French Creole Revision of History

By Cecil Paul & Gerry Kangalee
October 28, 2016 –

French CreolesWe refer to a letter to the editor in the Express of October 27, 2016 in which one R. De Verteuil is “sick and tired” of Laventillians complaining “about how neglected and disadvantaged they are, and how much more money the government should throw in their direction”.

She said “we all came from different parts of the world without a penny and a lot of hard work was required from the first settlers who cleared land and planted”. She continued that “those who settled in Central Trinidad worked hard, ate flour and water, channa, pumpkin, potato and bodi – to educate their children etc.;”.

De Verteuil then wrote that “the Chinese came with a sack on their back, opened shops etc.; worked hard and made their way in the world” She then praised the Middle Easterners who “came and started off on bicycles, with suitcases of fabric. Look where they are today”.

Ms De Verteuil then stated that “Some of us of European stock started out without a penny” and said that her ancestors were killed by republican revolutionaries during the French Revolution over 200 years ago and mentioned reimbursement if her relatives were to demand reparation.

She revealed her work history from the age of 17 starting with a typist job and small salaries and described herself as a descendant of French Creoles. She went on that she had neither government housing nor any of the assisted peoples’ programmes except for paying her NIS and other statutory payments which are mandatory and paid for her mortgage and never used the general hospital. The only freeness she said she got from the government was two years of A-Level education.

De Verteuil finally called on the ”lazy touts to get off your butts, get an education, get trained and start working like everyone else, stop waiting for hand-outs which only encourage laziness!”

It is clear that R. De Verteuil was referring to Afro Trinbagonians when she criticized Laventillians. Not once did she mention the contributions of Africans to the development of Trinidad and Tobago. She praised the Indians, the Chinese, the Syrian/Lebanese community and, of course, her people the Europeans. The contempt for people of African descent is palpable. It’s nothing new and it isn’t going away any time soon.

Enslaved Africans came to this country in chains far less “without a penny”. The French creoles came here, fleeing the Haitian and the French revolutions and the British military, which was seizing French–held territories in the Americas. They came from, among other places, Grenada, Guadeloupe Haiti, Louisiana, St. Lucia, Acadia in Canada in the latter third of the seventeenth century. They came with their slaves.

They got free land in proportion to the number of slaves they brought and had the protection of the state in the form of colonial rule based on military force and the protectionist policy of the British government toward the trade in sugar. The French creoles exploited a brutal slave regime based on the exploitation of free, co-erced labour under the worst form of violent barbarism.

According to Besson and Brereton’s Book of Trinidad: “They were white, Catholic, of legitimate birth, and an aristocratic family…These families lived in large estate houses, with many servants and ornate furnishings. They dressed formally for dinner, and strict manners were observed…It became accepted for the French planters to have colored mistresses. The resulting offspring were sometimes legitimized and educated…”

The De Verteuil family, unlike most of the other French Creole slave-owning refugees, did not come to Trinidad as a slave owning planter. The first De Verteuil came as an officer in the British navy that established British colonial rule. He fought against his own country.

The De Verteuils were large land and estate owners, even owning oil lands, benefitting from the labour of oil workers who laboured under primitive conditions to produce the black gold that enriched the elites.

Ms. De Verteuil states “lot of hard work was required from the first settlers who cleared land and planted”. Yes a lot of hard work was required, but by enslaved Africans who planted and reaped the crops and produced the finished products that enriched the ancestors of our letter writer: all for free and with the violence typical of plantation societies. Now we are being called lazy!

When the free Merikin and the Portuguese, Indian, Chinese, American, West Indian and West African indentureds came to Trinidad they met thriving estates of sugar cane and other crops controlled by the French Creoles and the British.

Ms. De Verteuil should be aware that her ancestors were not the “first settlers” as she put it. The French Creoles were given the lands of the First Peoples for free by the Spanish cedula; lands the Spanish seized by sword and cannon over the two hundred and seventy five years it took them to subdue and ethnically cleanse those who had lived here for thousands of years. Even the Spanish pre-settled the French creoles.

