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The festivity of Santa Rosa, the patron saint of Arima and the Roman Catholic Church of St. Rose of Lima, has been sponsored by the Arima Roman Catholic Church since 1820. The Santa Rosa Festival is a vibrant and colourful celebration that takes place every year in Arima, Trinidad. I grew up in Arima and didn’t realize the significance of the festival until I migrated to the USA.
This festival is one of the oldest and most important cultural events in Trinidad and Tobago, and it celebrates the life of St. Rose of Lima, the patron saint of the town of Arima. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the origins, significance, and traditions of the Santa Rosa Festival.
The Santa Rosa festival is commemorated on August 30th every year in Arima, Trinidad. The Santa Rosa festival is produced jointly by the Santa Rosa Carib Community (SRCC) and the Santa Rosa Roman Catholic Church. The myth of the total decimation of Amerindians in Trinidad has been countered by the organization and revival of a group called the Santa Rosa Carib Community (or SRCC), located in the central town of Arima.
The Origins and Significance of the Santa Rosa Festival
The Santa Rosa Festival dates back to the early 18th century when the Spanish colonizers brought the devotion to St. Rose of Lima to Trinidad. The festival was initially celebrated in the small village of Caura but was later moved to Arima, where it has remained ever since. Today, the Santa Rosa Festival is one of Trinidad and Tobago’s largest and most important religious and cultural festivals.
The Festival’s Religious Roots and Amerindian Heritage
The Santa Rosa Festival is a mix of Catholic and Amerindian traditions, reflecting Trinidad and Tobago’s multicultural heritage. The festival has strong religious roots, with masses, processions, and other religious events taking place throughout the festival. However, the festival also celebrates the Amerindian heritage of the region, with traditional dances, music, and food being an essential part of the festivities.
The Santa Rosa First Peoples Community is the major organisation of indigenous people in Trinidad and Tobago. The Caribs of Arima are descended from the original Amerindian inhabitants of Trinidad; Amerindians from the former encomiendas of Tacarigua and Arauca (Arouca) were resettled to Arima between 1784 and 1786. The SRCC was incorporated in 1973 to preserve the culture of the Caribs of Arima and maintain their role in the annual Santa Rosa Festival (dedicated to Santa Rosa de Lima, the first Catholic saint canonised in the New World).
The SRCC is headed by its President, Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, who maintains a leadership role among indigenous organisations in Trinidad. The community is also the base for the Carib Queen.
The Amerindians were relocated to open their lands for settlement by the influx of French settlers brought in by the Cedula of Population and to separate the indigenous people from the newcomers (see: History of Trinidad and Tobago). Governor José María Chacón granted the Mission 1000 acres (4 km²) of land, and Governor Ralph Woodford added 320 acres (1.3 km²). However, as the Mission gradually dissolved, the state seized these lands.
The Santa Rosa Parade and Other Festivities
One of the most exciting events during the Santa Rosa Festival is the parade, which takes place on August 30th, the feast day of St. Rose of Lima. The parade features colourful floats, dancers, musicians, and other performers, attracting thousands of locals and tourists alike. In addition to the parade, cultural shows, traditional dances, and street parties take place throughout the festival.
The Reenactment of the Battle of Santa Rosa
Another important event during the Santa Rosa Festival is the Battle of Santa Rosa reenactment. This battle occurred in 1797 when the Amerindian community of Arima successfully defended their town against a British invasion force. The reenactment involves locals dressing up in traditional Amerindian clothing and using bows and arrows to “fight” against British soldiers. This event is a powerful symbol of resistance and cultural pride for the people of Arima.
The reenactment of the Battle of Santa Rosa is one of the most important and exciting events during the Santa Rosa Festival in Arima, Trinidad. The battle took place in 1797, during the period when Trinidad was a British colony. The Amerindian community of Arima, which had been living in the region for centuries, successfully defended their town against a British invasion force led by Governor Thomas Picton. The battle was a significant event in Trinidad’s history, as it marked one of the few times that an indigenous community defeated a British invasion force. The reenactment of the battle is a way for the people of Arima to celebrate their cultural heritage and their ancestors’ bravery in defending their town.
The reenactment involves locals dressing up in traditional Amerindian clothing and using bows and arrows to “fight” against British soldiers. The “battle” occurs in a field outside of Arima, where spectators gather to watch the reenactment. The event is incredibly realistic, with participants using traditional Amerindian hunting techniques and battle strategies to recreate the historic event.
The reenactment is not just a fun event, but it also serves as a way for the people of Arima to connect with their cultural heritage and remember the sacrifices made by their ancestors. The Battle of Santa Rosa is an integral part of Trinidad’s history, and the reenactment is a powerful symbol of resistance and cultural pride for the people of Arima.
In recent years, there have been calls to modernize the reenactment of the Battle of Santa Rosa, with some arguing that using traditional weapons like bows and arrows is outdated and potentially dangerous. However, many locals oppose changing the event, arguing that it is an essential part of their cultural heritage and that modernizing it would take away from its significance.
Regardless of the debate over modernizing the reenactment, it remains an essential part of the Santa Rosa Festival and a testament to the unique cultural heritage of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Future of the Santa Rosa Festival: Preserving and Celebrating Trinidad’s Cultural Heritage
The Santa Rosa Festival is an integral part of Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural heritage, and it plays a vital role in preserving and celebrating the region’s unique traditions. As the festival continues to grow and evolve, protecting its cultural and religious significance is crucial. By promoting and preserving the traditions of the Santa Rosa Festival, we can help to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago’s rich cultural heritage is celebrated for generations to come.
In conclusion, the Santa Rosa Festival in Arima, Trinidad, is a celebration of faith, culture, and heritage that reflects the multicultural identity of the region. The Santa Rosa Festival is a powerful symbol of Trinidad and Tobago’s unique cultural traditions, from its religious roots to its Amerindian ancestry and colourful festivities. As we look to the future, we must continue to celebrate and preserve these traditions.
Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago by Lise Winer
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