THE TEARS of joy and scenes of goodwill that flowed at last week’s inauguration of Nona Aquan as the new Carib Queen reflected the momentousness of the occasion and the powerful message behind that historic moment.
Aquan’s ascent is the continuation of an age-old tradition. She is the eighth queen following Delores MacDavid (1875-1908), Maria Fuentes Werges Ojea (1908-1962), Edith Martinez (1962-1987), Justa Werges (1988-2000), Valentina “Mavis” Medina (2000-2011) and Jennifer Cassar (2011-2018). This alone is indicative of the endurance and richness of a powerful tradition.
Among the issues Aquan may have to address are the questions of the State’s vesting of lands to the First Peoples, the need for stronger protocols to guide the handling of remains found at construction sites, and the raising of awareness of global synergies in the international community in indigenous peoples. But the new Carib Queen is to be congratulated for identifying her own chosen areas of focus.
“I want to see more things for the youth,” she told members of the media not long after the ceremony. “Get them more involved with the community because we are stronger in numbers. I think they should have a daycare for young mothers.”
The Carib Queen is not only a symbol, she is an advocate. She, along with First Peoples chief Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez, will work together for the leadership and upliftment of TT’s indigenous people who have contributed to the fabric of our society.
That contribution can be seen in the 11 languages they have left behind as well as 450 place names that litter the country (there is even some academic debate over whether TT is a Taino toponym). But more than this, First Peoples are a direct tie to the land we live on, its long and rich history prior to and after colonial conquest at the hands of gold-seeking European nations. Theirs is a history of resistance.
The month of October is a reminder of that defiance, marking as it does the anniversary of the devastating attack by Hyarima and his warriors on St Joseph, the main Spanish settlement, on October 15, 1637. Amerindians refused to submit to slavery and to give up their religion for Christianity. Hyarima himself had been a slave and escaped to a part of the island that was free of Spanish control.
For their courage, the First Peoples paid a terrible price. After the Arena Massacre, in which they used force to resist attempts to force them to build a church, 22 were hanged in a square.
This history of sacrifice, then, was the backdrop to the colourful scenes that unfolded last week in Santa Rosa. The new Carib Queen is the latest in a long line of individuals willing to give of herself to serve a bigger cause. We wish her the best of luck.