in the Northern Range
waking up to lush green mountains, speckled with flaming
poui and immortelle trees. Imagine enjoying fresh clean
air every day while watching a flock of green parrots flying
overhead, in and out of the thin white layer of mist covering
the hilltops. Imagine no morediscover the village
This little village, nestled in a valley in the Northern
Range, lies about 10 kilometres north of Arouca and can
be accessed by a meandering road providing amazing views
of the beautiful surrounding landscape.
This year, the people of Lopinot are celebrating 200 years
since the village they call home was founded by the Frenchman
for whom it was named.
In addition to being one of Trinidads natural treasures,
the village is also one of the few in the country with a
strong Hispanic past that prides itself on actively maintaining
aspects of that culture.
The history of present-day Lopinot dates back to 1800, when
a knight of the Royal and Military Order of St Louis, colonel
of the Legion of Calvador and lieutenant general of the
French Army, Charles Joseph Compte Loppinot de la Fresilliere,
arrived in Port-of-Spain from Jamaica.
With only his wife, children and some loyal slaves, the
count was determined to forget the devastating loss of all
his possessions in slave rebellions on the island of St
Domingue, better known today as Haiti, where he had fought
with British troops against Toussaint LOuverture.
As a compensation for the loss of his estates there, he
was supposed to be granted a parcel of land in Trinidad.
However, this did not occur and he had to borrow money to
purchase part of the Orange Grove Estate in Tacarigua. According
to JD Elder, in his book Lopinot: A Historical Account,
He had come a great distance and had a turbulent war
record but once these were past he quickly settled down
on part of the Orange Grove Estate in Tacarigua, which he
bought from Edward Barry on reportedly liberal terms.
After a short successful stint in sugar-cane cultivation
on that estate, the count was forced to seek alternative
means of livelihood due to the declining sugar industry.
In search of a better life, the count set off to explore
the valleys of the Northern Range. Following the course
of the Rio de Arouca, which is now known as the Lopinot
River, he finally came upon a clearing of grassland in a
valley that he called La Reconnaissance.
Shortly after this discovery, the count received news from
Governor Hislop that the British Crown had finally approved
a land grant for him. The count was free to choose where
he wanted to establish his new estate and his obvious choice
was the area he had named La Reconnaissance. He was now
part of the plantocracy and aristocracy in T&T.
In 1806, the count once again moved with his family and
loyal slaves, this time to La Reconnaissance, to establish
a cocoa plantation on his land of some 478 acres, laid out
in the shape of a French general. He quickly built a tapia
plantation house, slave quarters, a jailhouse, and cocoa-drying
Today, upon a visit to the Lopinot Historical Complex, one
can view two of these cocoa-drying houses, with their retractable
roof and all, which enabled the roof to slide out to dry
the cocoa beans on sunny days and to slide back inside in
times of rain. Likewise, the structure that currently houses
the on-site museum is all that remains of the counts
Great House which was erected some 200 years ago.
Though there is little record of what actually transpired
on the estate, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that
the count was successful in his cocoa cultivation and on
a smaller scale, his coffee cultivation.
As Archibald S Chauharjasingh explains in his book Lopinot
in History, The success of La Reconnaissance must
have spread about with much rapidity, for within a few years
several new estates were established in the surrounding
By 1820, there were four other estates in the
valley. They were San Jose, La Pastora, El Repaso and El
In addition to managing his plantation, the count was also
a member of the Trinidad militia and was appointed its brigadier-general
in 1806. In 1816, the governor at the time, Sir Ralph Woodford,
made him a member of the Council of Government, and he remained
a member until his death in 1819.
There are some common legends shared by residents of Lopinot
amongst themselves and with visitors to Lopinot. It is said
that the counts ghost visits the Count Lopinot House
from time to time, especially on stormy nights, riding on
a white horse. In fact, there is a photo hanging in the
house today which shows a shadow of the count, which gives
credibility to the legend told to visitors by the manager
Another legend makes reference to a cashew tree on the Lopinot
Historical Complex that was supposedly where the count hung
rebellious slaves. Villagers still refer to it as the
hanging tree, although the original tree died and
a new one was planted in the same spot.
After the counts death, the entire valley underwent
several major changes, including the change in ownership
of the counts plantation, the establishment of the
large La Pastora and San Jose Estates, and the arrival of
East Indian immigrants in 1845, following the abolition
However, the most significant of these changes was the migration
of people from the village of Caura 100 years later, in
1945. Due to a shortage of suitable drinking water in the
country, the Government decided to construct a dam, using
the abundant supply of water available from the Caura River.
As a result, the entire valley needed to be relocated and
the Government bought most of La Reconnaissance to distribute
to some of the displaced Caura villagers.
It was this group of people that introduced the Hispanic
culture to the village, as all of them were of Spanish descent
since most of their ancestors came to Trinidad from Venezuela.
They were descendants from the old peons, people mixed with
Spanish, Amerindian and African, who came primarily as cocoa
workers and, as such, introduced cocoa here.
They were also all Roman Catholic, and as such took their
religion very seriously. When the time came to build a church
in the village, the people themselves carried the statue
of the patron saint of Caura, Saint Veronica, the bell,
stained glass windows and several other items that they
salvaged from their now demolished church in Caura, to Lopinot.
They also gathered stones from a nearby quarry to construct
the rest of the church, which now stands beautifully in
Lopinot, La Veronica RC.
So, although the Caura Dam was never constructed, its proposed
construction led to the relocation of the cocoa panyols
of Caura and has contributed to the rich history of Lopinot.
Furthermore, though there is no historical evidence to suggest
when the name of the valley was changed from La Reconnaissance
to Lopinot, Lopinot is known today to be a melting pot of
diverse cultures, predominantly composed of Hispanic descendants.
For more information about the Spanish As the First Foreign
Language (SAFFL) initiative, please contact the Secretariat
for the Implementation of Spanish (A Division of the Ministry
of Trade and Industry) at 624-8329/ 6279513 or fax
us at 623-0365.