So..I’ve been telling everyone I’m from Miami..when the truth is, very few people are actually from Miami. Take me for example, I grew up in my Miami, but my parents are from a tiny island in the Caribbean called Trinidad.
And it was Trinidad, an island known for its warm hospitality, steel pan music, and festive carnival, that I first encountered Lebanese and Syrian culture.
You see.. Trinidad is a very diverse island, and home to cultures and ethnic groups as different as East Indian, European, African, Middle Eastern, and Chinese.
Diverse Trinidadian Beauties: former and current Miss TNT's..
All of this to say, it was in Trinidad where I first heard the word “haram,” first ate a Syrian pastry, first witnessed Middle Eastern beauty, and first learned about the seemingly innate ability of the Lebanese and Syrians to turn every business they touch into gold.
Before I continue..a few more pictures of my beautiful country..
Maracas Bay, Trinidad. Photo Credit: National Geographic
Downtown Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital. Photo Credit: National Geographic
Old Port of Spain port, Trinidad. photo credit: Noel P Norton
Old Time Trinidad: a coconut vendor by the Savannah. Photo Credit: Noel P Norton
The Steel Pan, the national instrument of Trinidad photo credit: Noel P. Norton
So, I decided to do some research about the over 10,000 Syrian and Lebanese families that now call Trinidad their home.
I came across a website showcasing the contributions made by the Syrian and Lebanese community in Trinidad over the past 100 years.
This is what they had to say:
“The last group of immigrants to venture to colonial Trinidad originated in the region previously known as Greater Syria, which comprises of present day Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon. Many of the Lebanese hailed from the villages of Buhandoun and Amyoun while the Syrians came from villages in the ‘Valley of the Christians.’ These Arabs emigrated to the Caribbean from as early as 1904 in an attempt to escape religious persecution and economic hardship in their native countries.
Trinidad’s thriving economy, political stability and pristine environment proved to be the ideal location where these displaced Arabs could establish new lives. They brought with them vestiges of their culture and a keen business acumen which proved to be the ideal tools for success in the colony. At their arrival they were ‘virtually penniless’; however, they have ‘managed to achieve phenomenal economic success’.
It is not clear who first arrived in Trinidad. Records show that as early as 1902 there were Syrian/Lebanese Families living in Trinidad. Abdullah Gabriel and Elias Galy were among the earliest Lebanese settlers to Trinidad. There were others like the Abdullahs, Chami, Hadad and Matouk. Before World War I there were approximately 100 Syrian/Lebanese families living here and they had already established businesses in Port of Spain. Hard work and sacrifice were the keys to tile success of this community.“
So here’s to you Trinidad, and to you Miami, and to you Lebanon..
Thank you for letting me be a part of you.
You’ve taught me so much.