The intriguing Orealla settlement
December 17, 2006
Deep in the heartland of Berbice, fifty miles up the Corentyne River , there is a tiny Amerindian settlement called Orealla.
One of the most intriguing places in Guyana , Orealla's population of seven hundred persons is almost exclusively Amerindian. Residents of other ethnicities are fewer than the fingers on one hand and their residency is job-related. Village life revolves around ancient, indigenous customs with remarkably few outside influences. It is a very close-knit community with an extensive network of family relationships. Villagers usually interact with each other with effortless familiarity and cooperation. Crime is virtually non-existent.
This makes life easy for one of Orealla's most prominent residents, Corporal Ishwar Lall of the Guyana Police Force. He hails from the capital city of Georgetown and he is the lone officer stationed at the Orealla Police Outpost. Except for investigating a few petty thefts and parting a few fights during celebrations, he rarely has any police work to do.
Lall notes that he works closely with the Orealla Village Council. He says on rare occasions when villagers report minor incidents to him, he would consult the Village Captain. Villagers would usually settle the matters by themselves without further police involvement.
Poultry and livestock rearing is a major activity in Orealla and many farmers there use guns to ward off wild animals. Lall says from time to time matters related to unlicensed guns arise, but there is no serious gun crime. He estimates that a serious crime only occurs in Orealla once every five years.
Orealla is remarkably self-sufficient and villagers need very few goods and services from outside the community. Cassava is the mainstay of the villagers' diet; they pick, boil, grind and bake the root vegetable to make “cassava bread”, which is a part of every meal.
Villagers use very little canned or carbonated drinks, preferring to drink fruit juices like sorrel and gooseberry.
Residents also prefer to consume homemade alcoholic beverages. Local wines are very popular there, especially potato wine, which is known as ‘fly'.
The overwhelming majority of Orealla residents say they prefer to live in the small, isolated settlement rather than the modern, urban areas on the coastland. One of the main reasons they give is that life in the settlement is cheap and peaceful. Many insist that they can live well in Orealla without any money at all.
Life in Orealla is refreshingly uncomplicated. There are hardly any oil-driven machines or motor vehicles so there is an abundance of fresh air. There is also no need to pay utility bills because most residents use solar panel electricity and freshwater wells. There are only a few public telephones.
Despite its overall rustic appearance, the village has several modern looking buildings like the health centre, primary school and churches, and VSO quarters. Most of the government buildings are large and made of concrete with modern conveniences.
The Office of the President recently donated four computers to students of the Orealla Primary School during a simple ceremony. The computers are in the Youth Choice building where residents expect to start a computer bank for persons interested in learning Information Technology.
Orealla is small and remote right now, but everyone in the settlement is convinced that it will one day make a significant and memorable contribution to Guyana in one way or the other. When visitors see the residents' friendliness and cooperation, they find it hard to doubt this conviction.