospéridad          “
Santa Carolina, La Madeleine          “
La Pastora, Tranquilidad J. Ribeiro
Maracas Bay Hrs. de Lapeyrouse
Paradis Terrestre, Mon Repos J. Penco
Perd Mon Temps          “
San Antonio Sir J. Needham
Soconusco Wilsons, Limited
El Castillo S. Bissessar
San Patricio François Tomasi
El Carmen Henrietta Kavanagh
La Soledad (Guanal) J.S. de Bermudez
Concordia Marie Duprey
Brasso Toco J.C. Poyer
North Laventille Morvant Gordon Grant & Co. Ltd.
South Laventille Earl of Dundonald
Beau Séjour J.A. Antoni
San Miguel Emma Dreyfus
San Antonio & El Corosal Joaquim Webster
Providence Louis de Gannes
San Carlos Mrs. Jul. Borde
L’Eugenie G. Ferrari
Union F. D’Heureux
Belle Air Heirs of B. Mussio
Hermitage Arthur Cipriani
La Regalada, San Rafael, El Guamal C.F. Stollmeyer
La Deseada C.C. Stollmeyer
Mon Valmont, La Fortunée A.V. Stollmeyer
Clydesdale, El Ordo & Sta. Ann’s          “
St. Luce & Mon Desir Mrs. C. de Verteuil
La Soledad Smith Bros. & Co.
El Socorro, Concord F. Herrera
Barataria & Aranjuez Hrs. J.A. Rapsey
Coblentz Carlos Rovedas
La Trinidad Solomon Dreyfus
Belle Fleur Ed. Manuel    
Ste. Marie H.F. Figeroux
La Ultima Jos. J. Ribeiro
Champs Fleurs M.M. Gransaull
Brothersville Jones Bros.

Alta Gracia Albert A. Sobrion
Patna Boodhoosing
Nelson J.J. McLeod
La India Partap
S. Martin & S. Philip Hrs. of Allum
Santa Maria T. Geddes Grant
Perseverance C.C. Stollmeyer
El Socorro & El Kola W.C. Robertson & Others
Canton & Santa Cecilia Geo F. Huggins
Esperanza Mrs. Felix Smith
San Francisco & Good Intent A.M. & R.A. Low
Adventure J.B. & S. Waith
La Fortunée De Wolf & Mathison
El Campo Beatrice Huggins
Pluck Tennant’s Est. Ltd.
Common & Kingsland Shadrach Medford
La Siparia, La Tranquilidad Trinidad Properties Ltd.
Kimberley Geo. Blake
Cura John Bleasdell
La Pastora Smith Bros. & Co.
St. Mary, Paradise Pierre Bartlett
La Virgin y Tierra Linda Albert Mendes
Eureka and Cura E.D. Clarke
Otaheite Hrs. Clem. Lange
Boa Ventura Hrs. Joaq. Ribeiro
La Fortunée, Clifton Hill United Brit. Oilfields
St. Valentine Harold Fahey

La Josephina F.A. Neubauer
Sta. Estella General Pacheco
Windermere Croney & Co.
S. José de Comparo L.P. Pierre
St. Joseph Mrs. O. de Gannes
La Concordia, San Antonio C. Allard
La Union E. Hernandez
Brooklyn Percival Stevens
Barcelona J.B. Robinson
Non Pareil, St. Marie & Santa Rita E.A. Robinson
Concord A.P. Maingot
El Reposo Hrs. C. F. Sellier
St. Privat Dr. de Gannes
Santa Rita Geo. Jonson
Errolvale Thomas Lyder
Perseverance George McLean
St. Elizabeth Henry A. Reid
El Palmito A. Protheroe
St. Joseph J. Riley
Mt. Taldon B. Romney
La Mascotte R. Vignales
St. John John F. Wallen
Sta. Clara J. Jacelon
Santa Anna Ms. C. Kirton
St. Patrick Heirs of Logan
Montrose E. Damian
Williamsville George Williams
El Recuerdo Murray and Wake
May Vega Dr. C. F. Lassalle

