Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Conquerabia



sun, sea, native peoples
 
Conquerabia is one name recorded for the area of mudflats first settled by the Amerindians. This place was made a port by the first Spanish settlers, Puerto de los Hispanioles, later changed to Port of Spain. To its west was an area known as Cumucurapo (present day Mucurapo) - place of the silk cotton tree. (See http://voicesoftrinidadandtobago.com/port-spain/history)

my favourite icon in Chang's mural

In 1961, artist Carlisle Chang created the mural for the Port of Spain Town Hall and called it Conquerabia. Just north of Woodford Square, it is worth seeing anytime you are in the city.
Port of Spain Town Hall: the mural is at ground level, behind those stairs

This week, instead of walking in the dry season woods, I walked in Conquerabia, where the layers of history rest ever so lightly, ignored by the car and people traffic thronging the streets. One of the oldest cities of the new world, Port of Spain would so easily erase its past. Bigger, higher, unventilated,  edifices of power overshadow vestiges of slower less tumultuous times.

Port of Spain was always a walking city for me. From the Savannah to Independence Square is a stroll past the shops of Frederick Street. On Carnival days, you can circumscribe the city, from Woodbrook to Piccadilly to the Savannah without noticing. 

The city that is still a port has slowly turned its back to the sea, that virtually land-locked lake that was a breeding ground for all manner of fish.  The Gulf of Paria surely puzzled Columbus for its sweet water, overflow of the great Orinoco. Today, what swirls in the Gulf should not be countenanced: oil spills from La Brea, plastic run-off from the Northern Range rivers, tankers lining the horizon.

But Conquerabia as recorded by Chang, remembers the sea. In his mural, he has set in stone the story of this place: its Amerindian past, and the flowing together of the tribes of the world between the Dragon's Mouth (north) and the Serpent's Mouth (south).

To see Port of Spain through all its layers of the past 500 years, start here with Conquerabia at the Town Hall. Walk through Woodford Sauare and south on St Vincent Street until you face the sea. 

Dragon's Mouth

Building styles of those who came to these isles

Confluence of streams

Serpent's mouth

legend of Carlisle Chang's mural

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing and revoking the memory of one of our very best artists!

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  2. Thanks for this Pat.

    What part of Spain is this Port of Spain?
    http://jouvayinstitute.blogspot.com/2013/09/to-be-witness.html

    ReplyDelete