Santa Aratack – a tranquil slice of destination Guyana
DPI, Guyana, Sunday, September 16, 2018
Santa Aratack also known as Santa Mission is a community located up the Kamuni Creek, a tributary of the Demerara River in Region Three.
Located 25 miles from the capital city, Georgetown, the village is only accessible by boat and the ride allows visitors to enjoy the lush vegetation along the creek.
The village was founded by Alfred Patterson in the mid-1800s. Patterson had stumbled on the location during his hunt for wallaba trees.
With its sandy landscape surrounded by the cool waters of the Kamuni Creek and dense forest Santa Aratack is also well known for the Kamuni Women Craft shop, where tourists can purchase a wide range of Indigenous art and craft.
There are two famous landmarks in the community: a monument representing the former Toshaos and the popular ‘Kamaka’ – a silk cotton tree whose roots are said to extend throughout the entire village.
The 3,000 residents are mainly of Arawak heritage and the village economy is based on small scale logging and handicraft. A grant received from the United Nations Development Fund was used to construct a guest house and implement tourism-related development projects in the village. With the launch of Santac Tours in 2013 the community is on a path to developing its tourism potential. Day and overnight packages are offered and attractions include the beautiful black water, scenery and the traditional way of life still practiced by the residents.
The community is also the birth place of Regional Engineer Joseph Patterson who once served as Regional Engineer of Region Three and now serves Region Eight. Patterson is extremely proud to be a son of the soil. He fondly recalls his childhood memories at Santa Aratack.
“Swimming in the creek is probably the most enjoyable memory I have and because my house is the closest to the creek I was always in it swimming with friends. Santa Mission is a peaceful community and I would not trade it for anywhere else even though I am now exposed to much more developed communities. I love my Santa,” said Joseph Patterson with a smile.
Asked what it is that residents of the community treasure the most, Patterson responded, “Family is the most important thing for us. We see ourselves as one big family and looking out for each other is what keeps us knitted together…we are very strong as a family.”
The community does not have a police station nor police outpost but falls under the jurisdiction of D Division. However, the Toshao is a Rural Constable and fully responsible for law and order in the community. Immediate past Toshao, Mr. Samuels, had a six-year tenure and by law is not permitted to be re-elected after serving two consecutive terms. The mantle was passed on to newly elected Toshao Hilton Williams.
Toshao Williams welcomes the position. “I was elected by the people to serve the people. Toshao Samuels did well and I will continue along his path to ensuring the continuous growth of our community. We have a good relationship with the Regional Administration and REO Jaikaran in recent times has frequented this community and from time to time assisted greatly and has pledged to do much more. In order to develop we must embrace our government of the day and work with them for our people,” Williams said.
Public Service institutions include a functioning health centre that provides improved Health Care to the villagers, Nursery and Primary schools, a Community Library and a Craft Centre.
One of the most successful ventures undertaken in the area is the production of handicraft through which a craft centre was established by a collaborative effort from the community, Government and its partners. This initiative now provides employment for a number of persons specifically women and residents are optimistic that more opportunities will be available within the near future as it expands.
Santa Aratack celebrated its Indigenous Heritage Day on September 15-16 commemorating Indigenous Month 2018.
Story and Images: Ganesh Mahipaul.