Story by Tifaine Rutherford with photos by Arian Browne
Originally called ‘Plantation Leonora’, this village on the West Bank of Demerara got its name in colonial times. Leonora stretches from Edinburgh in the east to Stewartville in the west and is situated about nine miles from Vreed-en-Hoop.
Leonora has a population of approximately 2000 and the majority of the residents are Indian since a large number of indentured labourers came to work on the sugar estate years ago. Most of the residents are Hindu, with a few being Muslim and Christian.
Several people earn their income from selling in the market, while others have small businesses in the area; some cut cane in the Leonora Estate and the rest are employed by the private and public sectors.
Children attend the Leonora Nursery and Primary Schools and then Leonora Secondary. Some of them also attend secondary schools in Georgetown. As one resident said, “The only thing we don’t have is a bank.” The community has a cottage hospital, magistrate’s court, fire house, police station, market, technical institute, and various places of worship. Market day was just coming to an end when Sunday Stabroek visited the area.
Gangadein Ghansham was relaxing with her family at their home/joiner’s shop when this newspaper caught up with her. Living in Leonora for the past 21 years, she said that she and her husband had moved from Leguan and started selling provisions in the Leonora Market. Wanting to earn more money to support their family, they decided to go into the furniture making business, since her husband knew the trade. She told this newspaper that they started from a very small business and have grown so much that even her three sons have branched off and have their own furniture-making businesses.
She also said that they have a music system called ‘Cross Breed System’ which plays at events in the area. “We do anything that makes money for a living” she added. One of the main developments she wanted to see, she said, was the addition of a large shopping mall. She also added that she wanted some sort of recreational ground for the children since the one that was being constructed is being turned into some sort of track and field area, and as a consequence the children of the community have to use the Leonora Primary School ground.
Further up the road this newspaper ran into school teacher Taramati Ramotar. She said that she likes all the development in the area, especially the supermarket. The community has a lot of small businesses she said, and she likes the fact that they don’t have a lot of rum shops.
“There are not a lot of unemployed people in the area and this is a great thing,” she added. This was because of the Technical Institute, she explained, which was built a year ago and which a lot of the drop-outs in the area attend.
“This area [Seafield] is a reserve, area is going to regularize soon,” she said, adding that they were given light and water like everyone else. Although they live next to a trench, she said that there is no flooding in the area.
Muhammed Abdullah a small business owner in Leonora told Sunday Stabroek that the area is called ‘Seafield” because it was mainly fields and it used to stretch as far as the sea. “This whole place was a big field, no one used to live here.”
Leonora Estate, he said, was the only estate in the country that used to produce ‘gold sugar,’ a reddish kind of sugar. He too referred to the fact that they were fighting for a piece of land near the Technical Institute so that the children in the community could have some sort of playground, instead of them having to use the Leonora Primary School ground.
There was a school that started teaching young girls about embroidery, but that was shut down for some unknown reason he said.
In Alice Street he told this newspaper, there is a small monument dedicated to ‘Kowsilla aka Alice’ who was the first female martyr of the workers and who stood up against the system.
Living in Leonora for the past 40 years one of his biggest complaints was the quality of the water. “The water always comes rusty; it only comes upstairs in the nighttime. There also used to be a little flooding but they came and dug the drain so everything is better now.” There was not too much crime in the area he added.
Most residents in the area said that Leonora is one of the best villages on the West Bank and they especially like the fact that it is expanding ‒ a large housing scheme is being extended at the back of the market.