Monday, February 19, 2007

Trinidad Carnival

The Trinidad Carnival this week has commemorated a key point in the Carnival's history - the Canboulay riots of 1881-1884 (the picture on the left, from Illustrated London News is of the 1888 carnival). According to one account:

"The year is 1881 — the Canboulay riots — when a 'major armed clash between the Trinidad colonial police and the 'local' population occurred/ following a decision to clamp down on the Carnival celebrations of that year. The barrack-yards of Port of Spain, where the 'Diametres' ruled, presided over neighbourhoods, nurtured loyalties, honed and hoarded the weapons of survival for confrontations such as these, gathered their bands of revellers turned warriors and went forth to defy and try the governor. If Canboulay was a fight between bands where individual 'stickmen' resolved their inter-personal rivalries and waged regional warfare against other bands, in 1881, 'it took on the character of a historical underclass in united action against the police.' In 1882, Trinidad again — riot this time in San Fernando when the state tried to limit 'Playing' till 9.00 p.m" (Behind the Masquerade: The Story of Notting Hill Carnival – Kwesi Owusu and Jacob Ross, London: Arts Media Group, 1988).

In 1884 in 'In Princes Town, the masqueaders attacked the police station after magistrate Hobson decided to confine the police to barracks because the crowd was too large. After Hobson was felled with a stone, the police opened fire on the rioters killing a youth and seriously wounding two others'.
Picture right: Trinidad carnival 2006

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