Hyarima was said to be born around the beginning of the 17th century and was probably Nepuyo, which was a tribe of Araucan. He grew up in one of the northern encomiendas, but it was not clear if this was Tacarigus or Arauca. Around 1625, he escaped from the slavery and harsh conditions of the encomienda into the northeastern area of the island which was outside Spanish control.
Hyarima's military prowess, and relentless determination to rid his country of Spanish colonists made him the obvious choice for warchief. He was an able leader and a great warrior, and he soon formed military alliances with Amerindian groups in the neighbouring islands, as well as with Dutch traders in Tobago.
In 1636 and 1637, he joined with Dutch forces based in Tobago to raid Spanish outposts in Trinidad and along the Orinoci. On October 14th 1637 the most devastating attack was carried out against St. Joseph, the main Spanish settlement on the island. During the attack, the Church and town buildings were looted and burned to the ground, with significant loss of life. The destruction of the town forced the survivors to withdraw temporarily to the main land.
Hyarima was both feared and respected by the Dutch and Spanish forces, who referred to him as ‘the great Chieftain of the Nepuyo people’, and his military activity in the North East of the island was one reason why the Spanish authorities were never able to effectively establish control of this area. His fierce and profound hatred of the Spanish extended to the Church and its missionaries and he resisted their entry into his lands.
It is often thought that Arima was named after Hyarima, but it is more likely that he took his name from Arima when elected Chieftain, as it was Araucan custom to name their Chiefs and Caciques after the villages and settlements.
Hyarima the folk hero has many attributes of the man - a great warrior and chieftan who devoted his life to preserving the way of life of his people and to expelling the Spanish invaders from their ancestral lands.
HYARIMA THE MONUMENT
A statue of Hyarima is located in the heart of Arima on Hollis Avenue. It was unveiled on 25 May, 1993, in keeping with the theme The year of the Indigenous People (a declaration of the United Nations Assembly). It was designed and created by the versatile artist Selwyn Borneo of Malony Gardens, D’ Abadie. The statue stands thirteen feet high, its frame work is made of steel and the exterior is of a concrete type mix. The statue is finished in bronze paint.
Hyarima projects the image of the great warrior which he was, dressed in loincloth alone - bare back, bare foot and carrying a spear. The statue was placed in a rustic setting, symbolic of the forest glades of the 17th century Arima that Hyarima and his people inhabited.