Leguan Island will always be the place I call home. It is a beautiful little island in the vast Essequibo River in Guyana South America. The Essequibo River, by the way, is the longest river in Guyana and houses no less than 365 islands. The largest among them includes Leguan.
Here lives a mixture of people mostly of East Indian and African ancestries plus a large percentage of dougla people – those are people of East Indian and African ancestries and one or two Amerindians, Chinese and Portuguese as well.
The main religions practiced on this island are Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. In recent years many Hindus have turned to the Evangelical faith and moving away from the religion of their parents.
The people on this island live in harmony and peace. Even when Guyana had its bout of civil war in the 60’s, Leguan was untouched. People went about their business as if nothing was happening. The only disruption to life was the shortages as a result of the strike but other than that it was life as usual.
People on this island work hard and they understand the tactics of politics. It’s only the politicians who win they know they have to continue to work hard to provide for their families. I liked that about Leguan people.
Most people work the land for a living – either planting rice or ground provision. In Leguan there is a fair bit of cattle raising as well. Everything is organic on this island. In fact no one knows any other way to plant a farm. That was in the old days say 20 years ago. I am not sure if farmers have picked up the bad habit of using fertilizer of late.
The population of Leguan is on a declining trend. It is around 4,000. In its hey-day there used to be more than 6,000 people. Young people leave the island in search of better jobs. Many do not want to continue farming and since education is a premium among islanders, it makes no sense for the educated children of the farmers to hang around with nothing to do.
The few brainy jobs available are teaching, working at the post office, police officer or the Commission’s Office. There is a cottage hospital where a doctor can find work as well as nurses and orderlies.
There are about 27 villages with names that are Dutch, French, Spanish and English in origin pointing to the Island’s historical occupation by colonials from these various countries. There are names like Thierens, Louisiana, Phoenix, Endeavour, Labagatelle, Success, and Enterprise etc.
The mode of transportation is as old as the hills, donkey cart, horse-drawn trailer, bicycles and a bus and a few taxi cars. Many people do not want to drive on the road because it is in such bad condition it just wrecks the cars. You can swim in some of the potholes on the street.
To get to the mainland many people have abandoned the steamer and opt for speed boats which take a fraction of the time the steamer takes to cross the river. The steamer is basically used for transporting freight. Those who are timid opt for the safety of the steamer. This has created valuable jobs for some people on the island who can afford to buy a ferry boat. The boat takes you from the shores of Leguan to the shores of Parika where you are greeted by a huge market of ground provision, food stands and haberdasheries, clothing etc. This is a popular destination for shopping by the Leguanites. When Leguanites depended on the government ferry (the steamer), they did not have the flexibility to pop over for a few hours and then just hop on a speedboat and be back home in less than half hour. In the old days the ferry came in the morning and departed in the evening so there was not much flexibility.
Leguan has moved into the 21st century however with the coming of electricity in 1997 and both land and cellular lines and only two paved roads running along the north and south coasts. This is unfair to those who live in Phoenix because the potholes are still plentiful everywhere and life is tougher for the people because of it.