Home / View Point / One French Creole’s revision of T&T history: Why De Verteuil’s Laventille rant is dead wrong

One French Creole’s revision of T&T history: Why De Verteuil’s Laventille rant is dead wrong

“It is clear that R De Verteuil was referring to Afro Trinbagonians when she criticised Laventillians. Not once did she mention the contributions of Africans to the development of Trinidad and Tobago.

“She praised the Indians, the Chinese, the Syrian/Lebanese community and, of course, her people the Europeans. The contempt for people of African descent is palpable.”

The following Letter to the Editor was penned by Cecil Paul and Gerry Kangalee and first published by the National Workers Union:

Photo: Spectators at the Morvant Recreation Ground look on as Morvant Caledonia United host San Juan Jabloteh in Pro League action at the Morvant Recreation Ground on 16 October 2016. Jabloteh won 4-2. (Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
Photo: Spectators at the Morvant Recreation Ground look on as Morvant Caledonia United host San Juan Jabloteh in Pro League action at the Morvant Recreation Ground on 16 October 2016.
Jabloteh won 4-2.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

We refer to a letter to the editor in the Express of October 27, 2016 in which one R De Verteuil is “sick and tired” of Laventillians complaining “about how neglected and disadvantaged they are, and how much more money the government should throw in their direction.”

She said “we all came from different parts of the world without a penny and a lot of hard work was required from the first settlers who cleared land and planted.” She continued that “those who settled in Central Trinidad worked hard, ate flour and water, channa, pumpkin, potato and bodi—to educate their children etc.”

De Verteuil then wrote that “the Chinese came with a sack on their back, opened shops etc; worked hard and made their way in the world.” She then praised the Middle Easterners who “came and started off on bicycles, with suitcases of fabric. Look where they are today.”

Ms De Verteuil then stated that “Some of us of European stock started out without a penny” and said that her ancestors were killed by republican revolutionaries during the French Revolution over 200 years ago and mentioned reimbursement if her relatives were to demand reparation.

She revealed her work history from the age of 17 starting with a typist job and small salaries and described herself as a descendant of French Creoles. She went on that she had neither government housing nor any of the assisted peoples’ programmes except for paying her NIS and other statutory payments which are mandatory and paid for her mortgage and never used the general hospital.

Photo: A French Creole family in New Orleans. (Courtesy Frenchcreole.com)
Photo: A French Creole family in New Orleans.
(Courtesy Frenchcreole.com)

The only freeness she said she got from the government was two years of A-Level education.

De Verteuil finally called on the “lazy touts to get off your butts, get an education, get trained and start working like everyone else, stop waiting for hand-outs which only encourage laziness!”

It is clear that R De Verteuil was referring to Afro Trinbagonians when she criticized Laventillians. Not once did she mention the contributions of Africans to the development of Trinidad and Tobago.

She praised the Indians, the Chinese, the Syrian/Lebanese community and, of course, her people the Europeans. The contempt for people of African descent is palpable. It’s nothing new and it isn’t going away any time soon.

Enslaved Africans came to this country in chains far less “without a penny.” The French creoles came here, fleeing the Haitian and the French revolutions and the British military, which was seizing French–held territories in the Americas. They came from, among other places, Grenada, Guadeloupe Haiti, Louisiana, St Lucia, Acadia in Canada in the latter third of the seventeenth century. They came with their slaves.

Photo: Fernand Louis Joseph Marie De Verteuil. Nationality: Trinidad/Martinique Rank: Surgeon Regiment/Service: Royal Navy Unit (Her Majesty's Service).
Photo: Fernand Louis Joseph Marie De Verteuil.
Nationality: Trinidad/Martinique Rank: Surgeon Regiment/Service: Royal Navy Unit (Her Majesty’s Service).

They got free land in proportion to the number of slaves they brought and had the protection of the state in the form of colonial rule based on military force and the protectionist policy of the British government toward the trade in sugar. The French creoles exploited a brutal slave regime based on the exploitation of free, co-erced labour under the worst form of violent barbarism.

