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Frontiers are artificial man-made constructs and what man makes another can destroy, improve or ignore. Many frontiers were fabricated out of nowhere during colonial days and in the Middle East and Africa we daily see the consequences of those horrible mistakes the Europeans made, some of which they themselves are now having to deal with. Good, payback time, however small!
Most of us do not realise that the people who live near on our frontiers do not take on frontiers. Just because some bureaucrat sitting down in his air-conditioned office decided this was Iraq and that was Iran and that was Israel, and there’s no such thing as Palestine or this is Venezuela and that is Guyana, means nothing to the people and families who have moved over the land as they wished from time immemorial.
Even where waterways form natural boundaries, people maintain contact. Trade and sex are powerful motivators. It is not surprising to learn that the people who live in Carenage or in Cedros have and have had intimate links with persons living on the “main” as my Uncle Mike used to say, he himself, born in Rio Chico, Venezuela, arriving in T&T by boat in the first decade of the 20th century. The military who patrol these boundaries know this. Many of them no doubt partake in mutual familiarities and this makes it complicated to maintain what we call “law and order.”
Since I know myself, I have known and seen and spoken to certain gentlemen, who shall remain unknown, who regularly appeared at our residence in Cobeau Town with “goods” from the main. In those days, goods meant whisky and cigarettes. Today it means something else and I hope Cobeau Town residents no longer participate in such activities.
An example of the ease with which traffic back and forth occurs is illustrated by this story from a friend from the 80s.
One Friday he and his family were invited by a local family of Venezuelans to go on a day trip to Venezuela. This family was in contact with a fishing village on the north coast of the Paria peninsula who wanted meat.
On the appointed Sunday, my friend and his family, wife and two children, duly reported to the boat dock with the Venezuelans and climbed on board their pirogue filled with a dozen “hog’s heads.” There was another pirogue going, with three gentlemen inside, one of whom was introduced as a ranking member of our police force. My friend felt a bit more confident about the outing after meeting him.
The trip, from village to village, took slightly over one hour. As they approached the bay, inside which was the village, they noticed a pirogue, bobbing up and down outside the entrance. It seemed to be waiting for them. When the pirogue noticed the Trinidadians, he rapidly approached, waving his hand as if saying “go back.” It was too late and as they turned the point, they saw a Venezuelan Coast Guard vessel anchored in the middle of the bay.
The three pirogues closed ranks. Activity on board the Coast Guard vessel commenced! Unshaved captain came out. Boat let down and they were boarded by an armed “teniente” and his machine-gun toting assistants. Chatter ensued. Spanish flying back and forth, including our Trini policeman, soon joined in by two village elders who arrived breathing heavily in their boat.
“Hogs heads” brought out for inspection. Sample taken to the captain. Bottle of rum appeared. Toasts all around and soon the Coast Guard vessel lifted anchor, the captain and teniente waved goodbye and they entered the bay and landed.
A good time was had by all before the boats returned that evening filled with crates of Polar. One of the “Trinis” from the second pirogue turned out to be the son of one of the village elders, with a wife in the village. Everybody understood English. Everybody had family living in Carenage.
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