FRESH plants, towering mango trees, neatly laid out benabs, lush surrounding savannah and the melodious sounds of singing birds greet visitors to the indigenous settlement of Capoey on the Essequibo Coast.The community can be accessed by road, but there are those who prefer to get there by means of the scenic, tranquil and mesmerising body of black water called the Capoey Lake. This cool freshwater lake, whose water tastes like that from the artesian wells, is a scene to behold, and is among the natural wonders of the Essequibo county.
Located near the villages of Alliance and Taymouth Manor on the Essequibo Coast in Region Two, the village can be accessed through Anna Regina, Suddie, and the sprawling bustling community of Charity. There is no written record on when the village was founded, but from reports, it was first inhabited by the Arawak Indians who came from the Pomeroon in search of lumber.
The Arawaks had reportedly pitched their tents on a bright moon-lit night, and in the pitch black setting of the lake, the moon appeared to have sat thereon; and as the night progressed, it rose into the sky and disappeared at sunrise. Delighted and awestruck by the scene before them, the Arawaks had reportedly exclaimed “Capoey!” And from thenceforth the lake became known as the Capoey Lake, and a portion of land behind it became known as the village Capoey.
Inside the Capoey Lake, on the western side, is a small lake called the Calabash Lake. Just behind the Calabash Lake is a field that grows the sweetest aqueros (curos) in Region Two, and the crop is owned by no one in the village. In season, villagers flock the area to harvest and pick up all the curos they can fetch, and from there they head straight to the major markets on the Essequibo Coast.
According to residents, the curo trees feed off the rich nutrients of the lake. Melrose Henry, the village toshao (the only female toshao on the Essequibo Coast), told the Guyana Chronicle that, years ago, the lake was much smaller, but rises in sea levels have caused erosion of the savannah, thereby widening the body of fresh water.
Aside from its beauty and how it got its name, there is an interesting story behind the lake, even though it occupies the realm of folklore.
Villagers related that during the early founding of the village, there was a beautiful girl named Mathilda, who had long hair. Every day, Mathilda would bathe in the beautiful black water lake, but one day when she went, she was carried away deep in the lake, at a pond, and from there she went down and never returned.
The villagers said it was related to them by their parents and grandparents that the revered Arawak spirits had collected the girl by hand and had taken her to the pond in the lake, and from there they journeyed to the netherworld. The pond has since been called the Mathilda Pond, and even to this day, villagers and visitors alike avoid that area in the enchanting Capoey Lake.
Aside from this little scare, the lake and the village are an idyllic place for a weekend getaway or holiday vacation.
The 2300-acre village has a population of some 540 residents. It boasts a nursery and primary school, a teachers’ quarters, a health centre, a multipurpose hall, a village office, two sizable pavilions, snackettes, a library, a solar-powered well, and recreational areas.
Residents rely mainly on lumbering to make a living, but some engage in subsistence farming while others are into gold mining.
The Arawaks began to inhabit the village in the early 1900s, and years after, Methodist missionaries came and established a church, the first in the village, which still stands today, though in a dilapidated state. In the early days, most of Capoey’s inhabitants were Methodists, but as time rolled on, other Christian denominations built churches in the village, and today there are five different churches there.
Residents of the village, which comprises mostly people of indigenous extraction, are firm believers that the Lord Jesus Christ is their Saviour; and because of this, they are always upbeat, simple and cheerful in spirit.
Over the years, the missionaries of the various denominations have been of great help to the village, as they have, from time to time, held health talks, eye clinics, and done medical and educational outreaches.
Every year, in September, this quiet village comes alive with the celebration of Heritage Day. The celebrations are so grand that preparations begin a month in advance. At the festivities, the villagers showcase their culture, foods, beverages, dances and craft; and place focus on development. Students in the village who excelled academically, as well as residents who contributed significantly to the development of the village, are honoured on these occasions.
Swimming competitions are held, and villagers also engage in cricket matches.
Capoey is headed by a toshao, who is guided by a village council. Toshao Henry told the Guyana Chronicle that the village garners revenue from a sand pit it owns, fund-raising activities in which it engages, and from visitors.
Most of the village’s income comes from the sand pit operation, which also provides employment for villagers. Villagers are employed on a rotational basis, with two being employed every six months.
The money earned from the pit and other sources is used to pay the village councillors, a librarian, a village cleaner, a caretaker for the guest house, and a cleaner at the health centre.
SUGAR LOAF PINEAPPLES
Aside from the sumptuous curos, Capoey is home to Sugar Loaf Pineapples, coconuts with water that can full a half-litre cup, mangoes that melt in the mouth, and cool fresh air that makes a visitor forget from whence he had come.
“I am proud of the beauty of our village; it is our pride. We are proud that we can bask in it, and share it to visitors here and those beyond these shores,” Toshao Henry said.
She also said that while her village celebrates its natural beauty, great efforts are being made to improve the lot of its residents.
Residents rely on solar cells and generators to power their homes; and by September, for the first time since establishment of the village, they will receive potable water.
Capoey, she said, is also proud of its achievements. The village has produced University of Guyana graduates, and medical checkups on residents are done by a Cuban-trained doctor who is a resident of the village.
“Education is a great investment, and it is big on our agenda. We believe that it is the tool that will help us to develop the kind of human resources we need to contribute to the development of our village and Guyana as a whole,” Toshao Henry said.
The village provides free transportation for students attending secondary schools on the coast, and supports a student who attends the Essequibo Technical Institute.