Joan Mendez, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration and Communications (fourth from right) stand alongside Government officials and members of the Merikin community in front of the Third Company sign on Moruga Road
Seven signs which tell the history of the little-known Merikin community, have been installed in the six Company Villages near Moruga, south Trinidad. The signs were unveiled at a ceremony at the Friendly Society Hall in Indian Walk, Moruga Road on June 14, 2017. Speaking at the ceremony were Dr. the Honourable Lovell Francis, Minister in the Ministry of Education and Member of Parliament for Moruga/Tableland; Joan Mendez, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration and Communications; Avril Belfon, Government Archivist; and Akilah Jaramogi, Merikin Heritage Foundation.
The signs provide basic historical information on the Merikins, formerly enslaved African-Americans who joined the ranks of the British naval services as Colonial Marines and who fought in the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. After the end of the war, they were granted land on which to settle in south Trinidad in 1816. They settled in areas according to the six naval companies in which they had served, hence the place names Fifth Company and Sixth Company. Although some places did not retain the original name, there are streets named after the original settlers.
“The story of this brave, resilient people has remained in the background of the mainstream history of Trinidad and Tobago, only transmitted by oral history and a few publications by dedicated authors including my father, John Milton Hackshaw,”said Joan Mendez, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration and Communications and Merikin descendant, in her address at the ceremony.
“The Ministry of Public Administration & Communications, through our National Archives Division has played an important role in collecting and making available documents that will promote further research on the Merikins. As part of the United Nation’s Decade for Persons of African Descent, the National Archives has committed to increase the collection related to this group.”
The installation of the historical signage was a collaboration of the Tourism Development Company, the Merikin Commission, Merikin Heritage Foundation, Merikin Inc., the Gospel Baptists Association of Trinidad and Tobago, the Princes Town Regional Corporation and the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago, a division of the Ministry of Public Administration and Communications. The painting of the Colonial Marine by US historical artist, Don Troiani was used with his kind permission.
The idea was born out of the 200th anniversary commemoration of the Merikins, which was celebrated in 2016. The signs not only aim to raise greater public awareness, particularly among the young generation, but also to be the impetus for social and economic growth in these areas through tours and related entrepreneurial activities.
Dr. the Hon. Lovell Francis, Minister in the Ministry of Education and MP for Moruga/Tableland with Joan Mendez, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Administration and Communications, and Akilah Jaramogi of the Merikin community at the unveiling ceremony.