PRE-COLUMBIAN/ABORIGINAL CULTURES OF THE ISLAND
As far as the pre-Columbian background in terms of demography and aboriginal cultures, the Amerindians of the Caribbean area grew out of the tropical forest Indian culture, which extended all the way from the upper Amazon basin in Peru to Venezuela, the Guianas and the West Indies. They included two major language families - the Arawakans and the Cariban. According to our historians and the Arawakan Tribe dominated the Caribbean Islands. They were settled communities with agricultural based economies, and having well developed cultures. The Cariban societies never achieved the state of civilization displayed by the Arawakan tribes; they were more nomadic than the Arawaks.
Trinidad being the closest island to mainland, separated by just seven to eight miles at its closest point, obviously was the first point of entry or the gateway to the Caribbean. Our historical records show that Amerindian Peoples have existed in Trinidad for as many as six thousand years before the arrival of Columbus and numbered at least forty thousand at the time of Spanish settlement in 1592.
Trinidad was populated by several tribes, as it was a transit point in the Caribbean network of Amerindian trade and exchange. Amerindian tribes were referred to as Kalipuna, Carinepogoto, Carine, Arauca. Amerindian words and place names survive into the present: the Caroni and Oropouche rivers; the Tamana and Aripo mountains; places such as Arima, Paria, Arouca, Caura, Tunapuna, Tacarigua, Couva, Mucurapo, Chaguanas, Carapichaima, Guaico, Mayaro, Guayaguayare.
According to the records available, some groups had established settlements while others moved from place to place. Arima was not sited as having an established settlement but the Amerindians must have traversed this area. The historical overview ‘A Short History of Santa Rosa De Arima’ by Jean Patricia Elie, states, “...Arima was effectively Indian Territory. For most of the 16th and 17th centuries the district of Arima was the home of the Nepuyo whose active resistance to Spanish Rule effectively limited Spanish attempts to control and settle northern Trinidad. The best known of the Nepuyo was the war chief, Hyarima, who continuously harassed Spanish settlements from his base in Arima.”
The Amerindians developed the canoe, the bow and arrow, and the ajoupa. Amerindian cuisine is enjoyed by many Trinidadians: Cassava bread and Farine; Warap; barbecued wild game; corn pastelles; coffee; cocoa; chadon beni. Parang music, which is popular at Christmas time in Trinidad, is a hybrid of Spanish and Amerindian musical styles.