The Challenge of the Teachers
The last thirty decades of the nineteenth century have been correctly characterized by Gerad Tikasingh as a period in which the Indians established themselves as permanent communities of estate workers, villagers and small peasant settlers. By the early twentieth century the Indians consolidated their position and became wealthier, better educated, more confident and ready to assert their rights. There were now more Trinidad born Indians than immigrants. There was nothing unique about this transposition of poor, diffident, foreign born immigrants into wealthier, more assertive groups dominated demographically by persons born in the country of adoption. This has happened to immigrant groups in other countries, for example the West Indians in England. Although Indian immigration continued until 1917, the proportion of Trinidad born Indians increased from 44 percent in 1901 to 69 percent in 1921.1 The rate of natural increase had outpaced both the number of arrivals of new indentured immigrants from India and the mortality rate. Even if many Indians had not acquired a share in the most valuable asset of the colony -- land -- the increasing proportion of locally born Indians would have transformed their self-image, giving them a higher sense of their rights against other sectors of the population. Although many Indians made important social and economic progress, the masses remained in dire poverty. Their significant increase in land ownership in the late 1800s and early 1900s provided them with a share in the cocoa prosperity, and established them as the leading producers of food for local consumption.2 Many turned to commercial occupations off the land, of which shopkeeping was perhaps the most remunerative.
It is not unusual for a group to project an image of itself consonant with the social and political demands it makes. The French creoles had a legend, at least half-true, about their saving Trinidad from economic ruin at least twice, at the end