It was a very emotional moment for 63-year-old Nona Aquan when she was inaugurated as the new Carib Queen.
The indigenous ceremony took place yesterday at the Carib Centre, Arima, in the presence of First Peoples and political dignitaries alike.
Aquan, full name Nona Lopez Calderon Galera Moreno Aquan, shook, cried and smiled in her seat as she was surrounded and blessed by pyai (shamans or religious leaders) from TT, Suriname, Guyana, Guatemala, and Guyana. She, along with First Peoples chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez, will work together for the leadership and upliftment of TT’s indigenous people.
The ceremony started with Aquan cleansing her face and hands with consecrated water before seating herself on a chair at the centre of a large carat shed as Bharath-Hernandez explained the history of the institution of the Carib Queen.
He said the mission of Santa Rosa was established for the First Peoples but some Spanish people, and eventually others, settled and ‘mixed’ with them. He said while the chiefs had the authority there was always a female elder who would be their Keeper of Traditions. However, in the 1800s there was a crisis in the male leadership and so the Carib Queen was sanctioned by the Roman Catholic Church.
Aquan was then blessed by the pyai. The smoke of incense and tobacco filled the air as the pyai, including 100-year-old Moruga Chief, Paul Navarro, prayed to the great spirits in their native languages, and blessed her by wafting and blowing the smoke in her face and on her body.
During the blessing by the Suriname contingent, the queen’s headdress was placed upon her head. She was then invested with special beads and a cape before several First People’s women held sacred palm branches over her head and sang spiritual songs in tribute to the queen.
Explaining the symbolism of the branches, Bharath-Hernandez said when Jesus was born and King Herod pursued the family as they fled, palm branches fell on Mary to hide her from her attackers. Therefore the branches was a symbol of protection.
For the last part of the ceremony, Aquan knelt in front of her mother to receive her blessing – a kiss on the forehead.
With tears in her eyes, Aquan told members of the media she was touched and overwhelmed to see and feel her connection to all the indigenous people in TT and abroad. In between numerous hugs, congratulations, and well-wishing, she thanked her relatives, friends and all other supporters for being at the ceremony.
Asked what she planned to work on as queen she said, “I want to see more things for the youth... get them more involved with the community because we are stronger in numbers. I think they should have a daycare for young mothers. There are a lot of aunties at home, providing (care) so the younger ones can go out and be comfortable.”
Arima Mayor Lisa Morris-Julian attended the ceremony. She said, “I am extremely proud. I love how the First Peoples took something so colonial and made it so much theirs. The queen of the First Peoples is not just a title. She’s going to be responsible for so many things in our community, keeping the children of the community alive, so I am very happy.”
There to witness the event were Permanent Representative to the UN, Pennelope Beckles; former culture minister Joan Yuille-Williams; Toco/Sangre Grande Regional Corporation chairman Terry Rondon; PNM PRO, Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing; and former minister of national diversity and social integration, Dr Roger Samuel. Also in attendance were visitors from the US, Belize, Dominica, and Japan.
The indigenous ceremony was followed by an inauguration mass at Santa Rosa RC Church, Arima.