Monday, May 15, 2006
Trini Tuesday-Coat of Arms
The Birds represented on the Coat of Arms of Trinidad and Tobago are the Scarlet Ibis, the Cocrico (native to Tobago) and the Hummingbird. The three ships represent the Trinity as well as the three ships of Columbus. The three Peaks were principal motifs of Trinidad's early British Colonial Seals and Flag-Badges. They commemorated both Columbus' decision to name Trinidad after the Blessed Trinity and the three Peaks of the Southern mountain range, called the "Three Sisters" on the horizon. The fruited Coconut Palm dates back to the great seals of British Colonial Tobago in the days when the Island was a separate administrative unit. (http://www.nalis.gov.tt/Independence/NatSymbols.htm)
Alright now, this one little coat of arms contains a lot of information in it. Let's tear it apart a bit. First let's look at the birds. The Scarlet Ibis is a very interesting little critter. It roosts in Trinidad but flies to Venezuela each morning, limes around on the mainland feeding, then flies home to Trinidad each night. At their closest points, Trinidad and Venezuela are only 7 miles apart. The best place to witness this daily migration is Caroni Swamp at dusk. If you go, make sure you have bathed in some industrial strength mosquito repellant and don't take your tots as the mosquitoes will enjoy some fresh meat when you go and they look big enough to carry off small children. As for the Cocrico, it is interesting to note that it is found both on the sister island of Tobago, and in Venezuela, but NOT on Trinidad. It's strange because Trinidad is situated squareley between Tobago and the mainland. The hummingbird is so prevalent that the Amerindian name for Trinidad, Kairi, means 'land of the hummingbird.'
Onto the name and Columbus. All you Spanish scholars should know that 'trinidad' translates to mean trinity. Trinidad was 'discovered' by Christopher Columbus on his 3rd voyage to the New World. He had already decided beforehand that whatever he found would be named in honor of the Holy Trinity. As he neared the island and saw the 3 peaks of the southern mountain range he believed this to be divine confirmation of his plan.
Coconut palms are obviously prevalent throughout the tropics. In Trinidad, as I'm sure in other parts of the world, they are used a bit differently than we generally use cocunuts in the US. We usually see small, hard, brown nuts in the grocery store. Crack them and dig out the hard meat to use in desserts. Or skip the pain and by shredded, sweetened coconut...blech.
I much prefer the Trini way. The hard nuts are used to make coconut bake, a heavy bread. The meat is ground up, hot water poured over it and milk is derived. The milk is used as the liquid when making the bread.
Green nuts, which are much bigger than what you find in a our local stores, are carried by the truckload into town (Port of Spain). When you're dying of thirst, for a bit of change, the vendor will deftly hack off the top of the nut with a few whacks of his cutlass and then put in a straw. A full nut of refreshing coconut water is a great way to cool off. By the way, coconut water is an excellent dehydration remedy, nature's Pedialyte or Gatorade. It's also been used as a replacement for blood plasma. After you've emptied the nut of its water, the vendor will crack it in half and chip off a bit off the husk as a spoon. Then you can scoop out the soft layer of jelly for a bit of a snack.
Just a little Trini trivia for Tuesday. Have a great day!