Maybe one of the best-known places in Trinidad, which at one time was amongst the most remote, is Mayaro. But this, the largest village in Trinidad, and so unusual, so different from all the rest, is hardly ever seen on the map. Most maps of Trinidad show Pierreville, which is certainly in Mayaro, but Pierreville is not Mayaro. A plea made some two years ago to our mapping division to recognize Mayaro as a village has not had any success.
The ironical thing is that most times when the word “Mayaro” is seen on the map it is as the county, although the name of the county came about because of the village Mayaro. When in 1849 Governor Lord Harris divided the island into counties and wards he had no idea of what the Mayaro region was like; he could not visit it, for there were no roads that led to the east coast. In fact the whole of the interior of the country was covered with impenetrable forests and the only highway to get to Mayaro was the sea. But Lord Harris, inspecting the map and seeing a lone village in the southeast called Mayaro, marked out a county containing it and gave it the name: Mayaro.
This county, a sweep of land 150 square miles in area, took up the entire southeastern corner of Trinidad, with Guayaguayare being the only other village. Guayaguayare, snuggled in the deep bay of Galeota on the southern shore, is 16 miles from Mayaro. Lord Harris divided County Mayaro into two wards, and the odd thing he did was to call the one containing Mayaro, “Guayaguayare Ward,” and, falling into the error of believing that the Trinity Hills really existed and were in the area of Galeota, he called that ward: “Trinity.”
But it is the village of Mayaro that concerns us here. What is Mayaro and where does the name come from? The name, which is Arawak, is said to mean the place of the maya plant, although the maya plant itself is unknown today. Mayaro came into recorded history in 1690 when Capuchin priests from Catalunia in Spain arrived at Trinidad, at the request of a Spanish governor, to convert the natives to the “Holy Roman Catholic faith.” They founded missions, some of which have today become well-known villages such as Savoneta, Mayo and Tortuga, San Rafael and Princes Town, as well as the very first mission to be founded, Purísima Concepcion de Naparima, now the City of San Fernando.
These brave missionaries spent three years at this task, founding missions, with sometimes just one remaining behind and the rest moving on to search for natives to convert. Sixteen of these missionaries had arrived at the Arawak village of Naparima (now San Fernando) in 1687 and in 1690 the last two of them reached a large Arawak village on the east coast. Happily they built a mission church here. But what did the Arawaks call this place? They called it “Mayaro.” Although no one can tell what became of the original mission church, one knows exactly where it was, because it is still the site of the Mayaro Roman Catholic church.
Mayaro, now 317 years since it came into recorded history, seems to have grown more in the last 60 years than in all the time before. It has become one of the fastest-growing areas in Trinidad due to the oil and gas off Punta del Galeota, at Guayaguayare.
There is no dispute as to whether it is the largest village in Trinidad. It is this many times over because of its different settlements — St Joseph, Beau Sejour, Plaisance, Beaumont, St Anns, Radix, Ste Marguerite, Lagon Doux, Grand Lagoon, and Lagon Palmiste. These were all former estates, except Grande Lagoon and Lagon Palmiste. They are all along the coast and give Mayaro 11 miles of beach. Pierreville, the village centre, sprang up on Plaisance Estate. The entire inhabited area of Mayaro village is approximately 15 square miles. All these estates were originally granted by Governor José Maria Chacón under the Cedula of Population of 1783. He made these grants to French royalists along the then remote and inaccessible Mayaro coast, mainly to keep them away from their bitter enemies, the French republicans.
The essential and historic Mayaro, which is the Mayaro where the mission church was built in 1690, is in the area of the Mayaro Roman Catholic church, on what became Radix Estate, and later, just Radix. The population of Mayaro Village, which was only 403 in 1797 and about 4,000 in the census year 1946, is now in 2007, about 15,000 by rough estimate. This figure does not include a “fluid” population of oil-workers and holiday makers.
Copyright NALIS, 2008