According to Besson and Brereton’s Book of Trinidad: “They were white, Catholic, of legitimate birth, and an aristocratic family… These families lived in large estate houses, with many servants and ornate furnishings. They dressed formally for dinner, and strict manners were observed… It became accepted for the French planters to have colored mistresses. The resulting offspring were sometimes legitimized and educated…”

The De Verteuil family, unlike most of the other French Creole slave-owning refugees, did not come to Trinidad as a slave owning planter. The first De Verteuil came as an officer in the British navy that established British colonial rule. He fought against his own country.

The De Verteuils were large land and estate owners, even owning oil lands, benefitting from the labour of oil workers who laboured under primitive conditions to produce the black gold that enriched the elites.

Ms De Verteuil states “lot of hard work was required from the first settlers who cleared land and planted.”

Yes a lot of hard work was required, but by enslaved Africans who planted and reaped the crops and produced the finished products that enriched the ancestors of our letter writer: all for free and with the violence typical of plantation societies. Now we are being called lazy!

Photo: Django (right) rescues a slave and administers a flogging of his own in the movie "Django Unchained."
Photo: Django (right) rescues a slave and administers a flogging of his own in the movie “Django Unchained.”

When the free Merikin and the Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, American, West Indian and West African indentureds came to Trinidad they met thriving estates of sugar cane and other crops controlled by the French Creoles and the British.

Ms De Verteuil should be aware that her ancestors were not the “first settlers” as she put it. The French Creoles were given the lands of the First Peoples for free by the Spanish cedula; lands the Spanish seized by sword and cannon over the two hundred and seventy five years it took them to subdue and ethnically cleanse those who had lived here for thousands of years. Even the Spanish pre-settled the French creoles.

When slavery was forced to be abolished, the French and British Europeans got compensation (reparations) for enslaving Africans, yet Ms De Verteuil tries to trivialise Africans’ international struggle for reparations. De Verteuil yells “get off your butts” when we were off our butts enriching her European ancestors for hundreds of years.

Post-emancipation Africans became agriculturists, artisans, trades men, service providers of all kinds, industrial workers, business people, unionists, civil rights activists, revolutionary intellectuals and revolutionaries; professionals, musicians, sports people and artists, among other things.

Integral to the colonial economy was that the financial/banking system, jobs in the public service and the private sector and land were controlled by the elites. The then-colonial state, which has always been, and still is, the largest landholder and the arbiter of who gets land and who doesn’t, enacted laws to discourage former enslaved people from owning land.

Photo: Actor Leonardo Di Caprio plays Calvin Candie, a colonial slave owner in the movie "Django Unchained." (Copyright Django Unchained)
Photo: Actor Leonardo Di Caprio plays Calvin Candie, a colonial slave owner in the movie “Django Unchained.”
(Copyright Django Unchained)

The ridiculous situation, then, developed whereby after emancipation, though Trinidad was a virgin territory and there was an abundance of land, you had the phenomenon of squatting.

The shape of all societies is historically determined; the interacting social groups in the society did not fall from the sky just so! We are what we have become. As the inequality in the relations between dominant and subordinate groups in the society increases, as it must in the logic of capitalism, the stridency in the tone of the class conflict increases.

Opposing perspectives emanating from different narratives of History lock horns in the arena of class conflict which in the Caribbean is heavily influenced and coloured by race and ethnicity.

Individual effort is all well and good and is to be admired. But once the power relations between social groups are not shifted to serve the interest of all the people, then economic and social inequality will continue their rapid growth and will inevitably lead to social and political eruptions such as we have not seen since 1970.

Photo: Mourners march down Frederick Street on 9 April 1970 for the funeral of the slain Basil Davis. (Courtesy Embau Moheni/NJAC)
Photo: Mourners march down Frederick Street on 9 April 1970 for the funeral of the slain Basil Davis.
(Courtesy Embau Moheni/NJAC)

Editor’s Note: Below is R De Verteuil’s Letter to the Trinidad Express:

I am sick and tired of hearing Laventillians complain about how neglected and disadvantaged they are, and how much more money the Government should throw in their direction.

For heaven’s sake, we all came here from different parts of the world, many of us without a penny; some, from other islands, with a few dollars. Trinidad was a wilderness, an undeveloped land. A lot of hard work was required from the first settlers—the pioneers who cleared the land and planted.

Those who came here later and settled in Central and South Trinidad worked hard, ate flour and water, channa, pumpkin, potato and bodi—to educate their children and teach them the value of hard work and sacrifice. The Chinese came with a sack on their back, opened shops and laundries and restaurants, mostly in country towns and villages. They worked hard and made their way in the world.

