El Dorado Village, West Coast Berbice (WCB) is situated 70 kilometres from Georgetown. Except for one Indian Guyanese family, its entire population of some 500 is African Guyanese. The village is bordered by Foulis, Belladrum, backdams and the Atlantic Ocean.
El Dorado is not the lost city of gold, but it could be considered a ‘city of friendship’. People can be seen interacting from one end of the village to the next, some sitting at shops, at the bus shed, riding side by side and in one particular yard where a wake was being held, two boys played draughts while their friends looked on.
At one house, labourers fetched sand off the road, some men in the yard were fixing the concrete walkway and a woman with a few children watered flower plants and put them in pots. Auntie Debbie (only name given), worked along with them; she is the owner of the property.
Debbie hails from Georgetown and does not live at El Dorado but was allocated a house lot in the village. She pointed out that she loves flowers and every time she visits to get additional work done on her house, she fetches more from the city. Friends of hers are planning a visit and she was getting the place prepped for that. If things work as per plan, she will put in her swimming pool then her place will be a haven for family and friends but also for persons living in and visiting El Dorado, she said.
Debbie said she did not choose El Dorado, El Dorado chose her, but she would not have wanted anywhere else anyway.
“Next time you visit,” she said, “You’ll have somewhere to relax. This will be the garden of El Dorado.” Then she got busy again giving orders then getting her hands all dirty as she worked along with her workers.
Dianne Hope sat on a bench under her house grating coconuts to make coconut oil. She formerly lived at Paradise, WCB. “First when I had come here, life was tough. My children were small and I had to do all kinds of domestic work to take care of them,” she said.
“They doing the streets now. This here,” she said, pointing to the red road, “was a dam before. When it rain, I had to fetch my grandson out to school.”
She described El Dorado as being “nice” and “quiet” adding that she would not necessarily say it is crime-free, but whatever crime it has is rare and usually petty.
Where she lives, Hope said, does not usually flood, though there was a huge one once, during which she and other residents had to move to Belladrum Primary.
Though there is a number of shops in the village, Hope prefers to travel to Rosignol once a month for groceries. She still buys from the shops in the village sometimes. Plucked chicken is sold not very far from her and fish and vegetables are sold every day by persons passing through.
Patricia Wilson was glued to her James Bond movie when I caught up with her. “I’ve been living here 38 years now,” she said. “I moved from Weldaad.” She lives with her daughter and grandchildren, some of whom were down by Debbie helping her out.
For as long as she has lived at El Dorado, Wilson has been selling fruits at the Bourda Market. Her trips to the market, she said, begin on Friday afternoons. She gets transportation to the market and would sell late into the night continuing the following day. She would sleep there and on Saturday afternoon, she would be packed and waiting for transportation again, this time to head back home.
Because of the many fruit trees in the backdam, the woman said, they would go “picking” and rarely ever bought fruits. Picking is where persons are allowed to go onto farms to collect fruits and vegetables. Since most of this produce would otherwise go to waste, landowners and farmers have no problem with persons picking the excess. She and her children would pick plums, sapodillas, mangoes and coconuts.
“The village is quiet, no problem here. We are contented with everything God has given us,” Wilson said.
“They giving we road now. The drainage is good; they got people cleaning the drains often. All we want now is the streetlights,” she added.
Wilson’s daily routine finds her taking care of her kitchen garden and her meat birds. Once a week, she travels to Number Thirty Village to attend the Valon Gideon Church.
Some young men sat outside a shop carrying on a conversation with their friend and shopkeeper, Shalinie Singh. She was born in El Dorado, she said, and as a girl she attended Belladrum Primary and Bush Lot Secondary. She sells beverages and creole dishes.
Singh expressed contentment with her village. She lives on the main road, and as such, benefits from streetlights.
“I find the people here quiet, friendly and cooperative,” Singh said.
The people of El Dorado are mostly farmers; others are self-employed like herself, or teachers, construction workers, fishermen and teachers. Others work away in the interior or in Georgetown.
Though in her section of the village, they have to deal with flooding from time to time, Singh said it is nothing to worry about and apart from that, El Dorado is a comfy village with hardly any problems and a village where harmony prevails.