When slavery was forced to be abolished, the French and British Europeans got compensation (reparations) for enslaving Africans, yet Ms. De Verteuil tries to trivialise Africans’ international struggle for reparations. De Verteuil yells “get off your butts” when we were off our butts enriching her European ancestors for hundreds of years.

Post-emancipation Africans became agriculturists, artisans, trades men, service providers of all kinds, industrial workers, business people, unionists, civil rights activists, revolutionary intellectuals and revolutionaries; professionals, musicians, sports people and artists, among other things.

Integral to the colonial economy was that the financial/banking system, jobs in the public service and the private sector and land were controlled by the elites. The then-colonial state, which has always been, and still is, the largest landholder and the arbiter of who gets land and who doesn’t, enacted laws to discourage former enslaved people from owning land. The ridiculous situation, then, developed whereby after emancipation, though Trinidad was a virgin territory and there was an abundance of land, you had the phenomenon of squatting.

The shape of all societies is historically determined; the interacting social groups in the society did not fall from the sky just so! We are what we have become. As the inequality in the relations between dominant and subordinate groups in the society increases, as it must in the logic of capitalism, the stridency in the tone of the class conflict increases.

Opposing perspectives emanating from different narratives of History lock horns in the arena of class conflict which in the Caribbean is heavily influenced and coloured by race and ethnicity. Individual effort is all well and good and is to be admired, but once the power relations between social groups are not shifted to serve the interest of all the people, then economic and social inequality will continue their rapid growth and will inevitably lead to social and political eruptions such as we have not seen since 1970.

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11 thoughts on “French Creole Revision of History”

  1. Mr De Verteuil please tell the WHOLE story. I can talk about SK and others who were CAPITALIST from other shores were given FREE LANDS. When the slaves were emancipated they were chased into the bushes and mountains with only the clothes on their backs…mountains like Laverntile etc. My boss was a HNC candidate and a De Verteuil like you, and Engineering Manager while I was a professional engineer from U of T in Canada and kept down for 25 years. He was a damn technician running two engineering departments for many years because he was a french creole who never worked hard so when you pass your broad brush you are just as sick as they were. SK, one of yours is a big crook and who knows was THE MISTER BIG that Manning referred to. Anyway, the President of that company where I worked for 28.5 years and worked hard at that and got no where due to sheer discrimination was a MAC student in Canada when his Tate & Lye working mother told a fellow engineer he would be President of the company one day. He is as she said…no hard work there and that was 1970s and this is 2010 and still so now. So Mr De Verteuil you and yours still own Trinidad and Tobago.

  2. You must ask Mr Loquan who his father was and how he hard he worked to achieve nothing but is now head of NGC. And Mr. Harewood who forced or threatened me (would have lost my house) to do a job way below my senior engineering position in 2003 and I am a cripple today with no injury benefit and no severence for 28.5 years of hard work but he is THE PNM HEAD CHOICE TO FIX PETROTRIN. I very much doubt that for as Maintenance Shutdown Manager in 2003 he was a very big waste of time and energy. So Mister De Verteuil hard work gets most of us nowhere in Trinidad. CONNECTIONS my friend is the name of the big game in T&T just like in mighty Amarica. The land we copy all the shit from for many years from JEAN AND DINAH while all our art and talents are dying.

  3. okay, for those of us already up to date on history, enlighten us by telling us something we don’t know, like between now and the arrivalof the revolution to make things nice and equal, what is todays generation doing to learn some discipline, civility, independence and tolerance


    Now on to more pressing T&T affairs people. You know it’s political season in La Trinity , based on all these reshuffles ,as done by de Mason Hall Kid , and 9 time Bollywood/ Hollywood/ Nollywood -Police Commissioner Actor,in Uncle Willow, si?
    This Williams maneuver ,soon after Dr Keith’s pre election gimmick, sort of bring back memories of that old classic ditty ,by de late great Mighty Cypher entitled- ‘if de priest could play ,’ hmmmm?,235354.html

