St James Gates in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad – Uncommon Attraction
Port-of-Spain, like any major city, is more than one thing. It’s an amalgam of disparate districts, each espousing their own unique vibe, style, and cultural traditions. That which sets these neighborhoods apart is often represented in art, architecture, or attractions. The St James Gates are a prime example.
In design and ornamentation, they echo a time long ago and a place far away. The St James Gates, though, only date back to 1997. They were erected foremost as a tourist attraction, an aim made problematic for many of the same reasons that keep the nearby statue of the great Lord Kitchener unknown to many visitors.
The second impetus for the gates, to stoke civic pride, though, shines through in the their ornate touches. They’re reminiscent of India’s long and storied metal works tradition…and with good reason.
St James’ Peru Plantation Past
These days, St James carries a reputation as Port-of-Spain’s prime party center. Western Main Road, Saint James’ main thoroughfare, is so hopping, in fact, that it’s known as Trinidad’s City That Never Sleeps.
All of this, however, belies the area’s sleepy agrarian past.
Beginning around 1783, all of St James was a sugar plantation known as Peru Estate. This name and status continued after the abolition of slavery in 1834. In place of enslaved Africans, though, the owners of Peru Estate, like many plantation owners in Trinidad, brought in indentured laborers from India to work the fields.
As years passed and terms of indenture expired, many immigrant workers from India put down roots in what would become St James.
The impact that this settlement has had on Trinidad culture overall is huge, of course. Indo-Trinidadian chutney music, chutney soca, and curry dishes, including our all-time favorite, roti, lend credence to this.
In St James, though, that influence and loud echoes of the Indian Subcontinent are especially prevalent.
You see it in street names like Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Calcutta, and Delhi.
You can experience it in annual festivals held in St James that draw directly from India. To this day, for instance, St James remains the center of Hosay festivities in Trinidad.
And of course, you can’t miss it by passing under the St James Gates.
Visiting the St James Gates
The St James Gates are located along Western Main Road. They bracket both sides of the small bridge that extends across the Maraval River. If you’re headed to where the party’s generally at in Port-of-Spain, you can’t miss ’em.