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The struggle for community heritage

The struggle for community heritage

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by Oscar Allen 16.APR.10

200 years ago, in the closing days of colonial slavery, Diamond Village, 18 miles by road out of Kingstown, did not exist. That area was covered by estates. New Adelphi was the largest of these estates, with 200 enslaved persons and 640 acres of land. Nearby estates, Sans Souci and Mt. Greenan had more slaves but less land. In those days, the enslaved lived in “barracks” and huts on the estates.{{more}}

100 years later, in the 1911 census, 70 years after emancipation, Diamond Village appeared on the map. It was jammed in between Mt. Greenan and New Adelphi estate settlements but, along with “Lively”, it was registered as a village rather than as an estate settlement. I estimate its population then to have been around 500 persons, mainly West African people, but with some Madeira Portuguese and Garifuna. These bold women and men were building new moral communities away from the intimate control of “Masa and Misis”.

Taking another 100 years step forward to the year 2007, a citizens/residents meeting at the Primary School in Diamond discussed and formally approved a proposal to recover their history and build a community “Heritage Park”. On 12 or so acres of the New Adelphi estate, there were 3 old agro industry works, one of which was in a condition to be rehabilitated. The Park would become a living agro-industrial museum and an enterprise centre for villagers, managed by the community heritage association. This exciting project had been growing in the minds of some of the Diamond residents for a decade or so.

The New Adelphi site is associated with slavery, with the 1st emancipation century, and with recent village history. It is rich in”lore”. The “works at Delphi”, as villagers call it is also special. The St. Vincent Archaeological and Historical Society mentioned it in its 1973 document on “The Sugar Mills of St. Vincent: Their Sites”. Writing about the canal which brought water to turn the wheel and generate power, Dr I.A. Earle Kirby observed: “This canal head was at Romance in the Upper Three Rivers Valley. It passed through a tunnel to the Member Valley past Antoine, one branch to the left going over to Mt. Greenan Works, the other longer branch going round the head of the Mt. Greenan Valley, past Dr. Smith’s road and round to New Adelphi (Upper Diamond). A real engineering feat!”

One aspect of the heritage project was to retrace a large part of that canal and open up mountain trails for nature lovers and others.

RESISTANCE WRECKAGE AND RESOLVE

Diamond Village was taking steps to recognise and nurture its heritage. The heritage organisation recognising the potential of the site, approached the government in 2007 “to seek your (PM’s) assistance for us to secure tenure in property and early access to it”. The organisation met with the owners of the estate and expressed interest in the property, sought project support from the Social Investment Fund (SIF), and contracted a CD video version of the project. The current minister of Lands et al, Hon Saboto Caesar was a part of many of these initiatives. As might be expected, the SIF made its condition for support clear; the organisation must have some title to the land before the SIF could do business. This then – securing a right to the land – was the first step in moving the heritage effort forward. The organisation had in mind to enter into a leasehold agreement with the government, after the government would have purchased the property – or other appropriate arrangement. Now, although Prime Minister Gonsalves expressed an interest in the project and even put forward some suggestions for the administration of it, he refused to move forward on the one thing necessary, securing the site.

Meanwhile, two months ago, the owners of the property denuded the heritage value of the site. They pulled down the chimney stack of the main works, and they carried away “copper” cauldrons and the chiselled stones. The water wheels remain. (see photos above).

Our community heritage is battling against a coalition of disrespect in which the ULP administration is a strange but solid partner. Diamond Village, Lively and new Adelphi must launch another post emancipation struggle. Our foreparents are looking to us expecting, and our children too are watching and waiting.

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