The Middle Easterners came and started off on bicycles, with suitcases of fabric. Look where they are today.
Some of us of European stock, despite popular belief, started out without a penny. My great, great grandfather lost his entire family (his parents and all his siblings were killed by revolutionaries) and all his possessions to French republicans.

If my relatives were to demand reparation for what happened during the French Revolution, over 200 years ago, the French government would have to reimburse us for what was unlawfully taken. As a descendant of French Creoles, at age 17, armed with a good education and good family values, with no money from my parents, I set out in the world. I have worked ever since, apart from a few years, to provide for my needs and those of my family.

No Government housing, no CEPEP dollars for an hour’s work, no food card, no stolen vehicle. I paid for my car, helped pay for my mortgage, fed myself, have never used the general hospital—although I paid national insurance, health surcharge, unemployment levy, income tax—and educated myself (no GATE). The only freeness I ever got from the government was two years of A-Level education.

On my first day at work, despite having three A-Levels, I typed envelopes in a typing pool. I did not complain. I was happy to have a job and a salary at the end of the month—$180 or $220, I can’t remember. Six years later, after getting a degree, I was earning $350 per month. I thought I was a millionaire!

But I digress. To come back to my original point… many of us have had to work hard to get where we are today. So I say to those lazy louts who soot me from every street corner (“Pssst”, Darlin’”, “Family”, “You lookin’ nice today”, “I must make a white chile”, etc), get off your butts, get an education (offered to you free by the Government), get trained in a trade or do OTJ training (not only offered free, but with a stipend!), and start working like everyone else.

Whether it be washing cars, planting a garden or being a handyman—get a job so you can gain experience, which is what employers look for. Stop waiting for handouts which only encourage laziness!

There, I’ve said it. I don’t care how politically incorrect this is, it is the truth. And, actually, what I love most about this blessed, lawless country is its political incorrectness. I am grateful I can express myself without fear of being arrested or shot.

R De Verteuil

About Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor
Want to share your thoughts with Wired868? Email us at editor@wired868.com. Please keep your blog between 300 to 800 words and be sure to read it over first for typos and punctuation.

Check Also

Average-speed-camera-ftr

Speed camera warnings are fake news! Works Ministry concerned by social media notices

The Ministry of Works and Transport (MOWT) has denied the usage of speed cameras to …

327 comments

  1. lol except laventillians, the actual ppl she was criticising in her letter, are not descendants of Trinidadian slaves. they are immigrants from smaller islands like grenada and st. vincent, brought in by dr. eric williams during his time as pm, to voter pad and secure seats. after he was done with them, lacking land, employable skills or any work ethic, they moved to the hills of laventille to squat, with visions of self-entitlement and government handouts dancing in their heads. a vision they cling to, to this day.
    to be fair tho, laventille was a hard working community before the arrival of said degenerates, but that was decades ago. and even then, many benefited from free handouts of state land, while the rest of trinis worked hard and saved up for years to buy land.
    yes ms. de verteuil is a hypocrite, but that doesn’t make laventille any less of a shit hole.

    • You have it right Narish Surajbally.

    • Mr. Narish,

      Your facts. When did Eric Williams bring in all these people/shit-hole specimens that did not have to work or want to work? The Mighty Sparrow an international ambassador for T&T is one such I can mention. I for one know that not only did the small islanders as we referred to them work their tails off but they were subject to endless harassment all around. Check out the Mighty Blakie’s “Licks in the Police van” for a sample.
      Never the less they came they worked they had families and they made every effort to uplift themselves and their families. You need to have information not speculation. Just as R deVerteuil is uninformed so are you. We all like to pass judgement on other people and situations but too many times facts are absent and surmise is offered in its place.
      Whosoever wants to compare chalk and cheese can say a lot of words but in the end they will hardly ever make sense.
      Africans were deprived of their name, culture, religion, language, family life, et al and when the physical shackels were removed the many other shackles remained still African Trinbagonians developed the only musical insturment of the 20th Century the internationally acclaimed stell pan and of course calypso just so that they could have a cultural and creative outlet and in doing so put T&T on the map.
      No other group came to the western world at such a distinct disadvantage. No other group has had to struggle that hard to stand up. Get the facts don’t promote fiction.

