“And as the crucifix fell from his grasp I darted forward and seized it. That is the crucifix which you are holding, the crucifix oft used in our procession, which was in his care. You shall keep it daughters as the sad yet happy memory of eternal sacrifice.”
Brother Raymundo bestowing authority on the mythical first Queen of the Nepuyos and Arawaks, Anacaona, in the play by F.E.M. Hosein, Hyarima and the Saints.
- There is more speculation and interpretation over the origins of the position of the Carib Queen than there is indisputable evidence
- In the mid-1800s local historical writings make reference to a King and Queen of the Santa Rosa Festival, selected from the Amerindian population of the Arima Mission. As de Verteuil wrote: “The village of Arima was formerly, and for a long time, celebrated for its festival of Santa Rosa, the patron saint of the mission. On that day the Indians elected their king and queen–in general, a young man and young girl“(1858:301).
- De Verteuil further explained: “Once every year, they elected, with the sanction of the corregidor [the secular colonial authority of the Mission], a king and queen to preside over their festivities, and to act as their principals on solemn occasions” (1858: 300).
- Today’s Santa Rosa Carib Community maintains an elderly Queen who traditionally oversees all preparations for the Santa Rosa Festival, and, it has a system for electing a “King and Queen of the Festival Day”, under the authority of the senior Queen and President, and the younger king and queen are at least nominally charged with the responsibility for directing select men’s and women’s work tasks for the Festival
- There is no evidence to suggest that the largely religious office of the Queen ever supplanted the political office of King. Writing in the late 1800s, the Belgian priest, Father de Cothonay, who visited Arima, observed: “Up to our time, these poor people have conserved a simulacrum of a king. The last, called Lopez, died this year ….As he had no one to inherit from him, all the Indians gathered together and chose as king the relative nearest to the deceased. I have no details about him, but I know that he is a poor Indian who lives in a hut and has nothing royal to him except the title” (Cothonay 1893: 98-99). A male relative was thus appointed king, rather than the office passing to a queen.
- If the office of Queen emerged, or was reinvigorated, in the late 1800s, this may well have been in large part due to the substantial influx of Spanish-Amerindian Venezuelans into the Arima area.
- One of the Venezuelans’ and Spanish-Carib Trinidadians’ most popular religious rituals was, and in some cases still is, the Velorio de la Cruz (the Cross Wake) and La Cruz de Mayo.
- The Cross Wake, often held in honour of a patron saint, one of the most popular having been Saint Raphael, involved a ritual that structurally is very similar to today’s Santa Rosa Festival, though the latter occurs in public and on a larger scale (see Moodie 1993 for detail on the Cross Wake).
- The person in charge of the Wake, is the Ama de la Cruz, the family matriarch who is in charge of the ritual preparations and who literally “owns” and “keeps” the cross. The ritual also involves the decoration of the Cross, much like the decoration of the statue of Saint Rose for the Festival, and a procession around the exterior of the house (much like the Santa Rosa procession around the streets of Arima).
- The “madrina” and “padrino” of the household ritual known as the Cross Wake are structurally equivalent and functionally similar to the King and Queen of the Santa Rosa Festival.
- The Queen is structurally and symbolically the equivalent of the Ama de la Cruz: “Generally, the keepers of these images are women. If the keeper is incapacitated, another person, equally devoted to the saint, and who has actively participated in the organization of the fiesta, is selected” (Moodie 1993)