By Dianne A Cooper-Bancroft
On the beautiful scenic north coast of Trinidad,
Lies the village of my maternal ancestors and mine
Bounded by the Caribbean Sea and adjacent to Paria bay, La Filette and Lorne La Croix,
Your shores are washed by waves with white foam like soap suds,
Your name was derived from the French – it means washer woman.
You were a village where Patois was spoken by almost everyone,
“Bonjour macoumere, ca-qua faire?” “Mois la, Macoum, bonjour”
(“Good day nenen, how are you?” “I’m there, morning”.)
These were greetings heard every day in the past.
Sadly, no one speaks Patois anymore, and what a loss.
Elders spoke ‘their’ patois so children would not understand what was being said.
Now we’re ‘poorer’ for the loss of a language that was once ours.
Inviting, enticing sandy beaches adorn my village’s coastline.
Walking from Upper Village through Centre Ward to Lower Village
Is more romantic every time.
Marianne River and beach and the Spring Bridge that bounces
Are attractions for local and foreign tourists of all ages.
But the bay, cosiest and best, where we, as children bathed.
Down the steps in the Upper Village in my mind has always stayed
Jean Baptiste Bay, next to the site of the Old Government Primary School
is an excellent hideaway beach.
The Fishing Depot located left of the Old Government Primary School
is a favourite with fisher folk and family.
Many crowd the beaches close to their homes to have fun and frolic in the sun,
Fishing, swimming, diving, playing cricket, football or running races
are enjoyed by most young ones
The beaches were our gathering spaces for recreation, social interaction
And freedom in total abandonment
Caimete, balata, mango, cashew, pomerac, pommecythere, plums
Tamarind, Pois-doux, Portugal and more you supply in season
Coconut water, dried coconut, avocado, mammy apple.
Green and ripe bananas kept us strong and healthy.
Fishermen supplied copious amounts of varied fish
When fish was available, daily.
Corned fish, buccaneered by Auntie and stored safely
for when fish was in scarcity,
Tasted so delicious when seasoned and fried,
It made our mouths water as we waited patiently to eat
Cooks were ‘par excellence’, for their creative skills
were passed on from generation to generation.
Our village Church Harvest still held annually offers
Some of these unique dishes, during the August vacation.
Many villagers return from distant parts to partake of these delicacies
And we look forward to these reunions.
In our village, race, colour, or creed did not create barriers
And so we knew only harmony and love.
Everyone attended the only primary school and recognised and praised natural talent and hard work.
Similarly differences in religious beliefs were accepted as normal.
Whenever crusades, thanksgivings, funerals and our annual harvests
were kept, villagers of every denomination attended
Blanchisharians are a big family related either by blood, marriage
Friendship, godparents, godchildren, or just having been
Good neighbours or schoolmates
Families were sometimes quite large, households had at least ten or more children, so daily meals became family celebrations.
Strangers were recognised by all and accepted by all, if they were friendly.
Cousins were endless and the famous saying “cousins make dozens”
Often became a reality for many.
All scholars were highly esteemed – Sir Solomon Hochoy, Teacher Ray Watkins,
Dr Ambrose Dottin, Catherine Cooper-Reyes, Teacher Cecil, Victor Beatrice,
Ann Emma Debra Cooper, and many more.
There are so many achievers, very successful in their various fields,
And also their children – Lenore Saunders, Kenwyn Goden, the Cooper family,
The Saint Brice family, Dr Hilman St Brice, Loderique St Brice,
Karega Mandela, the Hill Family, the Joyeau family and the Fournillier family
You have surpassed all the boundaries set by all standards and stand tall.
All these achievers and more have made their mark in our blessed country in various fields
Even internationally, and continue to fly the country’s flag high.
We are so proud of them all.
They have all received the primary school foundation
At the Blanchisseuse Government School
Sadly they have been forgotten by the institution they were nurtured in,
There are problems in our village which we have all experienced.
But they are not insurmountable.
The road connecting Blanchisseuse to Arima is almost impassable
The high school does not offer Home Economics or Agriculture to our children. How regrettable.
Many parents seem unable to motivate their children to study, this saddens me.
Parents must provide for their children and make them want to succeed;
Praise when earned and giving examples of past achievers is indeed needed.
Beautiful, coastal village, Blanchisseuse, home of my maternal ancestors birth,
You are the foundation of my search for the truth.