Glenside Commdr. W.H. Coombs, R.N.
Charles Vale S. Augustin
Redemption Hrs. B. de Lamarre
St. Michael Resal Maharaj
Mount St. Benedict Mayuel de Caigny
Trafford Marie Holler
Tumbason Dr. L Lota
Las Cabecerras Jos. Lota
Santa Barbara, San Pedro J.F. Alonzo
Santa Isabella J.M. Blanc
Mamoral Mrs. L. Johnstone
Magdaline, St. Antoine F.A.Neubauer
La Guadeloupe, St. Ignes
El Socorro, La Pastora
La Rosina, El Manacal
Concordia, La Florida, Avondale Windward Islands Estates Co. Inc
San Vincente Joseph Gomez
La Véronica Mary L. O’Connor
El Socorro Margaret Rapsey
San José Robert de Freitas
Homburg W. Holler
San José M.A. Prieto
La Reconaissance C.J. La Coste
Wardour Bridget Jardine
Mon Deisr Berenice Garcia
Santa Basilio, La Soledad Manoel Alonzo
Mundo Nuevo, Valencia Max Reimer
La pastora Gordon, Grant & Co. Ltd.
Algarabo Heirs of J. Philip
La Soledad E. Lezama
Montserrat, San Francisco, La Deseada J.P Zepero
La Realista Mrs. M.E. Olivieri
Des Consue, La Florida, La Victoria Wilsons Ltd.
San Francisco Geo. B. Geoffroy
Santa Ignes, San Joachim Heirs Nakid
Tierra Nueva Heirs C. Leotaud
Cautira, Guamal, Hope Well, San Pedro
Destin G. De Silva
San Domingo Josepfita de Léon
La Soledad Hrs. Of de la Rosa
Gonzales, San Isidoro Allan McD. Horne
Trafford Marie Holler
Redemption Edward Mohipath
Santa Rita Jos. Reyes
La Soledad Heirs Reyes
Maracas Valley, San Pedro Cadbury Brothers
Santa Barbara, La Sombadoura V.L. Wehekind
San Pedro del Valle J.B. Garner
Ortinola Tennants Est. Ltd.
Santa Rita D. Betancourt
La Providencia, La Fortuna A.A. Matas
Bickham Heirs of Wharf
San Lorenzo Fred Herrera
La Victoria, La Carola Caroline Borberg
Belle Vue Dhanoolall
Guiria Hrs J.V. de León
La Soledad E. Gonzales
El Retiro Heirs T.B. Meja
Buena Vista, San Miguel M.J. de Silva
San Antonio, San Juan, Santa Barbara Simon B. Pierre
Calcutta Cadamee
El Reposo, Esperanza Hrs. S. Castillo
El Discurso G.T. Brash
La Lucia E. Gabaira
St. Jena Xavier Hardy
Providence Margaret Hunter
San Juan, Rosalia Edm. Kelly
El Guamo C.A. Morrison
Santa Lucia Hrs. José Votor
Canaan Bennysingh and Rampersadsingh
La Belle View Hrs. Chinibas
St. Ann’s Rev. Dr. Maingot
El Choro, St. Helena Victor Adrien
Laurel Hill Juliana Bonair
La Soledad A.A. De Matas
St. Catherine, La Florida F. De Matas
El Broyo, Santa Margarita          “
La Merced, San Pedro Cadbury Brothers
San Miguel A.T. Eligon
La Soledad, Williams Field Fred Herrera
Lorete A.V.C. Gomez

Toco Ward Union
El Carmen, El Calvario, La Soledad W.G. Gordon
La Maravilla, Santa Barbara, St. John
El Toco, Mon Plaisir, Belle Vue
Susannah, Santa Teresa, St. Luke
Aragua, St. Pasqual, San Philipe
Cascabel, La Jalousie, Esperanza
Woodford Valley
Cumana Theresa Campbell
Sans Souci M.A. Bowen
La Soledad G.R. Alston & Co.
Buenos Ayres F.G. Scott
St. Antonio, St. Laurent, La Soledad Samuel Hosang
La Ardita, La Anicetta
San Antonio, Belle Vue, San Isidore L.J. Gransaull
La Palmiste, La Providence
La Juanita E. Paisley
Malgretout Mrs. M. Gransaull
Adventure Elizabeth A. Hosang
Diamond Field, Orphan, La Victoria Thomas Hosang
Nola Fana, California, Esperanza
La Prosperité, Belle Vue A. Besson
Poor Man’s Progress McBurnie

