Lapeyrouse Cemetery – Trinidad City of the Dead
Many people have heard of New Orleans City of the Dead with its daily tours of tourists. Lapeyrouse Cemetery is Trinidad’s city of the dead and in fact it is a city with buildings, alleys, streets in a grid pattern and residents, although most of the residents are not moving, but each official resident has an address fixed. In Lapeyrouse, it is almost possible to trace the entire economic life of Trinidad and who made the money, because the rich bury their dead in grandiose style and here you can see more than elegant gravestones, but raised tombs, crypts, mausoleums and statues.
Lapeyrouse Cemetery is at the western end of Port of Spain, but with the expanded metropolitan area that Port of Spain has become, it can really be considered more of the city center. This cemetery is bounded by Tragarete Road to the north, Park Street to the south, Colville Street to the west, and Phillip Street to the east. At the south entrance of the cemetery there is an inscription intended to remind us all that our days are numbered and it says: “Stop, traveler, before you pass, this is how you are now, so once it was me, as I am.” now, soon you will be. “
The cemetery is laid out in an almost rectangular pattern with numbered streets running through the area. As you stroll through this final resting place of Trinidad’s prominent and not-so-prominent citizens, certain structures catch your eye as some are designed to look like churches, some as mini houses, and some simply as solid resting places. Among the largest structures are the tomb of the Famille Agostini, the tomb of the Herrera family, the resting place of Carlos Robertson from 1886, the vault of the Cabral family and the church as structure for Famille Comte LAA de Verteuil. Another interesting family tomb is that of the Jodhan family, which has chairs, candles, statutes, garlands and pictures, all inside and arranged so that family members come and sit and remember the deceased or possibly chat with them.
After the British conquest in 1797, Port of Spain needed a new cemetery, so land was acquired in a small area surrounded by Tragarete Road, Richmond Street, and Fraser Street. A wall was erected around it, and in 1813 it became known as the “Old Cemetery.” As the city grew, more land was needed, so the land was acquired from Picot de la Peyrouse, a French nobleman who had come to Trinidad in 1778 under the Cedula de Populacion and established a sugar cane farm in the outskirts of Trinidad and built the first factory for the production of Moscovado sugar (panela). Picot de la Peyrouse had set aside 20 acres for the creation of a cemetery and had a dedication ceremony in 1823. In 1831, this cemetery had acquired the name Lapeyrouse because it was on the former grounds of the property. In just a few years, the cemetery expanded again, this time buying land from the Shine family. During the following years, more land was acquired from the Dert (pronounced Der) family, who had started the first coffee farm in an area between Queen’s Park south and Tragarete Road in the 1770s (they are remembered across the street with his name just north of the cemetery).
The northern entrance to Lapeyrouse Cemetery is called Perry Gate and is named after American Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who died near Trinidad on August 23, 1819 and was buried in Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Port of Spain. In his honor there is a monument adorned with historical details and the metal gate leading to the cemetery is decorated with silver-plated coats of arms of Great Britain and the United States. The monument was completed and inaugurated on April 11, 1870, in the presence of Governor and Mayor John Bell-Smythe. In April 2012, The Perry Gate was remodeled by the US government.