A Brief History of Arouca
November 21, 2006
The village of Arouca is a small village situated in north-central Trinidad and is a few miles west from the town of Arima. The term "Arouca" is a derivative of the Arawakan word "Arauca" which refers to the Arawak clan as well as the group of Amerindian languages popular in the northern regions of South America before the language became predominantly Spanish after the era of colonialism. "Arouca" was ascribed as the name of a river, the Arouca River, as well as the region that encircled the river.
During the time that the Spanish had arrived and until the Cedula of Population of 1783, the Arawaks of Arouca had lived relatively undisturbed, largely due to the fact that the few Spaniards that lived on the island rarely explored that deep into the interior. However, after 1783, when Governor Don Jose Maria Chacon had invited planters from other Caribbean islands to populate and develop the island of Trinidad, the Amerindian population in Arouca suffered the indignity of being uprooted from their residence to a Mission for Amerindians on the banks of the Arima River.
The massive lands of Arouca were then occupied by estate owners Tablau and Chaumet and their workers, whose combined populations totaled about 802: 25 whites, 164 'free Blacks' and 603 enslaved Africans worked to develop various industries - 14 sugar mills, 2 coffee mills and 8 rum distilleries.
The population of the area grew steadily during the years to follow as census reports indicated: 80 whites, 196 'free Blacks' and 1,300 enslaved Africans. In addition to population growth was the addition of new industries, especially that of cocoa and plantain, which along with rum, became popular revenue generating items.
After the abolition of slavery in 1838 many ex-enslaved Africans from Tacarigua settled in Arouca. It is not surprising therefore, that Lord Harris designated Arouca and Tacarigua as the "Tacarigua Ward". Arouca still outnumbered many villages (including Tacarigua) in its immediate vicinity with the exception of Tunapuna. Arouca's large population was also considered when Lord Harris decided that Arouca would have a primary school. In fact, 1881 census reports show that Arouca was the only village at this time to have two government schools: Arouca Boys' and Arouca Girls' and two denominational schools; one led by a Roman Catholic body and the other by the Church of England (E.C.)
Although Arouca had become a relatively large village having 509 domestic houses, 53 commercial buildings, 743 agricultural laborers, 28 planters and 71 hucksters and shopkeepers, the introduction of the railway to Sangre Grande in 1898 quickly diminished the population by almost a thousand by 1900. Many people left Arouca to venture into the increasingly prosperous cocoa producing area of Sangre Grande at this time. The loss of Arouca residents to Sangre Grande, which had grown tremendously by this time, continued into the 1930s.
However, by the war years, the village of Arouca one again received an influx of people who may have found that the area was close to the American airbase in Comuto which was seen as a good employment opportunity at the time. Proof of the popularity of the base is indicated by the figures on the census reports: a jump from 1,231 persons in 1931 to 3,661 in 1946.
When the war (WWII) was ending, and the American soldiers were removed from their military base, other developments such as the construction of the Golden Grove Prison was underway.
By 1967, the Trinidad Government Railway that had brought prosperity to the village, was then gotten rid of to be replaced by paved roads for motor vehicular transportation.
Today, Arouca is no longer the agricultural giant that it once was. Most residents travel outside the vicinity to work and to shop. The population according to 1980 census reports was about 6,466 and has grown since then.
Although the village has lost some popularity, Arouca still remains a village that contains many pieces of the historical puzzle of Trinidad and Tobago.
Source: Towns and Villages by Michael Anthony