Arima—historically the third-largest town in T&T, following after Port-of-Spain and San Fernando—has been bumped into fourth place by Chaguanas which emerged as one of the fastest growing boroughs in the country in recent times.
The Arima Borough is considered the gateway to the north-eastern section of Trinidad with a population of approximately 41,000.
Arima still remains a town of great historical and cultural significance. Its famous Borough Day is held in August and usually coincides with the Santa Rosa Carib Community festival and holds its own Arima Carnival.
The borough is also hosting the Caribbean Festival of Arts (Carifesta) XIV in the East.
Arima is the official home of the First Peoples. Many people do not know that certain foods and items now identified as Trinidad staples came from the first peoples.
The word 'barbecue' comes from food roasted on a boucan, cassava bread and farine, warap, barbecued wild game, corn pastelles, coffee, cocoa, and chadon beni.
For the adventurous foodie, geera horse can be had in Arima around Christmas time, along with other meats and at national stick fighting semifinals around Carnival at the Arima Velodrome.
Parang music has its roots in Spanish and First Peoples' musical styles.
The Arima Dial is one of the most well-known, important and historical landmarks in Arima.
Some of its tourist attractions are Asa Wright Nature Centre, located in Arima Valley, Santa Rosa Carib Centre, located on Paul Mitchell Road, off De Gannes Street in Arima, and Cleaver Woods.
Wallerfield International Raceway, People of Praise Community, and Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge are also places in the borough visted by hundreds of people.
Speaking to Guardian Media on Monday from Photo House studio at Woodford Street, Arima, businessman and Chair of Partners of First Peoples Roger Belix said contrary to popular belief 'Arima' was not the native word for water.
Belix said water was 'puna', 'tum puna' was way to water and 'tuna puna' means crossing many waters from which those towns derive their names.
He said Arima was the name of a plant and its roots were crushed and used to catch fish by the First Peoples.
He said after the battle of Maraca or St Joseph on October 14, 1637, the native peoples gave the name Herrermarima to the famous chief to show how significant the plant was to the native peoples.
Belix said it was the colonials who called him 'Hyarima'.
'Expansion must be tempered with environmental concerns'
The retail and wholesale trade is concentrated in the heart of the borough, with light manufacturing and warehousing occuring in the O’Meara Industrial Estate and supermarkets, malls and shopping centres mushrooming on the outskirts.
Belix said, "Businesses are looking to expand in the area. There is a warehouse shopping facility, a textile mill will soon become a mall, a hardware chain is looking to build a mall in 'the Orange'—between Guanapo Main Road and Pinto Road, a businessman wants to turn the paddock into a mall.
"There's also a shopping centre, a plaza, five conglomerate supermarket branches.
"Can Arima support such expansion? This must be tempered with consideration for the environmental impact of not preserving our green spaces, take a look at Greenvale, the Guanapo housing development, and Carapo.
"The Guanapo dump's fumes sometimes reaches the town and affects children and people with respiratory illnesses."
He said in 1757 Capuchin monks came to Arima from Spain to convert the native peoples to Catholicism, Trinidad was under British control in 1797, and by the 1850s, Arima had grown large enough to be a strategic village.
Belix said in the 1870s Arima became even more prosperous as the cocoa industry began its expansion. He said The Trinidad Government Railway (TGR) was originally built in 1876, to connect Port-of-Spain to Arima so planters could better transport their product.
He said during this boom period when the first train came to Arima, the Chinese were the engineers who put down the train lines.
Belix said after that they set up shops and groceries and went into trade.
He said the Marlay Group of Companies from Sangre Grande opened a branch in Arima and traded in cocoa, coffee tonka beans, grocery, and haberdashery combined.
Belix said the Britsh came after, some became mayors in the borough, they were followed by the French Creoles who developed housing and agriculture.
He said sugar cane cultivation started in the Old Arima Road and Malabar, citrus was established by 'the Orange', not too far from Quesnel Street.
Belix said Hindus settled in Guanapo Road, Muslims in Malabar, Sherwood Park or 'the Congo' had Baptists or people of African heritage and Calvary was supposed to be the Carib community's home.