  2. I was wondering when the Trump effect would rear its head in public after all those years hidden away. Mrs R de Verteuil you are what you are an many many like yourself, after decades and decades of riding to economic success on backs of Afro-Trinidadians, being handed free passes to the best education, jobs, lands an titles ,business opportunity,least us not forget the judicial system which is twisted and turned so that non of your kind ever see a day of jail for what ever crime that is committed. You now realise we are lazy touts ,when we worked in your kitchens, cleaned your homes, washed your dirty clothing, wiped you’re kids nasty asses ,what were we then.

  3. Is the author’s name a pseudonym? Is this an attempt at promiting divisiveness coming right after the upheaval caused by Mac Farlane’s costume?

  4. That de verteuil needs to check her history also she has a moot point

  5. Somtimes the privileged must learn when to “hush dey mudda cunt because they talkin shit!”

  6. There are too many resources for one person to be this uninformed. What newspaper printed that article?

  7. Sweet T&T would be nothing without us .She needs to sit her illiterate as down asap.

  8. The problem with history is that we do not know any of it but believe that we know everything. History cannot be changed, altered, re-written, or created. History is what actually happened. Any attempt to recreate, is cheating generations of their times and lives. Do not be ashamed of where you came from or the paths that you walked…….all of it make you into the person that you are. Who you are is just as important as who I am. We are all entitled to an equal place under the sun.

  9. I blame the daily paper that published her racially biased letter …

  10. This statement/remarks are total rubbish she has no idea of this world, firstly yes there are those who are lazy but there are those who earnestly try to better themselves and have contributed to this society positively, and black folks never rise to any wealth because of the racial limits and privileges of society , she also made a big mistake not include the Amerindian society who was rub of there lands and most of them there lives by the same Spain and British “discoverers of Trinidad and Tobago. Are they lazy also when they were rub of there wealth.why did she not mention them, she is clearly a racist.

  11. and also gross mismanagement although, black people have not really made a success of anything either

  12. Yup this is how I first came across it Ryan

  13. Is it just me or is it a fact that the native people have no land? Only recently have dark folks been allowed to work in banks. Only recently have spiritual baptist been allowed to pray openly without being hounded by the f—ng law. Just being dark was and still is near criminal offense in TnT and worldwide. Shit is real. I went to my golf club today. I been a member for ten years. A new security guard would not open the gate for me. I guess I didn’t look like a member. I’m from the other side of town… you know lyrics.

  14. This is a great response to an ill informed even prejudice article. Yes, prejudice against persons of African decent. All of our decendants came from somewhere and all except the Africans came as free persons but the Africans came in chains as slaves. Everything was stolen from them including their names, religions, customs and traditions. Their families were broken apart and their very existance was regarded as either equal to or beneath that of animals.
    The privileged, French- creole writer of that article should do some reading and educate herself on the history of Trinidad and Tobago beginning with the book by C. L. R. James entitled The Black Jacobins followed by Dr. Eric Williams’ masterpiece – From Capitalism to Slavery.

  15. Produced as opposed to producing. When people are granted their freedom or when their colonial masters jus ups and leaves…all hell breaks loose.

  16. There are so many successful men and women of African decent in this country. The letter writer’s content was myopic an off-base for the most part. However, over the decades the Government has created an “Gimme Gimme” society, where all social ills should be paid for by the Government. I think the crux of the matter is that make-work programs are simply a “plaster on the sore” and not curing the problems of our country, by having a wider net of training to let people raise themselves up with honest living. But people have to be self motivated to participate. We also see the results of the invasive drug business on society. Children of single moms with no father role models are lured into the fantasy of easy money from selling drugs and a lifestyle that spirals downwards with violence and death in an unending turf war. The government can’t solve all the problems. Lord knows they are also part of the problem too. Ranting won’t help. Off base ranting is even worse.

  17. Erica from then to now. How do you explain the under achievement?That to me is the critical question.

  18. Ingrid, indeed we may be seeing a spin off of the Trump effect in TT society …. his simplistic revisionist perspective, grounded in misunderstanding and ignorance, appeals deeply to many here in the US who believe that they are losing their status to people of color …. it’s not hard to see how this thinking would find fertile ground within the TT French Creole community…..

