Trinidad and Tobago's Hosay history unveiled by National Archives

Trinidad and Tobago’s Hosay history unveiled by National Archives

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Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago: National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago has recently shared an update regarding the Hosay and their history in Trinidad and Tobago. The organisation took social media to share the history of the community.

“Did You Know that Hosay wasn’t always welcomed in Trinidad and Tobago as it is today? During the late 1800s, British colonial authorities were increasingly suspicious of large public gatherings of Indian indentured immigrants,” the organisation stated through the social media update.

It further updated that following riots that had occurred on various sugar estates, a ban was placed in 1884 that cancelled all public parades outside of the estates.

In opposition to this, thousands of Indian indentured immigrants who had spent the past year building and preparing their tadjahs to commemorate Hosay in the cities decided to appeal to the Protector of Immigrants/Agent General. The role of the Protector of Immigrants was to address the concerns of the Indian indentured labourers, but unfortunately, in this case, their appeal was ignored.

The National Archives also stated that on October 30th, 1884, Hosay defiantly took place in Mon Repos, San Fernando. In their efforts to stop the Hosay processions from marching, the police fired into crowds at Cross Crossing and at the junction of Circular and Royal Rd, resulting in 22 fatalities and over 120 people wounded. These events are referred to as the Muharram Massacre or the Hosay Riots of 1884. They effectively dismantled the celebration of Hosay in San Fernando permanently.

In St James, however, it is noted that because of the influx of persons coming to watch and also participate, Hosay observances became entrenched into the culture of the island. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, persons living as far as Belmont and East Port of Spain would travel via tramcars and trolleybuses to view the events.

This photo showing Hosay’s observances in 1904 is courtesy of the book “Insight Guide to Trinidad and Tobago”, published by Insight Guides, London. This book is part of the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago Reference Collection.