Tumbling down the hillside that borders Port of Spain to the east, LAVENTILLE was established by freed slaves who settled here in the 1840s – right “on the eyebrow of the enemy”, as the Trinidadian novelist Earl Lovelace rather beautifully put it. The city’s most impoverished and crime-ridden area, it remains a volatile place, said to be a stronghold of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen and forever used as a political football by politicians keen to swing the African vote. The birthplace of the steel pan, Laventille’s winding lanes are lined with a dense mishmash of buildings – some made from salvaged boards topped with rusting galvanized iron, others veritable palaces – which sit on steep and twisting streets in defiance of gravity. However, due to the volatility of the area, it’s not a place for a casual wander; if you do want to get a flavour of Laventille it’s best to go on a walking tour with local Elwyn Francis who also works as a tour guide for the Chaguaramas Development Authority and is well placed to gauge if it’s a good time to visit; violent flare-ups sometimes make it best avoided.
Though Laventille proper isn’t a place for sightseeing, it is worth making the trek out to its outskirts, where the rows of old warehouses between the highway and the Eastern Main Road hold the massive complex of the Angostura Distillers, producers of T&T’s famous bitters, as well as its rums, from Black Label and White Oak to Forres Park puncheon and the premium Single Barrel and 1919 brands. Tours of the rum factory cover the history of the company as well as a look around the bottling plant, distillery and bitters production area; you’ll also see the 700-plus specimens of the Barcant Butterfly Collection, and get to sample the rums. Tours are only available to groups of ten or more; call to see if it’s possible to fit in with existing bookings.