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Stories by Lara Pickford-Gordon

Travelling from Arima along the Arima Blanchisseuse Road heading north, the visitor passes the Asa Wright Nature Centre. Further along the winding road one reaches “11-mile mark” where there is a beautiful lookout.

At 12 mile is the Paria Junction: one road leads to Brasso Seco, the other to Blanchisseuse. Continuing northwards to Blanchisseuse there is a “nice little village” sometimes called 15 mile but it’s official name is Morne La Croix.

This is how Joachim Pacheco described the community: “Lovely people, of Spanish descent…beautiful people. I taught all those children there. I know everybody there.” He is familiar with the residents being the former principal of the Brasso Seco RC School where the majority attended.

Sharing what he knew about the name and history of Morne La Croix he said:

“The possibility exists that early French or Patois speaking people of Blanchisseuse could have given a name to a hilltop before the arrival of Spanish speaking persons…. For tradition has it that a cross was erected by a priest on the hilltop to ward off evil spirits.” The name Morne la Croix translates to “mountain of the cross”.

Pacheco said the residents of Morne La Croix with surnames such as Diaz, Gomez, Mendoza, Valdez, Rondon are descendants of early Spanish-speaking settlers of Mamoral, Caura, Lopinot and La Pastora who owned land which they “worked from forest to cocoa estates as did many other persons with small holdings throughout agricultural lands”.

A common practice was the contract system whereby they agreed to bring a parcel of land to cocoa production over three to five years.

Pacheco related to The Catholic News about Mr and Mrs Ross, a stalwart Catholic couple from Morne La Croix. “In fact, the original chapel was built on lands belonging to Mr Ross and over the years they have been very faithful to Holy Mass. All parish priests, they would stop at Mr Ross and Ma Ross. I remember as children she introduced The Catholic News to Brasso Seco, I think it was three cents or five cents then. As children it was something we’d look forward to because there was the Aunt Rose page for a number of years, and we would follow that up.”

Mrs Ross promoted devotion to Mother Mary and encouraged the ladies in Brasso Seco to join the Fraternity of Our Lady. “Once a month, I think it was the second Sunday of the month the ladies would dress in white and put on blue ribbons. All the faithful Catholic old ladies, ‘ma’m (Miguelita Pacheco) that is my grandmother, plus auntie Vally (Valentina Gomez), all”.

“They were real faithful people”, he added. Roman Catholicism was dominant until other faiths e.g., Seventh Day Adventists came to the area in the late fifties and sixties. “Some villagers slipped away for a number of years,” Pacheco said.

The Catholic community worshipped in a beautiful tapia chapel on land belonging to Mr and Mrs Ross. For a short time, no Masses were celebrated owing to the dilapidated structure.

Pacheco said Fr Ross Mac Cauley OP recommended the renovation of the structure, but community persons disagreed because they preferred a new church. When the chapel was demolished however, nothing happened after. “That is why there is nothing there and the people have to go to the community centre,” Pacheco said.

He made it clear there is presently a thriving Catholic community giving full support to their parish priest. “They are very faithful”, Pacheco said.

Morne La Croix resident Gloria Gomez, 78, said she enjoys attending Mass because all the communities got together and there was love. “It was a pleasure when harvest time come everybody would come together and sell whatever they have to sell, and we would invite people from outside.”

One of her favourite memories was a visit from Archbishop Anthony Pantin CSSp when he stayed for the day.