How We Broke Maracas

How We Broke Maracas

The days of the week in Trinidad are as follows: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Maracas. Maracas Bay is much more than a mere beach. It’s a part of our national identity.

On an island not known for beaches of the talcum-sand variety more common to other Caribbean islands, including Tobago, Maracas comes closest to that ideal. This beach on the North Coast is special. Hemmed in by verdant mountains with a bay almost pinched off by lush headlands, Maracas is different from most featureless, flat beaches in rival tourist destinations.

Coconut Trees in Trinidad and Tobago
Maracas Bay is much more than a mere beach. It’s a part of our national identity.

There are two questions asked of visitors to this country: “Have you had a roti/doubles yet?” and “have you been to Maracas yet?” Ahh…those were the days when we were proud to hold up Maracas as a shining example of how to do it up Trini style. A quick rinse in the tumble cycle of the rough surf is followed by a rapid dry off under the baking sun. A shark and bake that is 98% condiments is washed down with a cold beer. Of course, any serious beachgoer must wedge in some serious old talk as brisk winds coming off the roiling waters quickly fill your mouth with coarse sand.

Trouble is, though, Maracas Bay as described here exists only in memory. Jokey management, staggering incompetence and common-as-weeds corruption are symptoms of a disease that leaves no part of Trinidad and Tobago untouched. What we have done to our own Shangri La is like gazing upon a gleaming new car and deliberately buffing it with sandpaper.

Maracas Bay in 2018 makes the beaches at Normandy in 1944 seem inviting by comparison. It’s hard to imagine how we could have screwed this up so spectacularly. We’ve had money like water in Trinidad and Tobago, but we couldn’t keep a short stretch of beach from falling to ruin? We’re talking about a stretch of sand that’s just about two kilometres long, yet it’s a howling mess. By contrast, Varadero beach in Cuba is 20 kilometres and is, for the most part, maintained in pristine condition. Cuba, by the way, has been in the vise of an economic blockade imposed by the United States for more than 50 years.

An appropriate sign that should be distributed more widely across Maracas Beach.

This sign sums up everything about the generally deplorable state of a once great beach. You’re either physically at risk from all the detritus of construction scattered everywhere, or you’ll be mentally scarred when confronted with the shocking state of this beach. Maracas Beach now has all the charm of a rusted, abandoned dockyard.

The abandoned vending huts pictured in the background were never really what you’d call a classy addition to the seascape. It would have been ideal if they were constructed with materials that matched the beach environment. Now standing idle, they are a monument to our warped way of thinking in Trinidad and Tobago.

Just put it anywhere. Someone will eventually come along and burn it anyway.

Looks like someone was on a mission when they piled up this heap. All this junk is just mere metres from where beachgoers sprawl on the sand and frolic in the surf. Construction work, which has spanned two administrations, seems no closer to an end and offers no clues on the vision for Maracas.

The beach sand is spread as thin as the peanut butter in a house on a tight budget. Consequently, it’s more dirt than sand. Not so great for walking barefoot on the beach, which is probably not a good idea anyway what with all the scrap metal laying about.

When visiting the beach, be sure to bring your sunblock, lots of drinking water and obligatory tetanus vaccine.

These salt-air corroded steel rods are a bit out of place on a beach, wouldn’t you say? It’s probably unreasonable to expect visitors to the beach to wear industrial safety boots. At Maracas Bay, though, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Don’t be surprised if your baby, crawling on hands and knees, pulls a rusty box cutter out of the sand. That’s how they learn, right?

Never mind the rubble, the beach chairs are neatly stacked!

A crisp five-dollar bill goes to anyone with a close enough guess about the original purpose of what looks like some sort of concrete box. No clue? That’s all right. The money will be right here when you come up with a plausible explanation.

By the way, why there are so many smashed-to-bits concrete benches and tables at Maracas? That’s either some really hardcore liming or somebody didn’t follow the cement recipe for the outdoor furni-tears. The rubble here looks like Hulk was playing dominoes with Thor and them types.

We can’t figure out what to do with the old vending booths. Let’s just board up half of one and hope that no one will notice them.

Vendors, who once occupied these digs, have been rehoused elsewhere on the beach. What is baffling is these old structures are yet to be demolished or repurposed. For the time being, they add to the overall eyesore-chic that is Maracas Beach right now.

Is best we sit on the ground?

Curious, isn’t it? This partially-buried outdoor seating looks an archaeological discovery unearthed in the construction process at Maracas.

