In the once hushed valley, neatly tucked away with the overgrowth of trees and plants and rich with biodiversity, existed the settlement of the Santa Cruz valley. At first, the area was settled by the indigenous Amerindians who had spread throughout the island, hailing all the way from the South American mainland. A peaceful life was slowly taken from their grasp with the encroachment of the Spaniards and French creoles who decided to use this fertile and lush land to establish cocoa and coffee estates, as land grants were given to them around 1785. This area became one of the most economically significant plantations in Trinidad.
What once was a thriving rural indigenous community became not only colonised, but also a pseudo battlefield. In many portrayals of this history, the Amerindians were illustrated as being aggressors, but they were triggered by the fact that their livelihoods were slowly being taken away from them and so they defended their territories. This was the case with Santa Cruz. With each new move by the Spaniards, the natives retaliated with their primitive weapons, which were no match for the supremacy of European artillery.
However, there seemed to exist a mutual truce between certain members of both social groups whereby they cooperated with each other. This was the case with the historical figure behind La Venezuela. This native worked alongside the Spanish in harmony, but was considered a traitor to his people as he exposed their plots of attack to the foreigners. In the end, to silence the snitch, the death sentence was required and so, he was murdered by his tribesmen for his betrayal. In gratitude for his work, the Spanish built the cylindrical tower with an effigy of the heroic Amerindian atop.
Some residents claim that the statue once held a bow and arrow which were stolen. Another believed there was an escape tunnel from the tower to the San Juan river dug by the Spaniards in case of rebellion. But who really knows? The valley is shrouded in mystery and history, as are many parts of Trinidad and Tobago, the stories and meanings of which we may never know.
We hope you enjoyed this segment of our ‘Know Your Country Tour’. If you have suggestions on artefacts, persons or sites to be featured next, let us know in the comments below.
For more information, check out Angelo Bissessarsingh’s Virtual Museum of Trinidad and Tobago on Facebook here: https://www.ttao.ca/news--info/the-story-behind-la-venezuela.