  19. So not one of you here could appreciate the lady is talking about a people in general and not just individuals? Be honest with yourself and examine who is at the bottom of the economic ladder, who lives in the hot spots of the country, who are mostly single parents (mothers) and then come to the realization that slavery ended almost two centuries ago. Get over it, however painful it was.

    • Is that how you analyse a problem, Chris Simmons? Would you drive to work on a flat tyre? Or might it be useful to fix said tyre?

    • And are you now saying that blacks are deficient in their family lives too? Should Laventillians take tips from other races on that as well?
      The slave masters gave such wonderful lessons on that too.

    • Yes, I would attempt to fix the tyre Lasana Liburd, but I would want to acknowledge I have a flat tyre first and why it became flat.

    • Whoever “Chris Simmons” is, he sure en “President Powers”.No wonder he’s hiding to say his own version of nastiness, like the letter writer who came out “public”. But you have a right to hide.

    • I’d like to help you Chris. Problem is you don’t grasp your own ignorance. Hopefully someone who loves you reads your message and arranges an intervention on your behalf.
      Good luck fellah. Go with love.

    • I just love how many responses I have gotten on my comment. Of my three points in my first comment, which one is incorrect? The poverty, gravitation to criminality, or the breakdown of family life by one particular race in this country.

    • Garvin Walters, let me quote your PNM AG: it’s the substance that matters.

    • Ppl in general not individuals ? That’s the perfect example of stereophonic language… Removed from the very first point that her history is just way off

    • Yep, I say wallow in your history and forget about the present and the future. That will show those racist, slavemaster bastards.

    • Only one race committs crime…. ? Where is your proof …. Bring evidence for your points or you will jus look ignorant

    • My proof is in the prisons. My proof is in the ghettos and my proof is in the kids who carry different names from their fathers, like our PM’s two sons. You go look for yourself, you have eyes.

      • Your ignorance surprises me. All races and I say all have children with no fathers. Alert: Almost all places in the world have a ghetto.
        Thing is, We have a population where the dominant groups are of East Indian and African descent. A lot of the people of Beetham, Sea Lots, Laventille, Dundonald St James etc are Trinidadian descendants from migrants from other small islands within the last few decades, who came to make their way.Who sees it knows it. It is a daily struggle only they can explain. Some make it out others fall.We live in a society where just being black is a strike against you, worse yet black and poor. As a people we mostly unfortunately have a house slave, field slave mentality. Truly we need to teach and help others that are willing. Up to a few years ago(corect me if they still exist)there were systems that were put in place like the URP etc that bred the ‘gimme’ mentality were not meant to stay forever (Btw not only blacks use this program), the NEDCO program that made it easier for especially blacks to start businesses and become self sufficient. And of course GATE..also not all blacks.
        Unfortunately in this day and time of instant gratification it is easier to fall prey to illegal means (this includes the gun/drug trade which by the way cannot be solely financed by these little black boys from Laventille that sell it). Same way it is easier to tow a firetruck for a few million and contruct programs to rob Trinidadians blind of millions from the Treasury. Only difference besides who does it, is there are no guns involved so it’s easier to swallow. We all do forget so easily.. And this is only a morsel.So dear sir, instead of showing me your proof, do something. Make noise, volunteer, tutor, write an educated informed response. Much thanks.

    • These are the results of the institutionalised racism that is the legacy of Colonialism. A race of people were intentionally denied opportunity and kept as an underclass, poor and starving, to provide cheap and subservient labour for the upper or ruling classes. Problem is now they refuse to be subservient like many of their ancestors, and , as a famous singer says, are willing to do whatever it takes to:’get rich or die trying……’. In this they are no different from the British, or the French, or the Spanish or the Italian, Irish or Russian Mafia as they gained wealth and power by robbery and murder on an international scale using soldiers and armies and killers and hitmen. This is what racism and greed and subjugation over centuries ends up doing to a group of people, and their own leaders work for the rulers instead of creating opportunity for all their people.

    • One thing I hate, is people “brave” enough to say what they want, even if they know they offend others with their venom, but hide behind the pictures of other faces.
      I like people who’re fearless, by showing who they are, to the world.

  20. Who really planted the sugar cane in this country the great caroni land deception.