Sport and Music Bring Hope to Refugees and Migrants in Trinidad

The small, quiet Maha Sabha Street in Felicity, Chaguanas, wakes up every Sunday morning to a chorus of children playing at Invaders Recreation Ground. The small circular field used predominantly for people playing cricket or football and has a steady flow of exercisers walking its perimeter, is hidden behind narrow roads and congested villages. It’s a maze to get there to the outsider, but Google Maps helps. On any given Sunday, more than a hundred boys and girls attend the recreation ground to learn the sport of cricket. The camp is organised and run by Central Sports Club, a popular cricket club from the Chaguanas borough that plays at the highest level of domestic cricket competition.

Challenges Aplenty

When sailing on the inter-island ferry between Trinidad and Tobago, bending the northwestern peninsula of Trinidad, passengers feel the strength of the sea’s power. In that swathe of salt water and currents, where the Güiria and Western Peninsula almost kiss, seacraft, large and small, are tossed around Las Bocas del Dragón (Mouths of the Dragon – De Bocas in T&T English Creole). 

The sea crossing between Trinidad’s north western peninsula and the Peninsula de Paria known popularly in T&T as “ de Bocas”

It is a middle passage that was crossed skilfully, in the face of danger, by indigenous people. Spanish colonisers exited Venezuela through the Bocas del Serpiente, into the Bocas del Dragon, and into open waters, then to Trinidad and Margarita (Spanish Trinidad – Morales Padrón). 

Members of Simón Bolívar’s revolutionary army executing attacks on the “realistas” from Trinidad’s islet Chacachacare (source). Trinidad historian Michael Anthony writes that Christopher Columbus was hesitant to sail through the Bocas on his third voyage to the “Índias”. For the last ten years, it has been crossed daily by Venezuelans seeking asylum, refuge, and better economic opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago. 

The crossing and what it implies have not become any less treacherous.

Building From The Ground Up

It was a hot and sunny Tuesday afternoon six years ago when Roy landed at the Piarco International Airport, uncertain about what would happen next. What he knew was that he had to get away. When he left Venezuela on board a chartered Venezolana aircraft on November 14 that year, he had US$450 in his pocket and a dream worth millions in his heart.  

After openly criticising his government and what he considered to be corrupt practices at his workplace, the young Venezuelan student was sure the only choice he had was either to stand and face political persecution or flee. 

When he arrived in Trinidad, Roy enrolled as an English student at the Comprehensive English Centre near Arouca to assist with his communication skills. He was lucky enough to get financial help from his Trinidadian family, whom he barely knew but whom he’d met once before when he was six. Maybe it was luck or fate, but the day Roy arrived in Trinidad & Tobago, he met another Venezuelan, Marlys, who had been in the immigration line.