The sprawling settlement of CHAGUANAS is one of the island’s oldest and largest towns. Ranged around the junction of Chaguanas Main Road and the old Southern Main Road (which runs parallel to the highway), central Chaguanas is a busy amalgam of shops and streetside stalls ranged around three large malls: Mid Centre, the slightly dilapidated Centre Pointe and Centre City. All are great places to find bargains in shoes and clothes, including imports direct from India.
Taking its name from its original inhabitants (the Chaguanes Amerindian tribe), Chaguanas was pretty much a one-horse town until Indian indentured labourers came in the 1840s to work on nearby sugar and cocoa estates. By the 1880s Chaguanas had become the most important market town in central Trinidad, connected to Port of Spain by rail lines and steamer ships. As the sugar industry declined in the early twentieth century, many Indians moved into professions such as journalism and law, creating the middle-class intelligentsia from which V.S. Naipaul emerged and which served as the milieu for some of his early novels. Though the trains and steamer are long gone, the construction of the Uriah Butler and Solomon Hochoy highways has ensured that the town remains well connected to the rest of the island, while the 1970s oil boom gave Chaguanas a new lease of life; conveniently located near the oil-rich south, it developed into a shopping centre for those who prefer not to travel all the way into Port of Spain. The swanky Lange Park suburb, alongside out-of-town shopping mall Price Plaza, attests to the area’s continuing prosperity.