AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Piero Guerrini, and 28 years ago, I came to Trinidad for ten days. I’m still here.
I come from Grande Riviere, but I was born in Italy.
My father used to be a coalminer in Belgium and he would talk about how wonderful it was for him, as a young man, to go from Italy to a different country. He always passed me this idea of travelling. Since I’m 20 years old, I’ve been travelling.
I became a photographer, because it combined my lifestyle and my desire very well. I travelled so much.
Until I reached Trinidad and Trinidad chose me. From the first day, it was love at first sight.
I’m vegetarian. I’m against industrial food.
My life has been divided into three parts.
I was a photographer and then I was a hotelier on the beach.
Not many people know the first part: I was a professional footballer. I used to play No 10. Of course. Long hair.
Everybody said Piero is going to be a great footballer. I had big promise in Italian football. I tried for Juventus, Bologna.
I got a back injury when I was 19 and start to have problem.
My only child, Aurora, 23, started doing a masters degree on a scholarship at Oxford and her professor said, “You can skip the masters and go straight for the PhD.”
I’m very proud of her achievement.
She is the president of the Conservative Students Association. I don’t know, maybe she rebelled (against me) by becoming a conservative. She tells her friends her dad is a hippie.
I lost my father two years ago and, to be honest, I was losing my way.
I was single, frustrated, working all the time. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sleeping well. I had gained some weight.
And then, in two wonderful months with my mother, she told me all the things she hadn’t before. How my parents met, what they did together.
When I came back, I start to think, “I need not to be alone any more.”
And then I met Sali. The lockdown gave us the possibility to really get to know one another. She is my “one.”
You have to go back to who you are, the person you really are. You have to not be afraid to (allow) yourself (to come) out.
I lost 20 lbs.
Now I am the Piero I know I wanted to be. Now I sleep well.
Every year, as a photographer, I did a series called, “The World of” (that year’s Nobel Literature Prizewinner) and so I came to Trinidad to photograph Derek (Walcott).
The year before, I’d gone to South Africa, when Nadine Gordimer had won the prize.
Back then, the “BeeWee pass” (let you) go in all the BeeWee destinations for US$300. So I went in 14 different islands.
But Trinidad was immediately, immediately, the place I was looking for.
I had a part in Damian Marcano’s short film Cheese, but I don’t know anything about music or movies after the 90s.
When I go to show her a film, Sali always asks, “And how old is this one?”
At Maria Regina Prep School, there was every possible race and class of child.
Brian Lara daughter was in class with my daughter. In another country, a person like Brian Lara would have fans (smothering him).
Here, he’s just like a normal person. And there were kids of security guards, working class people, whatever.
I always tell Aurora she should be thankful to grow up in such a wonderful environment.
(During) my trip to Trinidad, the Mt Plaisir Hotel property became available.
When the owner saw the white man, she doubled the price, but she accepted my counter-offer and we opened up that December.
We only had three rooms at first and there were a lot of setbacks. The beach was almost completely washed away, and the hotel.
Two qualities, patience and resilience, were missing in my personality.
I’m very happy Trinidad taught me patience. I used to be very stubborn. (Trinidad has turned) that stubbornness into resilience.
The people of Grande Riviere, they adopt me, they accept me, they help me, they support me.
They still do. It’s amazing.
They say home is where you feel loved and protected and that for me is Grande Riviere. I sleep with door and window open, even in these days.
My story with turtle: I arrived in Grande Riviere in August and there were no turtle and I thought people telling me about these huge turtle coming to the beach were exaggerating about their size and number.
The first time I saw a turtle was on my birthday, February 27, 1994, with my father, and I was astonished by the size! I lay down on the sand to compare my size and she was bigger than me.
When I came, the beach had 2-4,000 turtle per season.
I encouraged the people of the village to protect the turtles and they really got organised on the right track.
After 27 years, Grande Riviere, with 30-40,000 nesting per year, is now considered the leading place in the world to watch leatherback.
I had so much expectation of the new post-covid world. I thought our government would see some new light but, no, they are blind and continue to go down the same road.
A UNESCO Heritage Site (status) for the beach would bring more exposure and financing.
But, unfortunately, the government is focused on different things.
Life always is full of surprises.
I love Carnival and my desire is to photograph it in a way that hasn’t been done before. I was getting into Carnival when Peter (Minshall) was active. He was the only one who captured my desire to free myself.
I did M2K and Lost Tribe.
I don’t take part any more. It doesn’t grab my gut. The soul of Carnival has been lost somehow. (Younger people today) don’t know what we used to have in Carnival.
Before covid, I would walk in Port of Spain, just to look at the people. You see this beautiful face, this incredible combination of every possible race. Chinese/black, Indian/white, any kind of whatever. I still love it.
(After) Covid, I see people being very unkind. Not the Trinidad that I know.
Instead of me going to look for people, people started coming to my little universe, artists, interesting people coming to stay.
VS Naipaul spent two days with me in Grande Riviere and he was absolutely wonderful! I’m probably one of the few people in the world who have this sweet idea of VS Naipaul.
Sir David Attenborough has been several times. Peter Doig became famous through the work he did in Grande Riviere. Chris Ofili. Margaret Atwood, a birdwatcher, came for the birds.
Grande Riviere still remains that source of inspiration for so many people.
I’m very happy I still have this romantic idea about Trinidad. All the barbarian attitude of the society has not affected me yet.
(Late poet and newspaper writer) Wayne Brown described the Trinidadian as “the people who laugh.”
My friend from Miami asked, “Why people laugh so much here?”
I say, “That’s how they are.”
And in Conde Nast Traveller magazine, a writer said, in Trinidad, you see people in the morning, happy to be listening to the birds. (For me, then) a Trini is a person who laughs and is happy just to be alive.
In the ten years before I came to Trinidad I went to, I think, 65 countries. In Hong Kong, in Kenya, other places, I was considering to stay a long time.
To me, Trinidad and Tobago was the one place that I felt at home for the first time. Trinidad is home.
Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com