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July 30, 2020

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By many ac­counts, Laven­tille got its name by the cor­rup­tion of the French word “La Ven­taille”. It has been said that the north­east trade winds blow to­wards this part of the is­land of Trinidad be­fore reach­ing any oth­er part of Port-of-Spain–hence the metaphor­i­cal name La Ven­taille (“The Vent”). The res­i­dents of “The Hill” are for­tu­nate to have a very rich his­to­ry.

HIS­TOR­I­CAL MILE­STONES
IN LAVEN­TILLE

1783: Con­struc­tion be­gins for an ob­ser­va­to­ry to be built in the hills of Laven­tille for the use of Span­ish as­tronomer, Don Cos­mo Damien Char­ru­ca. A road need­ed to be con­struct­ed along the ridge lead­ing to it, which even­tu­al­ly be­came Ob­ser­va­to­ry Street. Don Char­ru­ca’s build­ing (or the Char­ru­ca Ob­ser­va­to­ry) is now called Fort Cha­con. To­day, it serves as a po­lice com­mu­ni­ca­tions post.

1793: Span­ish as­tronomer, Don Cos­mo Damien Char­ru­ca, ob­serves on Jan­u­ary 2, the im­mer­sion of two satel­lites of the plan­et Jupiter in the disk of the moon. This en­abled him to fix an ac­cu­rate merid­i­an in the New World.

He re­turns to Cadiz in Spain, in Sep­tem­ber. Us­ing the ob­ser­va­tions made at the Char­ru­ca Ob­ser­va­to­ry (Fort Cha­con) in Laven­tille in Trinidad, he makes an ac­cu­rate ob­ser­va­tion of the en­trance of the star of Alde­baran in­to the disc of the moon, with its ex­it, on Oc­to­ber 23.

Both da­ta sets al­low him to fix the ab­solute lon­gi­tude of the ob­ser­va­to­ry at Laven­tille, the first time this is done for the New World.

1800s: Laven­tille lime­stone is used to erect many im­por­tant build­ings in the city of Port of Spain, and serves as the foun­da­tion ma­te­r­i­al for many build­ing and en­gi­neer­ing projects.

To­day, the chasms of the old quar­ries can be seen near the top of Quar­ry Street.

1803: British mil­i­tary gov­er­nor, Sir Thomas Pic­ton, erects an­oth­er for­ti­fi­ca­tion in the shape of a Martel­lo Tow­er (a rare piece of ar­chi­tec­ture in the West­ern Hemi­sphere).

Called Pic­ton’s Fol­ly, the struc­ture was a flop since its ri­fle loop_holes in the thick walls point­ed in­land, in­stead of at the coast, from where the en­e­my was most like­ly to emerge.

1820s: An at­tempt is made to make Laven­tille a plan­ta­tion dis­trict, with cof­fee as its pri­ma­ry crop. Sir Ralph Wood­ford in­vites white fam­i­lies from Do­mini­ca and St Lu­cia to set­tle on the Laven­tille Hills and es­tab­lish cof­fee es­tates.

The at­tempt fails mis­er­ably and even­tu­al­ly is aban­doned, as whites (Eu­ro­peans) are af­flict­ed by fever (pos­si­bly yel­low fever) over an eight-year pe­ri­od. Africans and Chi­nese are the on­ly ones who en­joy good health and sur­vive the fever.

1834: Slav­ery is abol­ished, and many of the freed slaves find refuge in Laven­tille’s forest­ed hill­sides.

1840s: Africans who had been lib­er­at­ed as a re­sult of ac­tion tak­en by Britain against for­eign slave ships, to sup­press the slave trade north of the equa­tor, be­gin set­tling in Laven­tille. Among the tribes to set­tle in the area were Mandin­go, Ibo, Yoru­ba, and Kru­men. The en­tire area was for many years called ‘Free Town’.

1875: The Laven­tille Shrine be­comes the de­vo­tion­al cen­tre for a re­li­gious so­ci­ety ded­i­cat­ed to Mar­i­an de­vo­tions.