Tuesday 18 June 2019

Roume de St. Laurent ... A Memoir

"A creole cocktail of political thriller, historical romance and dashing picaresque replete with pirates and lost gold, corrupt financiers, ravishing coquettes, rabid revolutionaries and future emperors (Dessalines, Naploeon), Roume invites us to consider modernity in the New World, or what Besson frequently refers to as “the nightmare nest of slavery”. In dramatic fashion Roume examines the entanglement of Europe and the Caribbean on the cusp of the Haitian Revolution, the crossroads where the spirits of outmoded European feudalism and nascent capitalism, Enlightenment libertarianism and universalism collided with and contested the magical realism of an Afro-Creole worldview uneasily yet expediently allied with the ambitions of the offspring of the entanglement – the conflicted mulattoes.”
(Simon Lee,  Trinidad Guardian, 3 October 2016)

"Roume ‘works’ as a story from beginning to end, always moving and exciting, always unveiling inner truths about the Trinidadian or Caribbean spirit but also about the human spirit. It is never sensational, not even when you’re describing the horrors of the French Revolution. You ‘explain’ Trinidad better than any author I’ve read, although ‘explaining’ Trinidad is not your main goal. (Or is it?)
Most impressive to me is how you are able to display everywhere in your account such a keen sense of the virtue of restraint and subtlety.  I kept waiting for excess but never found it, not even once. The ‘poetical’ passages and touches are always deeply moving, and plausible, too. The whole thing is stunning.”
(Arnold Rampersad, Letter to the Author, 12 August 2016)

"Philippe Roume de Saint Laurent—who was he? Was he one of Trinidad’s heroes? He’s been called the “coloniser” of the island; he had a lot to do with the 1783 Cedula of Population and the subsequent waves of French migration here, which did indeed “populate” the island and open it up to plantation development….This long, sprawling novel reads like an epic romance, even though the basic facts about Roume’s career are accurate. There’s piracy in the Caribbean, hidden treasure (buried in a cave in Gasparee), revolution and war in France and Saint Domingue/Haiti, intrigues, villainies, manhunts and plots…. Besson’s exciting and lushly written novel gives us a romantic and fascinating view of Trinidad, France and the Caribbean during the era of Revolution—the best and the worst of times, as Dickens famously wrote at the start of his A Tale of Two Cities.”
(Bridget Brereton, Trinidad Express, 2 June 2016)

ISBN: 978-976-8244-21-5
530 pages
Softcover / Kindle

Click here to purchase the book on Kindle and as a paperback on Amazon

Click here to purchase the book as a paperback on

Making room for Creole history
Review by Simon Lee
Published in the Trinidad Guardian, 3 October 2016

