Extract from: Towns and Villages of Trinidad & Tobago
by Michael Anthony
Couva is located in the south of Caroni County in central Trinidad. It is one of the oldest sugar villages. It is sugar that brought Couva to prominence.
Sugar was not the first crop but cotton, but this was in the Spanish era where the settlement we now know today did not exist. The first British map of Trinidad (1797) was the only suggestion of such the name of a river in the area called: "Rio de Cuba". Since the Spanish "B" is often sounded as "V", the river was called "Rio de Couva," and later "Couva River".
The settlement of Couva begin a little to the north of the mouth of this river, although it seems that the settlement took life only after the establishment of Exchange Estate, a little distance away. The estate, which came into being in the early British period following the conquest of 1797, still exists. Part of its estate track became a stretch of the Southern Main Road.
The name Exchange Village", survives to this day, and it extends form the junction with the sign-board-where today’s Couva begins – to the premises of the old railway station, and on the site is "Exchange R.C. School."
The essential Couva stretches beyond Exchange Village to the point where the straight strip of the Southern Main Road makes a sharp turn to the left. The Couva road continues west and at this junction on the right, is the Anglican Parish Church of ST. Andrew, the Parish of St. Andrew was established in 1844. Because the area from the railroad line to the junction of Couva faced the church it is called ST Andrew’s Village.
Beyond the junction and continuing westerly on Couva Road one comes to Alexander Village and then to Perseverance Village. All of these grew up as separate estate settlements but now form the essential Couva. The road-leading westwardly beyond Perseverance meets the sea at Carli Bay.
Many business places today, from the inception of Couva has been on the southern side of the road. In fact, on this side is to be found all the public buildings and they all lie adjacent to the site of the old railway station. The railway reached Couva in 1880.
In 1880, the village was physically not much more that a clearing in a cane field. The population, chiefly of indentured East Indian Cane workers, with a small percentage of Africans, numbered no more than a few hundred. Yet, even then, it was a bustling, vibrant village. By 1921 it had grown to a population of 2,667, but in the 10 years up to 1931 this population fell to 1,895.
Today, although Couva has not grown to any considerable size it is still throbbing with life. For in 1980 the figure read 3,572. Its people have always depended on the sprawling sugar cane field around it, and a fair number of them have always commuted to the oil refinery at Point-a-Pierre, only eight miles away. Some of the other people from Couva who go outside of Couva to work, got the cement factory at Claxton’s Bay (Trinidad Cement Limited).
But great and exciting development around Couva is transforming the community. The great electricity plant towards the shore and the huge industrial companies have brought great changes to the western areas of the districts. Although the Iron and steel plant had been controversial, for the reason that it has not brought about expected benefits, and although the whole of the new industrial development in that area has been assessed by some to have been unsuccessful economically, the fact is that these new projects have brought to bear tremendous physical and social changes – and some insist, economic.
As you turn at the junction which we shall call ST Andrew’s Junction and head towards San Fernando it is easy to see what is meant by the expression: "overwhelming Physical changes." All the old cane fields between the road and shore have disappeared; changing the traditional view would have been seen 20 years ago. One can take note of the industrial estate, electrical power installations, and a housing estate. On the other side of the road too, in areas where cane fields had always held sway, is another housing development.
The bustling life of Couva has been greatly affected by the construction of the Solomon Hochoy Highway, which runs straight from the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway in North Trinidad, then through to Chaguanas and straight to San Fernando. In the past traffic for San Fernando and Port-of-Spain and places between had to use the Southern Main Road and therefore often passed through Couva, this is not so now. In spite of the increase in industries around Couva, it might be this highway that is responsible for Couva’s drop in population. Yet the new travelling system has not killed Couva, as many had predicted when the Solomon Hochoy Highway was nearing completion, nearly ten years ago.
Towns and Villages of Trinidad & Tobago by Michael Anthony