1940s: The steel­pan is in­vent­ed by var­i­ous Laven­til­lians, with the most fa­mous “fa­ther” be­ing Win­ston Spree Si­mon.

1940s: Des­per­a­does Steel Or­ches­tra is born. It re­port­ed­ly is start­ed by a group of young men that in­clud­ed Wil­fred “Talk­a­tive” Har­ri­son, Ivan “Brains” Bourne”, Rey­nald “Singco” John, Don­ald “Jit” Stead­man, Carl­ton “Mimp” Fran­cis, Brooks Ban­ton, Wil­fred “Be-eh” Pacheco, and George Yeates. The band was first called “The Dead End Kids” be­fore its name was changed to Des­per­a­does in the 1950s

1942: Laven­tille lime­stone is used for the last time in the con­struc­tion of the Churchill-Roo­sevelt High­way. The road was built by the Amer­i­can Army to ease tran­sit be­tween Port of Spain and its base at Fort Read in Cu­mu­to.

1943: The Laven­tille Shrine be­came known as ‘The Na­tion­al Shrine of Our La­dy’.

1953-1954: The dou­ble tenor steel pan is born in Williams Street, Laven­tille.

1960s: Des­per­a­does changes im­age—no longer—bad­johns as band­leader George Yeates, man­ages to se­cure the spon­sor­ship of Co­ca Co­la for the band. By the mid-1960s, a new leader and arranger—Rudolph Charles—emerges and takes the band to dizzy­ing heights of achieve­ment and recog­ni­tion.

1993: Trinidad and To­ba­go In­stru­ments Lim­it­ed (Pan Land) be­gins op­er­a­tions in Au­gust. The most high­ly or­ga­nized steel­pan fac­to­ry in the coun­try, it is lo­cat­ed at the cor­ner of Do­ra­ta Street and East­ern Main Road, Laven­tille. The core busi­ness of the fac­to­ry is the man­u­fac­tur­er of the var­i­ous sizes of the steel­pan and re­lat­ed ac­ces­sories for the ed­u­ca­tion­al sys­tem and the mu­sic mar­ket.

1996: Des­per­does Pan The­atre and Com­plex is built.

1997: Tourism and In­dus­tri­al De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny of Trinidad and To­ba­go Ltd. along with the Min­istry of Works and Trans­port, the San Juan/Laven­tille Re­gion­al Cor­po­ra­tion, the Glob­al Friend­ship Fo­rum and oth­er agen­cies and in­di­vid­u­als worked with groups in Laven­tille to de­vel­op the area known as the Pic­ton Wa­ter Tanks in­to a park. This en­hance­ment project cul­mi­nat­ed with a huge com­mu­ni­ty cul­tur­al fair which show­cased the per­form­ing arts, hand­i­craft, and cui­sine of the Laven­tille com­mu­ni­ty.

1999: Laven­tille Youth Fa­cil­i­ty is of­fi­cial­ly opened. (It was built in 1996). The home of the Laven­tille Unit­ed School of the Per­form­ing Arts (LUS­PA), it is con­sid­ered a mec­ca of cul­tur­al and ed­u­ca­tion­al ac­tiv­i­ties, of­fer­ing class­es in drum­ming, danc­ing, and mu­sic lit­er­a­cy. It al­so of­fers a pre-school for in­fants and short cours­es in veg­etable pro­duc­tion, small scale cater­ing and oth­er ar­eas run by com­mu­ni­ty or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Sources: DR KAREN BART-ALEXAN­DER, The Po­ten­tial Con­tri­bu­tion Of Cul­tur­al Tourism To The Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Of The Com­mu­ni­ty Of Laven­tille In Trinidad And To­ba­go: An Ethno­graph­ic Analy­sis

GER­ARD BESSON, Caribbean His­to­ry Archives blog

AN­GE­LO BISSES­SARS­INGH, His­to­ry of Laven­tille in Trinidad and To­ba­go Guardian

FITZGER­ALD HINDS, Laven­tille West MP

ER­IC WILLIAMS, From Colum­bus To Cas­tro

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