The crumbling buildings once home to a thriving sugar industry, would be transformed into a multimillion dollar Sugar Heritage Village and Museum—one of this country's latest tourist attractions.
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday unveiled a commemorative plaque to launch the Sugar Heritage Village and Museum project to be established at the site of the defunct Brechin Castle sugar factory in Couva.
The initiative of the People's Partnership Government is a joint effort led by the Ministry of Tourism and includes Caroni (1975) Ltd, Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism, University of Trinidad and Tobago, National Gas Company, University of the West Indies and the European Union.
Persad-Bissessar said, "In 2003 the former People's National Movement (PNM) regime closed down Caroni (1975) Ltd and this affected 9,000 workers and 6,000 cane farmers as well as their families.
The closure of the industry saw the end of the long and historic era of sugarcane cultivation in Trinidad and the fracturing of their social economic sugar culture that was profoundly entrenched in the lives of so many citizens."
And although it cannot be restored, she said, the great legacy of their hard work can be preserved.
"This project is proof that not only can economic diversification be achieved but it can also be achieved in a manner that preserves our local and regional history and cultural legacy while simultaneously propelling our agricultural heritage," she said.
Prof Brinsley Samaroo, chairman of the Sugar Heritage Village and Museum steering committee, said the former health centre on the compound would be dedicated to the sugar archives, while Sevilla House would be converted to a modern sugar museum as part of the National Museum grid.
He said three buildings have been identified for conversion into a conference centre and apartments to be used by researchers, conference guests and the public wishing to spend a weekend at the village.
The Heritage Village would consist of a restructured Brechin Castle sugar factory, showing the process involved in the recovery of sugar.
The restructuring would include traditional ajoupas used by sugar workers with the fireside (chulha) along with artifacts, Samaroo said.
And the steering committed has recruited five UWI graduates currently in the field interviewing all categories of workers of Caroni (1975) Ltd over the past decades.
Indentured labourer, 99-year-old Jahajin Samudarie, was among the guests which included Tourism Minister Dr Rupert Griffith.
Griffith noted that the project would not rely only on State funding, but also public private partnerships.