DANCING THE COCOA: Cyril Cooper dances the cocoa while a pupil shovels the beans into place.

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Pupils experience Spanish influence in Lopinot

The end of term field trip is always a welcome climax to weeks of studying and exams. Pupils get to enjoy time away from the classroom with their peers and teachers relax that stiff upper lip, just a little.

Form Three pupils of Penal Secondary School who study the Spanish language got a bonus field trip to the Lopinot Valley, one of the areas in Trinidad that has a rich blend of Spanish culture and heritage.

According to Spanish teacher at the school Sherry-Anne Bridgewater, the day spent in the Lopinot Valley was an educational as well as entertaining experience for everyone.

"The intention of having this type of field trip was to make the pupils more aware of the Spanish influence in Trinidad and appreciate the various facets of this cultural legacy in an original setting. We hoped that they being part of the day's activities would get them more involved in the Spanish language and culture overall."

It was a long journey from Penal to Lopinot but one that was well worth it as the winding road led to this historic destination. Martin Gomez, well known parandero and tour guide of the area conducted an informative and entertaining tour of the historic Estate House and surroundings. He showcased the life of Compte de Lopinot and the subsequent settlement and development of Lopinot. He paid special salutation to those who contributed to the life and times of the valley. Pupils and their accompanying teachers regarded this part of the tour as a huge benefit to them as Gomez spoke both the English and Spanish languages.

"We really appreciated the fact that Senor Gomez interacted with us in both languages. This gave our pupils the practice they needed away from the confining walls of the classroom. The presence of the historic dirt oven also generated much interest among the pupils and they spent much time taking photos of each other next to it.

The pupils also particularly responded to the musical instruments as Senor Gomez explained the origins of each. They got the chance to play the instruments in true parang style. Most of us were not even aware that some of our pupils were players of the cuatro, box base, toc toc and maracas. Their accompaniment to Senor Gomez's renditions of various parang songs was amazing."

Life on the cocoa estate has been an integral part of the history of the Lopinot Valley. Today, cocoa farmers still work large estates and produce the finest quality cocoa in the region. One such farmer is Cyril Cooper, President of the Lopinot/La Pastora Farmers Association. Cooper is widely known for his intimate knowledge of the cocoa industry and his expert cocoa dancing.

Cooper displayed cocoa pods from his century old trees. The pupils learned of the different varieties of cocoa and the stages of producing that unique tasting chocolate for which Cooper has become famous.

Of course the cocoa dancing staged by Cooper turned out to be the most exciting event of the day. As Cooper's feet polished the beans in dance, pupils shovelled the scattered beans into place.

Soon it was time for lunch and the small and charming Café Mariposa accommodated the young visitors in the relaxing ambience of this part of the valley. Tasty tortillas were the favourites of everyone.

Agua Viva proved to be another favourite place to stop because it afforded the pupils the opportunity to do some fishing. When the pupils discovered that they were really catching fish, teachers were hard pressed to announce that it was time to leave this beautiful valley and return to the Southland.

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