"Jerry Besson’s latest foray into the not so distant but largely forgotten past –a fictionalized memoire of Philippe Roume de Saint Laurent, the man who engineered the 1783 Cedula for Population which birthed modern Trinidad – ebulliently mixes genres in a stampede of individual and historical narratives, exploring aspects of Creole sensibility which have slipped through the seine of recent Caribbean historiography.
 Yet this heavyweight, at close to 500 pages and hugely ambitious in its scope (tracing the creolization of Enlightenment ideals and centering the ‘peripheral’ Caribbean at the heart of the ill-fated French and successful Haitian revolutions) lightly sidesteps the tedium of much historical fiction. Roume immerses readers intimately in the lives of such unforgettable imaginary characters as Sarusima the Carib or the demented white Creole Tante Mam’zelle, along with historical figures like Roume’s shape-shifting second wife Marianne ‘Soubise’ Rochard, the Grenadian mulatresse, whose fictional journals both anchor her husband’s narrative of opportunism and also provide another, insider’s point of view of the events he engaged in.
 A creole cocktail of political thriller, historical romance and dashing picaresque replete with pirates and lost gold, corrupt financiers, ravishing coquettes, rabid revolutionaries and future emperors (Dessalines, Naploeon), Roume invites us to consider modernity in the New World, or what Besson frequently refers to as “the nightmare nest of slavery”. In dramatic fashion Roume examines the entanglement of Europe and the Caribbean on the cusp of the Haitian Revolution, the crossroads where the spirits of outmoded European feudalism and nascent capitalism, Enlightenment libertarianism and universalism collided with and contested the magical realism of an Afro-Creole worldview uneasily yet expediently allied with the ambitions of the offspring of the entanglement – the conflicted mulattoes.
 Although the Haitian Revolution/War of Independence has attracted the attention of writers across the region from Walcott and Lamming, to Cesaire, Glissant and Carpentier, only historians like Laurent Dubois have attempted to chart revolutionary movements throughout the Caribbean at the end of the eighteenth century. In fiction it is only Besson who has made the connection between the Haitian uprising of 1791 and the Fedon uprising in Grenada of 1795, which like similar uprisings in St Vincent and St Lucia challenged the institution of slavery and European hegemony. It is the figure of Roume, a white Grenadian-born creole, who allows Besson to make the connection. Roume’s life journey took him on the wings of ambition and opportunism from Grenada to Trinidad, South America, Europe, Tobago and twice to Haiti, first as an agent of the French crown and then as High Commissioner of the French Revolution.
 Besson characterizes Roume as Frontier Man and Creole by birth and sometime conviction, embodying in him the contradictions of the Caribbean white massa slave-owning class, tainted by the legacy of the nightmare nest of slavery. When his first European-born wife Fanny recoils from him, still reeking from his latest sexual encounter on their Grenadian estate, he dashes her exotic fantasies (“a life of adventure, a sensual mixture of fecundity and elegance in a place on the frontier of the New World…she saw herself with him in paradise”) with all the callousness of those who viewed the slaves as property at worst, or “intelligent animals…without souls” at best. “You had to cover them, conquer them, breed them,” he rages at her with plantation pragmatism.
 Ironically it is a product of precisely this brutal regime, the mulatresse Soubise Rochard, who becomes his second wife, soul mate and companion for life. Born as Marianne Katronice, the illegitimate daughter of an estate owner and his slave mistress, she crosses the divide erected by the aristocracy of the skin when freed by her dying father. However, in pre-Fanon style, for survival purposes, she cultivates a Creole identity as Soubise, only reverting to Marianne when occasion demands.  She is aware of the common ground which unites her with Roume and which ultimately severs him from the Old World despite his manoeuvring: “As a Creole, descendant of Europeans born in these islands, Philippe had an understanding of the land, climate and the blacks…The salt of the Caribbean Sea ran in his veins…we, Philippe and I understood things differently –Phillipe’s imagination contained a great deal of my own.”
 Soubise also recognizes Roume’s fluid identity, knowing “he possessed the actor’s gift of being all things to all men. A born Creole.” His central belief in free will and choice, allied to his insatiable drive to be an agent of change lead him to a major role in the worst excesses of the French Revolution, when as a “blooded Jacobin” he embraces the period of The Terror drawing on an internalized legacy of violence: “we of the slave islands understand how to live without a sense of humanity.”

By positioning Roume at the centre of the revolution in France, Besson echoes the theory of CLR James and others that the modern world was birthed in the Caribbean, in Haiti. Some of the best elements of Enlightenment philosophical theory (equality, liberty) were compromised, betrayed and eventually reversed by the French, because philosophy makes for bad economics and the French Revolution depended financially on slavery as much as the Ancien Régime. As one of the metropolitan characters puts it when dismissing the slaves’ claims to the Rights of Man: “ Rights, human rights cannot apply to them. Soulless, they have not the faculty of choice. Anyway that would mean a collapse of the economy. France cannot afford to free her blacks.” It took the “soulless creatures” of Haiti to effect the praxis of Equal Rights and fight for them successfully, establishing the world’s first free black republic at the same time as Napoleon swept aside the vestiges of the French Revolution to re-establish the old order, in the new guise of an empire.
 Roume’s decline is directly linked to the ascendancy of both Toussaint l’Ouverture  and Napoleon. Sent back to Hispaniola as the Republic’s High Commissioner in 1799, Soubise recognizes the dilemma he faces: “ You must make up your mind, are you of the Caribbean, or do you belong on the other side, the Atlantic.” Although Roume has by now arrived at a common understanding with Toussaint whom he reveres (“both believed that a Caribbean interpretation of the republican ideal could be arrived at. This belief had at its centre the certainty shared by them that the African…was a complete human being.”) he elects to put down his bucket with Napoleon, rejecting Toussaint’s offer “Stay and this nation will honour you…You will stand, an equal, with the men who have liberated the New World.’ Roume’s hestitation can be read as symptomatic of the Creole malaise of failing to fully embrace first liberty and much later independence, the same psychopathology Fanon and Naipaul highlighted, which is still with us in the postmodern Caribbean.
 Roume can stand alone as a viscerally entertaining text, dramatizing the genesis of the modern Caribbean. Viewed in the context of Besson’s prolific oeuvre, both historical and fictional, we can also read it as the continuing expression of a minority or sidelined narrative in the post-independence history of the Caribbean – the Afro/French-Creole story. Political correctness, politically manipulated Afrocentrism and some of the worst aspects of globalization and (under) development have obscured or obliterated this narrative, which we must all be grateful to Besson for retrieving, in the interest of better understanding who we are now and how we got here."

