17th Reunion of Latvians in Trinidad and Tobago, 15-25 June 2014

November 17, 2014

The legacy of the Duchy of Courland (1561/1562–1795) has a peculiar role in the history of Latvia. The colonies and trading stations of Duke Jacob in Gambia and Tobago have drawn the attention of historians and artistic professionals.

Latvians from Germany, Latvia, United Kingdom, the US, and Venezuela participated in an event that took place in Trinidad and Tobago. Guntis Svitins, a specialist from the State Archives of Latvia presented a poster exhibit entitled “Records of Tobago in collections of the Latvian National Archives”. The collection of the National Archives of Latvia (NAL) contains documents relating to Tobago. These include documentary evidence dating back to various points in time and are found in various forms. The NAL collections feature 17th century maps and drawings of Tobago, photographs depicting the reunion of Courlandians in 1970 and 1980, minutes of participants’ meetings, a programme of an event organised by the government of Trinidad and Tobago, an invitation, letters, postcards, publications, and video material. This exhibition offers general insight into documents that bear witness to events associated with past Courlandians in Tobago, as well as present-day Courlandian reunion events.

This was very interesting programme for participants, as well as for visitors to Trinidad and Tobago; it was also a opportunity to learn more about the history of Courlandians and Latvians in these islands. The visit with the President of Trinidad and Tobago, His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona was a very notable experience for everyone. His interest in our history was real and the President had many questions and comments after looking at the exhibition of the NAL.

We had a formal visit to the Scarborough Public Library, which shelves books about Latvia as well. Guntis Svitins spoke with Glenda Rose Layne, co-ordinator for culture in the Tobago House of Assembly, about the possibility of an art exhibit exchange between Tobago and Latvia. There were many trips through the national parks, rainforests, and coral reefs of Trinidad and Tobago. The final event for the Latvians was the celebration of the Summer Solstice “Ligo” in Great Courland Bay, near Plymouth on 23 June.

The ten days passed quickly. When participants returned to their respective homelands, everyone was filled with wonderful impressions and the understanding that our history is rich and interesting. We must pay special attention, especially us –memory institution specialists.

Guntis Svitins