C aura, which is an adaption of the Arawak word 'Cuara', is unique because it no longer exists. The region, the Ward of Caura, is still known by that name, however the old historic village has disappeared. This settlement, which lay in a valley along the Tacarigua River and some five miles north of the Eastern Main Road, in now just a place of silence and the ruins of concrete, and a broken dream.
Caura, was an Arawak settlement, which came to notice in the Spanish days. An early Spanish traveller 1790s was amazed at what in his opinion was a totally 'backward life'. There were saw there 29 -ajoupas- Arawak houses, and 187 persons. The traveller went on to prejudicely describe the Amerindians as 'lazy and not interested in anything, cultivating just enough food for their own sustenance'.
Following the influx after the Cedula of 1783, Governor José Maria Chacon saw it fit to grant land in this valley, to the incoming settlers. These people, mainly French and all Catholics and in company with their African slaves,opened estates in the Caura valley.
When the British captured Trinidad in 1797, nineteen lots were marked out, represented a strip which began from the entrance of the Caura Valley and leading right up to the headwaters of the Tacarigua River, which from this point became the Caura River.
Because of the coolness between the mountains, Caura attracted a number of settlers and they very soon began to open up cocoa and coffee estates in the region. Due to its seclusion the Spanish and French culture flourished as if Trinidad had never changed hands.
In 1849 Lord Harris, dividing the island into counties and wards, created a ward out of the old Spanish partida of Caura. By 1871, it was amongst the largest of Trinidad villages, with a population of 989 in that census year. By 1881, the population rose from 989 to 1,467.
The children of Caura, who spoke both Spanish and Patois, had a chance to learn English, for as early as the 1860s there was a school in the village. The fact that Caura had a school at that time says a lot for this remote village.
In 1881 the earthen track from the Eastern Main Road to the Heights of Caura (where Caura village was located) was widened and made into a an unpaved road. The valley was one of the healthiest localities in Trinidad and with the production of Cocoa the population expanded. In 1881 the population stood at 1,467. The infant mortality rate in Caura was three percent, as against a mean average of 22 percent for the whole of Trinidad. The majority of its villages comprised a people of mixed blood; typically, they had a strong African base, but their Spanish and Amerindian traces could be seen.
In 1894, when its old Roman Catholic Church gave way to a new one, dedicated to Santa Veronica. From then on the village of Caura became known as La Veronica, after this Patron Saint. This was very convenient as it served to distinguish the village Caura from the Ward of Caura
In 1943, the government, under Governor Sir Bede Clifford, acquired all the lands in and around the village of Caura or La Veronica. The purpose of this was to build a dam to supply the entire north of Trinidad with water, according to the authorities. The plan including the damming of the Caura River and construct a 300-acre lake in the area that was the village. This meant that the village had to be destroyed and its thousand-or-so inhabitants had to go. On November 4, 1945, the church, the presbytery and the school were all dynamited. By 1946 all the people and all the buildings had been cleared from the Caura site and workmen began laying down the foundations of the dam.
This was as far as it reached. For the work was plagued with controversy and conflicts among its officials. There were charges of graft and bribery and corruption involving even the governor, Sir Bede Clifford, a good number of expatriate staff such as the Director of Public Works and all sort of “experts” and “advisers” running through all ranks. Expensive machinery imported for the dam lay rusting in the sun and rain.
It was the biggest financial scandal this country has ever known, up to this date. In April 1947, new governor, Sir John Shaw within a year the project was declared abandoned. All that was to be seen at that stage in what was formerly Caura Village, was a unfinished pump-house, water sluices, gaping excavations and even more machinery (newly –arrived) joining the other that were rusting away in the sun and rain.
The Department of the Government’s Ministry of Agriculture attempted to make part of the Caura surroundings into a beautiful park. The people of old Caura (La Veronica), many of whom still survive and live in nearby villages however will never forgive the authorities for uprooting them from their homes to carry out needless destruction.
Towns and Villages of Trinidad & Tobago by Michael Anthony
Atilla's Kaiso: A short history of Trinidad calypso by Raymond Quevedo
West Indian & their Language by Peter A Roberts
Calypso & Society in Pre-Independance Trinidad by Gordon Rohlehr
British Historians and the West Indies by Eric Williams