Saturday 1 June 2019

Don José María Chacón, Knight of the Order of Calatrava, Last Spanish Governor of Trinidad (1784–1797)

He buckled on his helmet coming down the flight of wooden stairs, and entered the atrium just as Alejandro, his squire, was bringing in his black Arab charger ‘Champion’. Skittish, he danced lightly sideways, tossing his handsome head, making castanet sounds on the limestone floor. From the distance came shouts and calls above the general noise. Earlier, there had been shots fired.

He swung his long, thin legs over the side-stepping horse and settled himself. His saber of the best Andalusian steel made familiar and comforting noises at his side. Already, the heat was rising in his tight-fitting, closely buttoned gray and gold uniform, a uniform which defined him as Rear Admiral of the Spanish navy.
The gold and blue enamel decorations proclaimed him a Knight of the Order of Calatrava, an ancient and noble order that more than three centuries before had absorbed the remnants of the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, who were stationed in Spain when their order was destroyed abroad by both pope and king.
In his middle-thirties, he was intelligent, well educated and competent, and had brought many advancements to this colony. He was presently presiding over a dangerous, possibly explosive affair. Lt. Col. Don Matias de Letamardi and Lt. Col. Don Miguel Herrera awaited the governor’s pleasure outside what would be later called the Charlotte Street gate of the old Government House in Port of Spain. Both were well mounted and armed. Opposite, a troop of the governor’s bodyguard was drawn up with lances held at ease. A colour party, displaying the imperial and regimental colours as well as the governor’s personal ensign, was already present on the Plaza de la Marina, opposite to the foot of the Calle Santa Anna, now Charlotte Street.

The last Spanish governor of Trinidad is remembered 
by the national flower, the "Chaconia", and by Chacon Street in Port of Spain 
that still bears his name. He arrived in Trinidad on the 1st September, 1784, 
as the the 38th governor in a succession that covered a period 
of some 250 years of Spanish rule.

A document signed by Chacón said to be his passport
or accreditation papers.

During his tenure, foreigners in large numbers had arrived on the island. Some were dedicated to agriculture, others to commerce. In the wars between England and France that were fought in the Caribbean Sea in the 1790s, the latter had sent a large squadron under the command of the Count de Grasse to protect its colonies in the West Indies. This force was engaged and beaten and almost destroyed by the English under Admiral Rodney. As a consequence, the latter raided and invaded the French Antilles.  This was followed by a period during which the French Republican government in Paris, for expediency’s sake, freed the slaves in their colonies.
Inspired by the notions contained in “The Rights of Man”, the Free Blacks and People of Colour, mulattoes, in the region along with other Republican minded people, including a quantity of the formerly enslaved, were happy to receive Victor Hugues, a rabid Jacobin republican. He introduced the guillotine to the French colonies as well as other maxims of the French Revolution and orchestrated uprisings in Grenada St. Lucia and St Vincent. All this resulted in a massive dislocation of thousands of persons, royalist and republican alike, both black and white, free and formerly enslaved Africans from the neighbouring islands, causing many of these to come to Spanish Trinidad, some with their money and slaves, others with the ideology of the French Revolution.
This movement of people into Trinidad was facilitated by Chacón’s lack of military strength in the colony, which diminished his authority considerably.
The sequence of events that would eventually lead to the invasion of Trinidad by the British had its origins in what increasingly became an English blockade of the island. Trinidad was flooded by foreigners as the result of what was taking place in the region. Many who would have slipped away, were forced to stay.

French soldiers served with the British Army in the conquest
of Trinidad. This was during the time of the French Revolution,
when many French officers joined the British Army in the Caribbean.

