Black Gold Brings Good Fortune To The Port Of Spain

“Trinidad has oil, a lot of oil,” writes Correspondent Paul Lewis, continuing his sunny island adventures. “And here in the capital of Port of Spain, it shows.

“Downtown colonial buildings have been replaced by green glass skyscrapers, and the freeways are packed with black-windowed Mercedes and BMWs. The city is crowded and bustling. Many of its fine old buildings are being restored and repaired to celebrate the newfound good fortune.

“At Woodford Square, the ornate Parliament building, known as Red House after it was inadvertently painted red on the eve of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, is now encased in matching red scaffolding.

“‘The Magnificent Seven’—the seven ornate Victorian mansions on Maraval Road, including the Prime Minister’s office, the Archbishop’s residence, and the President’s home—are all in various stages of restoration. Port of Spain is smartening itself up, thanks to the new black gold. Up on the hill the new shiny steel cultural center (vaguely reminiscent of the Sydney Opera) has just opened.

“But little has changed at Holy Trinity Cathedral, close to the Red House, built to serve the British garrison stationed on the island in colonial days. Magnificent carved mahogany beams support the high roof while the wall plaques record the tragically young age at which many Europeans were carried off by fever.

“Still surviving, too, are a few of the wooden villas with elaborate window shutters against the sun and fretwork decoration that once made up much of the town, often brightly painted in pink and salmon, blue and white. Boisterous, crowded Charlotte Street is still where the poor shop. But in a sunny, typically slow-moving part of the world, Port of Spain is moving at a new speed in a new direction.”

Kathleen Peddicord

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