MOUNTAIN VIEW: Panoramic view of Monte Video.

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Scenic, unspoilt Monte Video

By Louis B Homer South Bureau

Among the natural gems on Trinidad's north coast is the quaint village of Monte Video, which had its origin around the late 1800s.

The village developed shortly after the construction of Paria Main Road, which connects Toco to Matelot.

It was on completion of the paved, winding road, which passed through many cacao and coffee estates that 15 families with Venezuelan connections vacated the old village of Manantial and built their new homes alongside the new access road, naming the village Monte Video (Great View from the Mountain).

Manantial, which is about one mile from the village centre of Monte Video, is generally regarded as the highest point in the village and also the north coast.

Originally, the families had built their homes alongside the estate barracks on the lofty hill overlooking the valleys of Monte Video, where the Caribbean Sea with its blue water lashed constantly on black rocks perched like sentinels down below.

On a clear day, outlines of the coast of Tobago are visible.

Such was the healthy rural environment in which the peons from Venezuela lived for many years while they provided skilled labour to owners of the cacao estates.

For many years, the peons travelled backwards and forwards from the South American mainland as experts in cacao cultivation. However, the traffic ceased around 1921 when the price of cacao fell and many estates were abandoned.

With the demise of the cocoa industry, the villagers turned to small-crop farming, excelling in cultivation of plantains and bananas, while some are currently employed by CEPEP or the Ministry of Works.

Manantial and Monte Video are approximately two miles from the coast and nine miles from Toco. Between the two points, there are several villages along the sea coast.

Monte Video is the smallest village, with a population of some 120 people whose origin could be traced to early cocoa panyol families who came to Trinidad during the early 20th century to work on cacao estates in many parts of Trinidad.

The large estates in Manantial, such as La Cordia, Blacks and Nine Holes, were owned by Gordon Grant and Company, while the smaller holdings were owned and operated by the peons who came from Venezuela by canoe, landed at Matelot and moved inland.

Monte Video has five main streets leading to the village centre. Their names are Cox, Carabello, Zagayard, Korian and Malantial.

There are no supermarkets or pharmacies. Residents must travel from the village to Toco to obtain all necessary household and medical supplies.

Although Manantial (which means "place of many waters") is a village of the past, it still contains evidence of the glorious days when King Cacao ruled.

Still evident are a large concrete water tank, a dam for supplying water to the village, a cemetery and some remains of the old barracks.

Access to the area is through an unpaved track which passes through lush green vegetation, immortelle trees and forest, all perched precariously along the steep hillside that gave Monte Video its name.

John La Rosa, 70, one of the oldest residents of Monte Video, said his father came to Trinidad as a child with his parents, who were experts in cultivating cacao.

"From the time I was a child I was told that the village got its name from the beautiful view from the mountain. Everybody from the village cherishes that view. During the dry season, many families still go to Manantial to picnic or hike. It was our first home and we still have pleasant memories of the years we lived there before we moved down the hill to Monte Video," said La Rosa.

He said the cemetery at Manantial has the remains of three people from the village who died many years ago.

The first was a young boy who died after a tree fell on him; the second was a man who died by drowning; and the third was Monico Frontin, who left Venezuela to escape the revolution in that country but never returned to his homeland.

Monte Video, as a village that has established ties with the Venezuelan Embassy in Trinidad, has benefited immensely from that relationship. In 1968, the embassy built a primary school in the village and continues to maintain it in many ways.

"A few years ago they provided the school with computers and other electronic equipment for children attending the school. Every year at Christmas time, officials from the embassy organise a Christmas party for the children of the village." said La Rosa.

Social life in the village is centred on the school and churches. The old community centre, which was built in the 1950s, has been abandoned and there is little hope of a replacement.

In the meantime, the Seventh Day Adventist Church provides facilities to villagers to conduct adult classes and other educational activities.

The once-popular Catholic church, named the Church of the Ascension, no longer conducts weekly masses.

"Only a few residents attend masses. The last Roman Catholic priest in charge of the church was Fr Brendon Ryan." said La Rosa.

The Moravian church also fell victim to decreased membership.

"That was the first church which was built at Manantial. When the villagers moved to Monte Video they also moved the building, piece by piece, but now it close down."

Villagers are fond of a watercolour artist by the name of Marcellio, fondly called "Boboy".

Now residing in a home for the aged at Toco, Marcellio was a member of the Trinidad Art Society. He specialised in folk paintings depicting many aspects of life on the north coast.

His works included "Crab Catching", "Cross Cutting of Timber", "images of Folk Characters" and many of his paintings were exhibited at the National Museum in Port of Spain and Toco Secondary School.

Monte Video's assets are its people and the agricultural products which they cultivate along the steep hillsides. They welcome visitors with open arms and are willing to share the history of the village, especially Manantial, their first home.

Surprisingly, the population has not increased significantly over the years. At first there were 15 families, now that figure has only climbed to 20 after almost a century.

Whatever the deficiencies of this rural village, it is worth visiting. Many who have done so have found what they sought, while in some cases the steep hills have defeated others.

Those who have ventured to make Monte Video their home regard it as an incomparable place to live, work and experience the benefits of a clean and natural environment free from pollution.

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