The Admiral Governor had very few resources, hardly any troops, no fortification, and a shortage of heavy masonry. There were no jails, no barracks or armory magazine. In fact, he was left to the goodwill of the public, and this public was made up of individuals from other nations, with the fewest of them actually being Spaniards. As a consequence, the people were disunited by mutual discords through different traditions. They were rivals by constitution and enemies amongst themselves. There was about the place a sense of fermentation.
Many of those with republican sentiments - both French and African - had encountered the English on the high seas. It became an inevitability that something would arise to trigger a disaster. Already, there was random violence some days prior. Two men, both French, had been killed; several negroes had been gravely wounded.
The following week, a British squadron had entered the Gulf of Paria. Spain was not at war with England as the result of a short lived truce. The squadron dispersed a flock of republican privateers, sinking some of their dilapidated craft in Chaguaramas Bay. The English sailors later came into Port of Spain.

The bar belonging to an Irishwoman was crowded with French seamen, some of whom had lost everything. One thing led to another, and a brawl ensued. Captain George Vaughan of the British Frigate ‘Alarm’ came on the scene, and with sword drawn made a way through the crowd, stabbing a Frenchman. The English sailors were mobbed and fled to a nearby house. The mob began to take apart the house, and Captain Vaughan fired his pistols.
The governor, disturbed from his dinner, made hasty preparations to send patrols to close off streets. People in town, ever awaiting any sign that could trigger wholescale looting, seized the opportunity to break open an arsenal and steal as many guns as they could. It was not until midnight that the town was pacified and the English captain and his men were safely back on their ships. Events, however, were far from over.

Peru Estate, owned by the Devenish Family, where the British
landed in 1797, now called Invaders Bay.
Watercolour by Captain Wilson, 1837

By morning, it was clear that the British were going to come ashore. The slaves from the nearby estates had come into town at the time of the disturbance. The tricolour cockade, which they regarded as a symbol of liberty, was worn by several, and others were persuaded to wear it.
Chacón acted quickly. He had several slaves whipped publicly on the spot, thus dampening the spreading libertine spirits. French republican sentiment worked like a magnet on the free coloured classes and the slaves. The slaves wanted freedom, the free blacks and coloured needed equality with the whites. The island teetered on the brink of civil war.
Captain Vaughan put ashore a company of Royal Marines and a party of drummers, and with flags flying and with an expectant crowd growing larger by the minute, they set out to meet the republican French, who had gathered on the western edge of the dry riverbed of the Rio Santa Anna.
(The river in those days crossed what is now Park Street, traveled down Frederick Street, crossed Woodford Square and made its way to the sea.)

Governor Chacón had acted just in time, for as the opposing sides were about to hurl themselves at each other, his bugler sounded his call and his standard bearers preceded his slender column into the dry riverbed (which, many years later, would bear his name as Chacón Street). Silence fell about him as the call echoed away.
Ignoring the rabble, the governor addressed the English captain, asking him the significance of his actions. Vaughan answered that he had come armed for his own protection. The governor had then to make him realise with various reproaches and reasoning the impropriety and violence of his transgression without regard to the fact that the two countries, Spain and England, were not at war. He left him a choice of two alternatives: either he may be disarmed and return in column with the assurance that he would be allowed to go without harm, or that he could put himself at the head of his troops and may begin hostilities whenever he may like, in which case the Governor would reply to him.

The Spanish fleet on fire,
blockaded by the British Fleet
in Chaguaramas Bay in 1797.
The sun, now directly overhead, hammered a ferocious heat onto the bolder-strewn riverbed. Above, a hawk circled, and a star blazed for a moment in the blue. No one noticed. The thin red line of British withdrew. Don José Maria Chacón sat erect upon ‘Champion’. The republican French, the free blacks and the runaway slaves hooted and shouted bad remarks. Captain Vaughan later committed suicide. The British government used the incident as one of several reasons to start a war with Spain - which they won. Trinidad fell to the English in 1797. Don José Maria Chacón, last Spanish governor of Trinidad, disgraced for the loss of a Spanish island in the Caribbean, returned to Spain to eventually die almost anonymously, his story untold, his history virtually forgotten. Except here in Trinidad where he is remembered by the street in Port of Spain that bares his name and the National Flower of Trinidad & Tobago, the Chaconia.

Plan of redoubt built in 1730 to defend the western approaches
of the town of Puerto de los Hispanioles under the Spanish Governor Augustin de Arrendonda

Over the centuries, there has been much speculation concerning the governor’s relationship with a local lady who is remembered in some old Trinidadian families as Maria Teresa, possibly also known as Maria Teresa Beauvais. There is also that Don José Chacón might have married in Trinidad an Irish lady by the name of Dorothy Lyndsey during his last years in Trinidad has been suggested.

