The Last Sugarcane Factory: Archive of the sugar mill at Usine Ste Madeleine, Caroni (1975) Ltd.

"I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit works ... I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valua- tion of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia . . . when we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are re- corded and general principles investigated the superiority of the Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments used at preparatory schools in England." - Lord Macaulay, Professor of History, Cambridge University, 1834.

It is with that preface that began the indentured labour of Indian migrants in the West Indies and Trinidad. As was the norm to denigrate the cultures of enslaved populations to give credence to exploitation the Indian presence in the plains of Usine Ste Madeleine began with inhumane conditions and a wage of 25 cents a day. The conditions within the abandoned sugarcane factory at Usine Ste Madeleine may prompt some to believe that not much changed over the intervening 2 centuries.

The influence that Caroni and the sugar processing industry had on Trinidad and Tobago cannot be overstated. The industry shaped the landscape, a people and entrenched a cultural psyche that will cling to us for generations to come. Try as we might to erase our cultural history by laying waste to the physical evidence of our past, it is the cultural paradigms passed on from generation to generation that will ultimately decide the fate of the memory of our forebears. That, and our pictures.

In 2010, Trinidad Dreamscape was authorised by the government of Trinidad and Tobago and by Caroni 1975 Ltd. to archive the closed sugar mill at Usine Ste. Madeleine. We took about a month to complete the project and we used both film and digital media to record the factory. The pictures have been donated to Caroni Ltd. and to the government of Trinidad and Tobago. We present a selection of those pictures here to you.

All content © Rory Roopnarine and 2005 - 2023. All Rights Reserved.