From 1815 to the 1820s, the area along Moruga Road and environs in south Trinidad became the home to over seven hundred formerly enslaved African- Americans and ex-soldiers of the British Colonial Marines. The ex-soldiers had fought in the War of 1812 in the United States and were granted their freedom and land on which to settle in virgin forest in south Trinidad. Known as the Merikins, an abbreviated version of the word “Americans,” they settled mainly in six Company Villages at a time when slavery was still practised.
The majority of the Merikins were originally Baptists in the United States with some Methodists and Muslims. Their strong Baptist faith and its influences are still very much alive today as are their African and indigenous traditions such as the ancient African martial art of stickfighting or Bois, storytelling, use of herbal or “bush” remedies, the custom of gayap or “each one help one”, and cuisine such as “tum-tum” or pound plantain, benne and hill rice.
Laurence, K.O. “The settlement of free negroes in Trinidad before emancipation” Caribbean Quarterly. Vols. 1 and 2, 1963.