These are the traditions enshrined in the Santa Rosa de Arima celebration as practiced by the Carib Community of Arima and handed down from the years when Arima was a Mission headed by Padre Jose Reyes Bravo a native of Venezuela:
These traditions have been retained through succeeding generations through the involvement of the elders, although some have not been practiced for various reasons within recent years. We hope however to restore them and to retain those we have kept, hopefully with the lull support of the church.
The Festival period begins with firing of the 6:00 a.m. rocket on August 1 of each year. The right to fire the 6:00 a.m. rocket is regarded as the voice of their noble Chief Hyarima by the Caribs of Arima. It notifies the community to start to prepare for the celebrations. This work it must be emphasized is “GAYAP.” This communal system was met by the early missionaries and encouraged by them in the establishing and operation of the “Cabildo” introduced to every New World Mission town.
The women would meet at the home of the Titular Queen to discuss what was to be done and when: This work schedule was based on their traditional tasks such as making fabric and paper flowers for the dressing of the canopy and church; sewing flags pennants and banners for decoration of the church and Lord Harris Square (opposite the church) and cleaning of the interior and surroundings. The latter mentioned has been reduced due to the modern operation of the church. In similar fashion men would meet to assign work teams for specific tasks. These were (a) Gathering firewood for the women assigned to prepare meals. (b) Cutlassing the cemetery which was part of their devotions, an original assignment sanctioned by all early church administrators. (c) Cleaning and cutlassing of Lord Harris Square in preparation for the Santa Rosa Festival.
Cutting of bamboo for utilising as containers of votive lights after being planted around the park; as flagpoles also planted around Lord Harris Square; and flower holders inside of the church.
From the earliest years the statue was taken from its storage in the Church to the home of the Titular Queen for cleaning and dressing by the women of the community. It was taken back before the start of the Novena, nine days before the Feast.
This statue, once held in storage, is now on the side of the altar, as was requested by us. We however would like it to be publicly known that this particular statue is the property of the Santa Rosa Carib Community and held in trust, and for its safe keeping by the Church.
For us it is both a work of art and a meaningful traditional artifact.
Also the statue of the Infant Jesus that is placed on the hands of Santa Rosa de Arima is also the property of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, and this statue was always kept by the community up uh4il the time when the present Queen (Justa Werges) was elected. The daughter of the late Queen Edith Martinez refused to give it to the community because of her disappointment in not being elected Queen.
The diplomatic tact of Father Malcolm Galt enabled it to be handed over1 not to us, but to the church. Although we have no quarrel with its safekeeping within the Church, we also want it known by the public and Church Authorities that it is the property of the Santa Rosa Carib Community. As in the case with the statue of Santa Rosa de Arima, we regard it as both a work of art and a sacred artifact, which is part of the festival, and is to be handed over to us during the period of preparation for the Santa Rosa de Arima Festival.
The particular incident with the statue of the Infant Jesus happened because the community never had written laws, and continued to us those handed down orally. Some people misconstrued and reinterpreted laws to suit their own ambitions and goals. We are now in the process of documenting these laws to be presented for and retained by future generations.
The lighting of the Lord Harris Square from dusk on Santa Rosa Eve was practiced from early years that is from the 18th century. All historical records including Father Harricharan’s “History of the Catholic Church in Trinidad” and relevant work of Father Anthony de Verteuil mentions the importance of all these traditions. Recognition and respect given by the (Protestant) British Governors as far back as Sir Ralph Woodford, inclusive of a gift for the young persons selected King and Queen for the Festival period by succeeding Governors has also been part of several historical works.
The use of Lord Harris Square for the non-secular activities such as dancing; exhibition of archery etc. was also documented and it was only in recent years such activity was divided between the square and the Queen’s house. It must also be emphasized that when early mention is made of the “Casa Real” it was when the Titular Queen and other persons of the Santa Rosa Carib Community lived in houses around the north, south and west sides of Lord Harris Square.
The “Feast. Day” changed from the 30th of August to the 23rd of August has been accepted by the community, and when it falls on a week day we would like to have a small procession around Lord Harris Square and the following Sunday (which in 1993 is the 29th of August) be the day for the ceremonial High Mass main procession through the streets of Arima, followed by the activities as described above.
It is also a tradition that after the procession and benediction, the King, Queens and members of the Santa Rosa Carib Community be guests at a small reception hosted by the Parish Priest.
The order of the Procession (which we would like to maintain) according to historical tradition is as follows:
- Cross bearer and Acolytes
- Parish Priest and other Priests (visiting or assigned)
- Carib Queen
- Queen of the Festival and banner bearing King
- Statue of Santa Rosa de Arima with members of the Santa Rosa Carib Community in distinctive apparel
- All other groups (Religious organizations, Boy Scouts etc.) and members of the public.
The Festival period ends the day of the undressing of the church which is usually eight (8) days after its dressing but dependant on how the days run it can be carried for a slightly longer period. After the undressing it is traditional that members with the banner would be formally blessed by the Parish Priest or his assistant. This officially brings the Santa Rosa de Arima Festival to an end each year.
When the Santa Rosa Carib Community requested that the statue no longer be locked away during the rest of the year but be placed in a prominent place during the rest of the year, the purpose was to stimulate greater devotion to Santa Rosa de Arima, who is not only Patroners of the Carib Community but of the entire area now known as “Greater Arima”. There are people who would like to make donations during the year which we believe will be of great assistance to us during the festival period. We would like some mechanism to be put in place to allow receipt of such donations. We believe that during the Novena period that people should be free to make offerings in the form of flowers, lights, oil or other related requirements.
We wish to point out that ours is not a singular tradition, and that parallel celebrations, maintained as described above are held in various former Mission towns of the Western Hemisphere or where devout immigrants i.e. Little Italy in New York city have settled.
Prepared by: Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez (President)
Jacqueline Khan (Secretary)
Elma Reyes (Research Officer)