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The Hosay Massacre (also called the Jahaji or Mohurrun ) of October 30th 1884 is a dark episode in local history. The boisterous commemoration of the martyrdom of Mohammed’s nephews, Hosein and Hassan, came to Trinidad in the 1850’s with the indentured immigrants from India and was first celebrated on Palmiste Estate near San Fernando. A facsimile of the martyrs’ tomb in Kerbala would be assembled of bamboo, tinsel and cloth and the finished Taja would often tower as high as thirty feet. Amidst much drumming and festivity, the gaudy taja would be carried in high procession to the sea or an estate pond and ‘drowned’.

Despite being of Islamic origin, Hosay was celebrated by all on the estate including the negro panboilers and with the exception of the white plantocracy. The 1880’s were a time of unrest. In 1881, a riot erupted at Cedar Hill estate which resulted in the assault of the overseer and requiring the intervention of the police before it was quelled. The growing numbers of Indians in the colony was a source of worry to colonial authorities who feared a mass uprising. The government , through the indomitable Inspector Commandant of Police , Captian Arthur Wybrow Baker , issued an ordinance which would prevent the Hosay processions from the estates from entering the town of San Fernando , which was done so that the tajas may be dumped near King’s Wharf .

On the eve of Hosay, police reinforcements were stationed at the Court House on Harris Promenade while a shipload of Marines, the HMS Dido anchored offshore. It is recorded that some of the Indians on particular estates did not participate in the processions which would approach Royal Road through Mon Repos Estate, and Cipero Cross (Cross Crossing).

On October 30th files of armed policemen were stationed at these strategic points to await the eight or ten thousand strong who would defy the Ordinance. It is possible that the Indians did not believe that the police would fire, but upon approaching the barricade at Cipero Cross, Stipendary Magistrate Arthur Child read the riot act and the police fired into the throng. A similar scene occurred almost simultaneously at the junction of Circular Road and Royal Road and when the acris smoke cleared, eleven lay dead and over one hundred were seriously wounded. The tajas were abandoned as carts took the dead to Paradise Cemetery where they were buried in a mass grave upon which the present-day San Fernando Central Market now stands. It is said by some that the hasty internment was done to hide a much greater death toll. This bloody chapter of our history must always stand as a monument to the sovereignty of religious freedoms and the immense sacrifice made by those whose lives were given for this cause.

Masjids were few and far between until the 1930s and 1940s. These were the Queen St. Mosque and the St. James Masjid which was the gift of Haji Gokool Meah. There was one in San Fernando on Mucurapo St as early as 1910 but the majority were converted dwelling houses which were unique in local architecture since the domes and minarets were of tin and were very quaint in appearance. This example seen near Penal in the 1950s stood along the main road opposite the public cemetery until it was replaced in the 1960s by an elaborate and more orthodox concrete mosque.


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