I wrote this column sitting adjacent to Mayaro beach enjoying a slice of the August holidays. It is about two hours to sunset on as glorious a day as it gets in this piece of paradise.
A little earlier in the day I had—unusually for me—a daytime snooze, on the porch, lulled into a mind-freeing relaxation by the sound of the waves and the rustling of the coconut tree branches in the front yard where the porch is located.
As sunset approaches, the light is golden. Points Radix and Galeota, which are the boundaries of Mayaro Beach are, from a distance, of a smoky blue colour. As is typical of August month, the sea is warm and there are pools at low tide in which to soak in comparative safety.
These pools have uneven flooring under one’s feet. At high tide, that uneven flooring can become as treacherous as a State enterprise procurement process but we know how the waters can change from benign to treacherous and we sensibly refrain from entering waters that turn troubled and can sweep the innocent away when the tide is high.
Although most of my August holidays were up, I returned here because of my fearful mood, which I described last week and which just would not leave me. I needed to lift my spirits and that has happened exactly as I hoped it would on a perfect day of Mayaro beauty.
Long-time readers will note that I am still refusing to refer to the July/August period as “summer”. I know that period as August holidays since I first stepped on Mayaro beach at the age of five or six—about the same age at which my mother, Celia, also dressed me in a sailor costume for Carnival.
Many decades later, I am still a devotee of Mayaro Beach and still playing sailor mas, even though over the decades I have evolved and done so many things differently.
Meanwhile, the coconut groves of Manzanilla and Mayaro have been remorselessly reduced and money elements seek to push sailor and other traditional mas off the Carnival route. At the same time, despite the internationally acknowledged technology proficiency of our musicians—particularly our pan players—misguided officials try to keep our music exclusively at the level of a poorly organised Savannah party.
This week’s column is stimulated by the resumption of regular visits to Mayaro and inquiries from readers, here and abroad: Why have I not been writing about Mayaro?
Just as I am well into this column, a particularly dreamy cloud, reflecting the rays of the sunset behind me, has settled over the otherwise navy blue ocean, bathing a section of the ocean in a neon pink light. So, I repeat the readers’ question to myself with a sense of guilt that I am letting down my second home, Mayaro.
The reason why there has been a lull in columns about Mayaro is that, despite the idyllic setting, Manzanilla and Mayaro have been scarred by the apparently insuperable problems besetting us in urban Trinidad, particularly violent crime, little or no care for our natural environment and noise pollution.
Lack of care for the environment is the reason why so many of the coconut groves of Manzanilla and Mayaro have been haphazardly cut down and not replaced.
We cannot see the value of a tree beyond what it produces but, as all trees do, the coconut trees on our coastlines have value as greenery, adding texture and a rich visual to the spaces which we occupy. They also have a practical purpose as they provide shade and a soothing effect when their branches dance and rustle in the breeze.
I noticed, on some earlier sporadic visits, that August holiday beachgoers were fewer than usual and I heard from a compere that the doubles lady in the village is no longer selling out by 8am. All up to 10am, she still has not sold out. I guess my Tobago readers will feel this kind of pain doubly as a result of slumps in arrivals both from foreign and domestic tourism.
This past week, activity in Mayaro was marginally better. Nevertheless, we are destroying our essential self and soul in pursuit of the “summer” and other fantasies. However, we must face the fact that our home vacation offerings now lack feelings of personal safety and security, just as day-to-day life does.
My fellow columnist, Raffique Shah, pointed out last week that we are not likely to get the better of our problems because we are suffering from a systemic failure in how the country is run.
I don’t know how we will pull it back but I left Mayaro and have returned home in harmony with Bob Marley’s reflection, slightly paraphrased: our life must be somewhere to be found, must be somewhere for us instead of the concrete jungle where the living is harder.