Not even all the King’s engineers could sort out the bloody drainage problem at Maracas.

If there’s one problem that has confounded engineers for several years, it’s the stubborn drainage challenges at Maracas Beach. Civilization will probably get those flying cars before we figure out the hydrology in this environment.

After many millions of dollars and years have gone down the drain, they are the only things that have gone down the drain. These collapsing box drains remain choked with weeks and fetid water. The brickwork is crumbling like a coconut drop and would probably have been outlasted by lego blocks.

If you’re looking for your missing child who wandered off, you might want to check this mystery hatch.

What has happened at Maracas Bay is a confluence of the best of us and the very worst of us. No need to spell out which side is winning here. Our beloved Maracas has the look of a plastic surgery junkie going in for one botched procedure after another resulting in a completely unrecognisable appearance.

It is almost criminal what has been done to a national gem, either through neglect, poisonous graft or basic incompetence. Trinis, of course, still visit the beach because it is a national institution, even if in it’s state of disgrace.

However, if you’re entertaining any tourists, it would be best to take them to Tyrico, Las Cuevas or really any other beach along the North Coast. If a stop off at Maracas Bay can’t be avoided, then your best bet would be to set up a picnic table in the car park. It’s the only infrastructural upgrade that seems to have worked out

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. Excellent. All Governments have failed on such a simple project. Those CONCRETE NEW HUTS are pathetic. Zero thought went into design. Pure square shit!

  2. Sad, so sad. It takes a lot of brilliance to mess this up.

  3. This is so sad and is truly an excellent example of the happenings in Trinidad over the last 10-15 years!

  4. This was excellent ! I wrote a blog Maracas Mayhem over a year ago and I was shook to my core when I went to the beach 2 wks and saw how horrible it looked. I comtemplated writing a part 2 but you did a fantastic job at capturing exactly how I felt in your article. I am so terribly confused as to what occured and why. Maybe we can collaborate in the future and get to the bottom of this. But again great article it truly is heartbreaking to see the beach in this condition.

  5. You can only maintain something if you care and have a bit of self-respect. Visiting the once beautiful twin island of Trinidad and Tobago, this is largely lost across the nation.
    Maracas is a prime example, but you can see the source of this problem e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e you’re going on both islands. Even if you seem to have found a seemingly untouched little part in a forgotten corner, looking around you’ll soon find a torn up, dumped garbage bag or an old fridge in the most unexpected places.

    I’ve been coming to T&T on vacations since the early 2000s but I think it’s time I stop getting depressed and hope for a future change for the better that does not come. Instead it’s time to find some new destinations where you don’t have to wear safety gear to walk a beach. There’s a type of attraction I have for people with self respect, people that care about themselves and their environment, people that are proud of their country. I’m no longer spending hard earned money in a place of decay, constantly having to jail myself between locked metal bars out of fear that someone will rob or kill me. That is not my idea of having a relaxing vacation anymore…
    Where did all the love go? When did Trinis turn their backs to God and invite the devil with open arms?

  6. Maracas looks nothing liek those pictures now. DId the author even visit Maracas in recent months??? all that is gone as they were UPGRADING and RENOVATING. ALl those pictures are very old, by months. New, open, clean carpark. Vendors relocated to bigger permanent shops…old locations have all been removed… seriosuly… get your facts right

  7. It’s more than fifty years ago that I made the weekly trip to Maracas with my brother and Mum and Dad from Cascade. I can remember every twist and turn in the road the smell of roast corn the beach the waves. Will never never forget, it was a glorious time on a beautiful island. My Lord how the world and Trinidad has changed.

  8. My Canadian family happily discovered Maracas beach 50 years ago and it was all that we had ever imagined, with it’s lush beauty, white sand, clear turquoise water and tasty shark and bake. I came back to Trinidad last year and I wept. It started right at the airport with apparently unhappy, unhelpful, sullen employees and I could sense that feeling almost everywhere I went, while being overwhelmed by the garbage strewn everywhere as I tried to capture the beauty of your incredible little island in the sun. So sad. Such loss. I truly hope that Trinis can recapture their joy and hope, their pride and their responsibility for their little jewel that has become so badly tarnished.

  9. The beach chair hustle and turf posturing I saw in October was a deal breaker for me (and the facade still required a tonne but the car park is good). Carry on.

  10. If you ever ever bring a visitor to Trinidad, hold his or her nose as you all go past the restroom,it’s a shame and disgrace how it smells,and don’t even bother to go to the men’s.

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