    Always pay attention to the details folks. First ,look at who is moved-or where appropriate – received de blade,and or was seemingly elevated.
    Second,put on your -Police like -cynicism cap, then ask yourself ,Por Que?
    There was a time when White folks were the problem, but fast forward to 2016 ,and it’s our nuvo rich /all powerful , Afro/ Indo -political entities ,competing Black / Brown tribalist ,neo imperialists, who appears to be de problem.
    Translation:- Giving citizen , a ‘6 for a 9 ,’ and telling dem , it’s progress, si?
    Some much wiser than yours truly , are of the firm view , dat it’s another shellacking for de Kamla led ,UNC dominant PP, at the Local elections, by Tobago’s Papa Niza’s , favorite nephew ,in Dr Kieth, and who am I to doubt them.
    Well,…., no se, or really care , for ‘me think,’ PP gone ,PP dey- EBC Machinations not withstanding.
    I luv dis land , Y Tu?
    Stay Vigilant people!

    1. And I hear dem talking about ‘Allyuh better vote PNM this Local election if allyuh doh want Kamla to come back with she racist/thieving self” I have to ask them, Does it really matter…. it looks like the Kamla never left..
      Anyway… I think I saw/seeing this play(ed) out in South Africa before with Pres. Zuma and the Guptas…

      Anyway, Professor…. I all confuse with this term, ‘Creole’… I mean, I have been called Creole by Indians, And that Good Creole Cooking (In Trinidad)smell just like any Fulani Kitchen in Nigeria…. Anyway… I am confused… can’t comment on ‘French Creole’…

  5. You did a good job correcting the historical record but missed the crux of Ms. De Verteuil’s letter. What are Laventillians and Trinbago as a whole supposed to do about welfare and poverty in this country? Deploring past injustices never made anyone wealthy. It only spreads a sense of grievance and entitlement and diminishes the people’s industriousness. There are generations of Laventillians and others who show that depending on government handouts are not the way to prosperity.

    1. You need to do some soul searching as your body moves just ain’t in sync with what is really taking place. Take great America and the 2016 elections does defeat your point as Hillary lost the elections when the minority filled suburban non whites did not fully support her. The Hispanics and Black sfro Americans and the mixes are forced to live in areas where they can survive. North America is not too far different to T&T. More so Precariats and Millenials who work for very poor wages, still live with parents or very poor housing are young people are in massive protest stories all over America. We in T&T are lucky the people in Laventile are not as bad as the inner cities in North America. But back to your point this is the result of Capitalism and dictatorship governments. There is NO real demooracy in the world. Marketing today is how to take want you want to sell and direct what is good…HIDE WHAT IS BAD AND DANGEROUS. That is why ISIS has formed….because the Saudi government practises somethings very different to the Muslim holy books.

      1. Melbourne, Australia. No doubt, Saudi king/government are just puppets of USA. ISIS is just a criminal organisation created by USA to kill Muslims and destroy Muslim assets. ISIS have killed about 300,000 Muslims, destroyed 200 Mosques and Muslim schools. Look at the fact on the ground. Don’t be confuse by their name. If you take pork and warp it and put a label which said “HALAAL BEEF”, should Muslims eat it because it is mentioned “HALAAL BEEF” or the look at the content which is pork?

  6. A time,not too long ago a great national told us that massa day was over, yes the whip is no longer cracking, but our minds continue to be wrapped into neoliberalism. True education has not yet entered the highways and byways of Africans that answer to the name Trinidadians,a new awakening is needed ,carnival should never be the only thing the African in Trinidad should be captivated by.

  7. R. De Verteuil is “sick and tired” of Laventillians complaining “about how neglected and disadvantaged they are, and how much more money the government should throw in their direction”.

    One of the least discussed concepts by the intellectual brigade with regard to Africans worldwide is the serious psychological damage inflicted on Africans by the evil system of slavery. It is very easy to pass judgment on a whole group of people and compare them to other groups in our society without considering the historical differences. It must also be recognized that a significant number of Africans, in spite of the negative odds, have managed to succeed in every sphere of endeavour.
    Other groups in our society must also recognize that no matter how small it may be, they were fortunate enough to receive some sort of head start. It has been demonstrated that Laventillians have the same ambitions to succeed as everyone else. They love their children as much as anyone else. They are seriously disadvantaged by history, lack of appropriate educational and economic opportunities and most of all the inability to cast off the psychological baggage of inferiority,subconsciously embedded in their in their DNA by the evil system of slavery.

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