Media given tour of Cinderella County's historical sites
November 22, 2002
While the early Dutch and English settlers may have abandoned Essequibo in favour of Berbice and Demerara they still left behind a rich history which offers sites for cultural and heritage tourism.
This was the view of Region Two's Regional Chairman Ali Baksh during a media tour on Tuesday of historical sites and other places of interest along the Essequibo Coast. The tour was one of three, organised by the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce to highlight Tourism Awareness Month observed annually during the month of November. Another visit will take place this weekend in the Rupununi.
Essequibo, Region 2, according to Baksh, boasts nine Amerindian communities, and 55 communities or villages in the Upper and Lower Pomeroon River and 79 communities or villages along the Essequibo Coast.
All the communities, he said have their own unique attractions with their own history, traditions and culture.
He noted that the region also has the Pomeroon River the deepest in Guyana and the Caribbean going to 102 feet. In addition, Region Two has a number of lakes, including the hot and cold lakes at Itiribisi, Tapakuma Lake and Lake Mainstay.
Now mainly a rice, provisions and cash crop area, Baksh said many Guyanese do not know that the Essequibo Coast at one time had some 33 sugar estates, with two of the country's three remaining brick chimneys still standing strong.
But it was noted during a visit to the Aurora chimney, which is found on the land belonging to Omeshwar Misir, that the site of the chimney is in need of proper care.
According to the National Trust of Guyana, the earliest recorded history of the chimney goes back to 1890, but there is a plaque on it which reads July 1908. There are indications that it underwent repairs to some sections.
Omeshwar Misir told Stabroek News that his main concern was that the chimney is close to the sea and when the tide rises it washes the base of the chimney and erodes it. He noted, too, that the base of the chimney is made of the `masala' brick and people would remove them. He added that more than ever there was need for a revetment to ensure that the chimney does not collapse.
The chimney as part of the factory was built close to the wharf in order to load the sugar cargo, and is some distance from the main road. Misir said he was willing to allow a proper roadway to be built so that visitors could access the site. Remains of the sugar factory still surround the chimney.
Other historical sites visited included a tomb in the yard of Ganga Persaud Williams, which was dug up for the media crew. The tomb is one of three found in the yard but is generally covered. William's wife, Drupattie said that in the past her late mother-in-law, Sumintra used to wash and dry the tombs and throw `blue-water' on it to appease the ghosts of those buried there so they did not harm her family.
Another tomb about 14 ft long and six feet wide at Colombia is found on the road shoulder and is said to contain the caskets of three adult persons and three children. Residents recalled that in 1975, a truck had crashed into the tomb and had damaged it at one end. It was then they saw the caskets. The tomb has since been repaired but the writing that was on it has been obliterated. Records indicate that in 1908 an Indian indentured labourer said the tomb was there when he arrived from India.
In relation to the tombs, Baksh said residents on whose properties they have been found have indicated their willingness to have the tombs fenced and to allow visitors.
Of significant historical importance is the St Bartholomew Church at Queenstown which was established in 1842. It was built in the shape of an upturned ship to represent the first ship that brought African slaves to the area and it serves as a reminder of the tragic circumstances under which they arrived as well as being a symbol of the hope which enabled them to survive. The African slaves first worshipped in a thatched logie and some of the logs used in the construction of that logie, are still found in the church, which also has a number of fascinating relics.
Visits were also paid to the Damon Monument at Anna Regina, the Damon Cross at La Belle Alliance and the Devonshire Castle monument which tells of the struggles of the African slaves and Indian indentured labourers who were forced to work on the sugar plantations in the area.
At Anna Regina the `High Bridge' still stands. It was built by the Dutch and punts passed under it to take workers to the backdam and to take back sugar cane for the factory.
Noting that some of the sites were not well maintained, Baksh said there have been suggestions coming from various quarters about beautifying the sites by planting flowers around some including the Damon monument.
At Cullen it was noted that a group of residents in that community under the leadership of Yasodra Badrunauth had planted a number of flambouyant trees along a half-mile of the Cullen Public Road. Badrunauth told Stabroek News that the men planted the trees while the women weeded and painted the tree trunks.
While tourism was important, Baksh said the region had not been able to budget for tourism projects in the past.
He hoped that money could be obtained through the Ministry of Tourism. He said that the region was willing to work with the Ministry of Tourism and others in the tourism industry to produce brochures and other educational materials to showcase what the region has to offer.