When researchers and writers at the Plantain Publishing House tracked down the story of Joseph Salvatori, they confessed that, like most people, they associated the name Salvatori with little more than a building in the heart of Port. of Spain which once bore the name of the businessman.
But Joseph Salvatori was more than a story of misery to wealth and a shrewd businessman with a building that bears his name. He was a diplomat, an inspiring person, a figurehead of the cocoa era in Trinidad and a complicated character worthy of a novel.
Her story surfaces in a colorful biography titled Salvatori: Un Corsu A Trinidad, commissioned by Salvatori’s great-granddaughter, Lorraine O’Connor.
The biography brings Salvatori and the cocoa era to life through letters, personal documents, diary notes, newspaper clippings, interviews with family members and research into the history of Corsica and from Trinidad. It presents information gathered from archives in London, Paris, Corsica, the United States and Trinidad.
Salvatori certainly had his share of adventures, which shaped his life.
In his introduction, O’Connor writes: “Your journey from a farmer in Corsica to one of TT’s most powerful families leaves us, your family, a legacy of resilience, determination and a will to succeed. . “
The biography is described as “a bespoke package, designed and published by Plantain, which helps capture legacies and build bridges for future generations.”
It’s a deeply personal book reflecting the history of O’Connor’s family, but Salvatori’s story has wide appeal as an immigrant story that fits into this era. He migrated twice: Venezuela served as his first homeland after Corsica. He lived there ten years before settling in Trinidad, where he had visited often on business.
Born on April 28, 1880, Salvatori ventured west at the turn of the 20th century. How he got to Trinidad from Venezuela is a story in itself that stages love, ambition, and the eventual need to escape the political turmoil of South America.
Its story tells of the rise of the cocoa industry in Trinidad. He brought Salvatori wealth, fame and A Thousand Flowers, one of the Seven Magnificent Buildings around the Savannah. Detailed descriptions of life at Mille Fleurs create a window into the lives of wealthy Trinidadians.
Much of the biography reimagines Salvatori’s life from the vineyards of Corsica to the bustling town of Port of Spain at the turn of the 20th century. Readers will feel like they are discovering everything from the lush landscape and vineyards of Salvatori’s Corsica home to his extravagant dinners at Mille Fleurs. Actual menus in French were included in the book, and detailed descriptions of the home’s interior evoke a glimpse into its opulent lifestyle.
Much of the story is written in the conditional to capture the vibe and life of a century ago. Research shows what Salvatori could or would have seen and felt in the three countries he once called home. It’s rich in sensory perception, fitting O’Connor’s past as a music and film producer. Readers feel like they can reach out and touch Salvatori as they see, smell, hear – and even taste – his life through these elaborate menus featuring mouth-watering dishes.
For a book, Salvatori’s life is very cinematic. Family photos, newspaper articles, extracts from diaries, immigration cards and letters create an intimate connection between the reader and the subject. Warm mustard yellow pages divide each section. The book’s layout evokes a joyful and uplifting connection between Salvatori’s life and the history of Trinidad.
A typical passage reads: “At nightfall Joseph would have surrendered, the common fire providing the only light for the house. He would have fallen asleep – and woke up – to the scent of the maquis, an evergreen shrub that covered all land that was not cultivated fields or forests. Its aroma included myrtle and rosemary and lavender and thyme and all the other flowers that produced such a generous scent that it wafted all over the island. It was the scent of Corsica.
Connections are still established between Salvatori and the circles that defined him.
“The paradox that defines the Corsicans is that, although they have rarely governed themselves, they have always been animated by a striking spirit of independence and rebellion.
The island’s struggle, the book tells us, “imbued its inhabitants with a strong sense of pride.”
Salvatori left Corsica at 17 with 35 francs in his pocket. His biography offers detailed information about his arrival in Trinidad and his rise to wealth and glory, emphasizing the values of diligence and perseverance.
A newspaper article titled On and Off Frederick Street offers a wealth of information on the bustling business of the capital in 1935. Journalist Ivy Achoy writes what all those cruise ship visitors would have seen in Port of Spain. Salvatori’s business offered a six-hour tailoring service, tropical costumes, linens and hats.
But cheerfulness often culminates in dramatic upheaval. In the 1930s, the cocoa industry collapsed due to an overabundance of West African cocoa and the dreaded witches’ broom disease in Trinidad. Salvatori had to reinvent himself again.
He did it with courage and a lot of panache, reflected even in the way he dressed. The biography says, “He liked the grand style.” He wore the most expensive costumes. One of her granddaughters described Salvatori as “the most ostentatious man you could ever lay eyes on”. He was wearing “a dark, ironed three-piece suit with ties and hats.”
Salvatori has taken his flamboyant style with him on business, political, and pleasure trips, all of which make for fascinating travel reads.
World War II brings more drama. Salvatori’s allegiance to France is well documented in the wartime secret correspondence and official recognition of former French President Charles de Gaulle.
Then there’s the story of how the original Salvatori store burned down and the new one in Independence Square, bigger and bolder than ever, rises from its ashes. Unfortunately, Salvatori lost all of his personal documents in the fire.
The last chapters concern the children of Salvatori, in particular Henry.
Overall, Salvatori: A Corsu a Trinidad is a treasure trove of historical material capturing a central point in Trinidad’s history. It is a remarkable immigrant story that shows the characteristics necessary for success.
The generous inclusion of primary source material gives readers the rare opportunity to experience Salvatori’s story for themselves by reading and interpreting much of the material that has gone into this book.
The biography is enjoyable and important read, arriving just in time for a Christmas present. It should be used in business and history lessons, but should also be read by anyone who cares about the stories of colorful people, immigrants, business, success, courage, history. and reinvention. It is an extraordinary work of research and writing. My only criticism would be that I would like to see a brighter title and more colorful cover that suits Salvatori’s vibrant life.