An entry in the Espasa-Calpe encyclopaedia, published in Madrid, reads: "Chacón, Ignacio. Spanish General, born in the island of Trinidad of the Windward Islands, and died in Madrid in 1855."

If Ignacio Chacón was born in 1785 (earliest possible date if he was the governor’s son being the year after José Chacón took up office), he would have been 70 years old when he died. If he was born in 1797 (unlikely), he would have been 58. Anything within this range would have been a healthy life span in those days. Would he, then, have been José’s son?
If so, Chacón had more children than tradition allows for, and one must have gone back to Spain with him. (Note that Spanish society was not as colour-conscious as British and French society, so if Ignacio was not white, it would not have hindered his advancement. Further, José Chacón did have friends at Court — that’s obviously why St. Hilaire Bégorrat, a French planter who was in support of a faction intent on defaming Chacon instructed the Spanish prosecutor to place his attack on Chacón directly in the hands of the king.) Later on, the entry states that Ignacio became a field marshal, gentleman of the bedchamber and secretary to the king.

That Don José Chacón had other children in Trinidad with his pardoner, Marie Teresa is a tradition maintained by several Trinidadians, and amongst these are the Jobity, Diaz, Walker, des Iles and Hodgkinson extended families in whose possession a few relics of his survive.

Don José Maria Chacon

The foregoing article, which is sourced in its entirety from E.L. Joseph's "History of Trinidad", written in 1883, serves to provide an excellent description of life in Spanish Trinidad in the 1750s and 60s. The extent to which the island existed in total poverty, almost without any population, was the degree to which one family, indeed sometimes one individual, controlled the island. The steps taken to introduce schooling for the young or coins into circulation so as to implement commerce were tentative. It can only be imagined how the island would have fared, had the rigours of the inquisition been applied.
Within twenty-five years of laws being passed to compel the inhabitants to stop living in seclusion in the high woods, a new and enlightened government took office in the new capital at Port of Spain on the 1st September, 1783, in the person of Don José Maria Chacon, a rear admiral of the Spanish royal navy, a knight of the order of Calatrava, obviously educated. 
Chacon faced during his tenure as governor of Trinidad several crises, starting with the recaltriance of the entrenched interest as personified in the governing body, the "Illustrious Cabildo", who in the recent past did not hesitate to imprison governors, putting them into irons and to forbid them their leaving of the colony. Also, he had to deal with the influx of a large quantity of French people under the Cedula of Population. E.L. Joseph mentions 12,000. The Spanish establishment, that is, the officials, were "few".
Chacon undertook large public works, such as diverting the St. Ann's river, whose course once took it across Park Street, going west, then down to, more or less, where Frederick Street and Chacon Street are now, into the Gulf of Paria. He paid about one third of this project from his own pocket. Chacon established the village of San Juan and the town of San Fernando. Port of Spain began to assume a respectable appearance.
This city was never an easy place to run. His Excellency had to deal with an influx of riotous French republicans, revolutionaries bent on overthrowing his government by force of arms and to murder the island's royalist inhabitants. He had to contend with violent riots in the city with a handful of trusted men, and with looters who broke into the state armory and stole guns and ammunition.
The British navy landed. This precipitated another round of riots in the city. The French revolutionary leader, Victor Hugues, was a very serious threat to the government of Trinidad, in that insurgents acting on Hugues' behalf were operating in the colony. The threat of slave uprisings in the style of Haiti and of mass poisonings on the estates instilled fear and suspicion on a large scale. Unruly blacks – "masterless men" – threatened disorder. The rule of law was slipping out of Chacon's hands. The island was a Spanish colony, but the population was almost entirely French. But even this was a divided population. On the one hand, royalists, well armed, swept the islands of the Caribbean. With the monarchy overthrown in France, they had nowhere to go. On the other hand, a republican menace made up of slaves who had freed themselves, free blacks looking for the opportunity for vengeance ("I will kill your white father, you killed mine") and republican French seeking their fortunes.
Governor Chacon might just have welcomed his next great crisis, the invasion of his island by a British army and his ultimate surrender. His return to Spain was under a dark cloud. The subsequent court marshall condemned him to exile. His reprieve arrived to find him on his death bed and he is remembered today in Trinidad by a city street which bears his name, and a wild forest flower which is our national flower. A fitting tribute for the last Spanish governor of Trinidad!

The Chaconia.