A visit to Santa Cruz

By Alva Solomon

It is a peaceful village situated along the Waini River in the North West District, and on busy days, the sound of speedboats zooming past in the distance adds to the pristine features of Santa Cruz.
As the boat banked the turn along the river, small businesses could be seen at the riverside, with the Golden Arrowhead flying above one of several small businesses at this exotic village.
Santa Cruz, which is also known as Kaniballi, is a small riverside village along the right bank of the Waini River. Home to approximately 350 residents, the village is home to mainly descendants of the Warrau indigenous tribe. However, there are also descendants of Arawaks and Caribs. The village was founded in the year 1891.
At the left side of the village lies the mouth of the Barama River, another major waterway which leads to a number of mining communities; and north of the junction, where the latter river meets the Waini, lies a creek where most of the residents live.

A woman paddling her canoe along the Waini River at Santa Cruz. Canoeing is the primary means of transportation around the village

According to the villagers, the founding families of the village of Santa Cruz include the Wilsons, Thomases and Abram families. The village is rich in its indigenous heritage, and a number of shell mounds can be found along the nearby river.
Close neighbours to Santa Cruz live at the villages of Waikerabi, located along the Barama River; Warapoka, a tourism destination which is located north of Santa Cruz along the Waini River; and Kwebana, which lies sought along the Waini. Residents are connected to the internet via a Digicel antenna which lies at the latter village.
As the boatman moored the vessel at the side of a shop outside Santa Cruz that Saturday, the quietude of the village was evident, but what caught the eyes of the visiting team was a high hill-top feature which sits above the riverside. As the visitors disembarked, their attention was immediately drawn to several concrete steps leading to the hill-top in the distance.
Along the passageway leading to the steps, buildings can be seen, and these include a facility to house a computer hub for residents to use. Further up the passageway, the visitors encounter the first step up the hill, and a mango tree at the top of the hill provides everyone with an idea of the height of the hill. At the left side of the hill stands the Health Centre, a neatly built structure which is staffed by a community health worker.

The visitors then ascend the hill. The steps are made of concrete, and they ‘hug’ the sides of the hill. As the visitors climb, some persons pant while others take short breaks, given the height of the hill. Then, after crossing the last step, the breathtaking view of the village, sprawling in the distance over the mighty Waini River, can be seen, with lush vegetation at its banks. A lady paddling along the river, a speed boat zooming by, and birds circling overhead all add to the exotic features of the village.
As the visitors reach the top of the hill, several buildings could be seen. They include an old church and the Santa Cruz Primary School. Outside the school, signs warning persons about the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen, and they all provide important advice on how to ensure one must follow the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Health.
Then it was time to take photos at the edge of the hill. Selfies and other poses reign, and the scenery is so breathtakingly beautiful that one may wish to sit and stare at the Waini River all day, given the peace and quiet the area offers.
Down by the riverside, at the ‘landing’, the boat captain fuels up his outboard engine while the shop-keeper chats with a visitor. A few canoes are moored at the landing, while residents paddle across the river.

A dwelling at Santa Cruz village along the Waini River

According to residents, logging, hunting and fishing are among the main economic activities at Santa Cruz. The area also boasts a number of riverside fuel depots, and its main customers are miners who travel from the mining areas along the Barama River to replenish their supplies.
The village also boasts a sports ground where cricket and football are played by the village teams. Teams from the nearby villages within the Moruca sub-region would visit Santa Cruz for village competitions in the various disciplines. There are approximately 60 families residing at Santa Cruz and residents note that life in the village is peaceful.
There are no reports of criminal activities, and according to a resident, many visitors have expressed an interest in taking their friends on tours of the village, as they note the tourism potential the area boasts.