A very old tradition that continues to survive in Trinidad and Tobago, is the beating of the Bobolee. The origin of the word “bobolee” has become obscured with time but the actual word is still widely used. A bobolee is an effigy of Judas Iscariot made from old clothes stuffed with rags or dried grass. Similar to a piñata and a punching bag, a bobolee is beaten.
It is placed in a public place on Good Friday and anyone who passes is welcomed to “beat the bobolee” with sticks, kicks or slaps. The beating originally symbolised retribution for Judas for betraying Christ. With the passage of time the bobolee has also come to symbolise anything that is unpopular within the society, especially politicians. One would think that only children would “beat the bobolee” but adults are often immersed in the fun. The actual word “bobolee” has now become such a part of Trinidad culture that it is used to describe any individual who is taken advantage of by others or who has received a severe beating.
Finding a bobolee on Good Friday was once very easy as they were erected in every community. As time has gone by, it has become more difficult to find a bobolee in the city areas of Trinidad but in country districts you can still see them on Good Friday morning. The ones that are well constructed often surviving the beating and lasting into the evening. In the eastern parts of Trinidad, in the districts of Valencia, Sangre Chiquito and Sangre Grande you will still find bobolees placed at the side of the road. In the area known as the Valencia Stretch, one man has, for several years, faithfully constructed a bobolee every Good Friday and placed it in a chair at the side of the road. This effigy is so well made that as you drive past you often do not realise that it is a bobolee.