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​From Dancing Cocoa to Carrying Gucci

Pictures courtesy Mark Lyndersay

My name is Marcia Cedeno and I take my pet Chihuahua Gucci anywhere I can take her.

I was born in Carenage and spent the first four years of my life there, not much of which I remember. And then my father uprooted his young family, my mother and four of us, by accepting a job to manage a sugar cane, cocoa and coffee estate in Central Trinidad.

In Central Trinidad in the mid-60s, there was no electricity. People used gas lights. In Port of Spain we had basically everything. In Central, we had nothing. We had this big stereo, records, a television, washing machine – all just sitting there because there was no electricity to plug them in! We may have been living there for many years before electricity got as far as us.

Running water was a luxury. We got water from the standpipe a few days a week.

It was a nice life because we literally were running wild in Todd’s Road, a little village nine miles from the centre of Chaguanas. The population was probably more East Indian. There were a few like my family, mixed. [Former MP] Maxie Cuffie grew up there and we are good friends.

A lot of the people living in the village worked on the estate.

We had chickens, we collected eggs. I remember selling cow milk to Nestle.

My father continued to work in POS so he left home early and got back very late, commuting on the Old Southern Main Road, just a single two-lane road. He would have two meetings in the morning with the estate foreman and they did what they had to do and then he would go to POS.

I went to a little school called Todd’s Road RC, which is still there. At the time, the school functioned as the church on the weekend. It operated as a health centre [when doctors and nurses] came around. If the village wanted to have a function or party, they would use the church.

The estate was 115 acres and had a river. We had a cocoa house and a coffee house so we learned to dance the cocoa and the coffee. We were part of the things the workers were doing. It was a big game! It was a dream childhood, comparing my life growing up to my son’s and nephews. We returned home from somebody’s house at sundown. Nobody worried. The workers just allowed us to do anything we wanted.

My mother moved to Todd’s Road with us, a young woman, taken from friends and family and left in a big house with four children for most of the day. She didn’t adjust very well. I guess she became lonely. One day, she packed up and she left. In those days, it was unusual for a single man to bring up four children.

The workers on the estate would get their tasks in the morning and they spoke Hindi. So we learned bits and pieces of Hindi.

My mother did come back to look for us about three years later. But not to stay. She had her own life in POS. Basically we grew up with our father and a housekeeper.

Sometimes I think the decision Daddy made was not 100 per cent right for the children. But I wouldn’t give up my countryside upbringing.

Huge families lived in those thatched roof houses where they would lepay the walls with cow dung. They didn’t have much but they were so generous! We didn’t have a mother so, every evening, somebody would come up to the house from the village with a plate of something to eat. They shared.
We were really brought up by the community. They were hardworking but generous. If you needed to put up a shed, all the men in the village would come together on a Saturday or Sunday. You cook some food, you buy a bottle of rum and, by the end of the weekend, you had your shed up. You read about it in all those Caribbean literature books but I actually lived it for many years.

At common entrance, my father decided I should become a young lady. So I was sent to live in POS with my aunt who would refine me. She took out the dialect from my speech.

Sugar cane wasn’t the king anymore. Prices were going down. The estate wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. A lot of the young men were going to university and they weren’t coming back to the land. So we moved back to Town.

I didn’t feel I would be complete if I didn’t have a child so I got one pretty late in life, Dominic, and he’s my life’s biggest blessing. He’s a doctor in England. For the first three months of Dominic, I didn’t sleep. I just lay down at night watching the cradle to make sure he didn’t stop breathing.

When Dominic was asked how he ended up being a doctor, he said my mother had me in the doctor’s office every Monday morning. Dominic says he developed his interest in medicine because he sat in doctor’s offices so often as a child.

I finished school at St Joseph’s Convent, POS. Imagine a country bumpkin from a little village school speaking dialect moving into the city and these amazing buildings that were St Joseph’s Convent! [The Convent girls and I] had absolutely nothing in common. They knew about going down the islands on the weekend or going to Miami for holidays and all I knew was sugar cane, cocoa and coffee! They were reading in history books about the planting of the cane in the Caribbean – and this was my life!

I was raised in a very Catholic family – not so much my father, but my aunts –and I’m still Catholic. One of my favourite cousins was a nun, Sister Helen Gomes from Holy Name Convent.

I do step into a church now but I prefer to do that when the church is empty. There’s a feeling of calm. I sit in front of the altar alone. I used to go into St Ann’s church and it would be just me and the spirits that be.

I worked with TSTT selling telephone directory advertising for a long time. I grew up running wild so being locked in an office didn’t make sense to me. I always worked in sales, on the road and made my own hours. Then I moved to Longmans, promoting textbooks. Finally I worked in real estate, matching people to the right home. The market is pretty challenging compared to when I started 14 years ago, [no more] expat rent. There’s no middle ground with real estate. It’s either something you love or you hate.

I was given Gucci by a friend who couldn’t keep her in July. When I first met her, in May of this year, I fell in love, this big personality, little dog. She’s a purebred Chihuahua. Her papers all say “Gucci.” She was even given to me with a Gucci carry-bag.

When I got Gucci, I didn’t realise I was getting a baby! Basically you have to brush her teeth, manage her time. So you don’t leave her alone for too many hours in the day. She’s three years old but I didn’t realise she was a four-legged child!

The first night I brought her home, I put her on her bed and, every hour, I touched her to make sure she was breathing, because she was so tiny! I couldn’t see her breathing under her blanket. They have no body fat and they get cold so they love fluffy blankets. She sleeps in my room in her little Gucci doggie bed.

Luckily for me I do a lot of work from home. A lot of places in Trinidad aren’t pet-friendly. So she’s my constant companion, so she doesn’t spend five or six hours alone at all. Sometimes I drop her in my handbag when I go into the supermarket.

She travels well. She has her own travel bag. I don’t know how it happened so quickly but I get parents’ anxiety when I leave my baby girl for too long.

I’m sitting there, working, I’m petting her and it does help. She keeps me calm. And Marcia and calm don’t often go in the same sentence!

I think there’s a reason Gucci came into my life. I take her for drives and not enough walks.

The best thing about having Gucci is having a constant companion. I wouldn’t say I was a lonely person but I always look forward to coming home. And shutting the world out. And having a peaceful quiet companion sitting there who would only give you a kiss is really a good feeling.

I’ve had an interesting life. God always knows what everybody could take. And God knew the personality of the child I needed in my life.

A true Trini to the bone is, we can take all the things life throws at us, the good, the bad and the indifferent. And still have a ball. Still party. Still enjoy the moment.

At one time in my life, Trinidad was everything. I remember all my friends going away to school and I chose, literally, to stay in Trinidad. I absolutely loved my country. But I have mixed feelings about Trinidad now. But, now it’s too late for me. Would I want my son to come back? Yes, he loves his Trinidad – but I’m not happy with where we’re going. People talk about racism and this, that and the other but when I look around… If I could leave, I probably would, to be honest.