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The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, more commonly known as simply Trinidad and Tobago, is made up of the two main islands of Trinidad and Tobago, and several smaller ones just off the South American coast. The larger of the two main islands, Trinidad, is merely seven miles from the coast of Venezuela.

The capital is Port of Spain, which is situated on Trinidad's northwestern coast, and the official language is English. The population is 35% Indian, 34% Black, 15% multiracial, with all other ethnicities in the one-digit range. Christians make up 50% of the population, Hindu 12%, and the rest of the faiths on the island are in the one-digit range.

These islands are known for their steel-band and calypso music, which evolved from the folk songs from Trinidad as well as for the limbo, a dance where the dancers take turns leaning backwards while hopping forward to fit beneath a horizontal bar which is lowered progressively until the dancers can no longer make it under the bar.

The island of Tobago was a Spanish colony from the time Christopher Columbus sighted it in 1498 until it was surrendered to a British fleet in 1797. During that time, the island changed hands repeatedly between Spain, Britain, the Netherlands, France, and Courlander more times than any other Caribbean island.

Although Europeans would, from time to time, stop at Trinidad in order to grab some slaves to work on other Spanish-owned islands, but aside from that, they apparently did not come to Trinidad and Tobago. There were a few attempts at settling the island,, but all met with failure.

In 1592, Spaniard Antonio de Berrio, who was looking for El Dorado, which is a mythical land of plentiful gold, he came upon Trinidad, where he founded the town of San José of Oruña, which is now known as Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph would become and remain the capital of Trinidad and Tobago until 1784.

His attempts at establishing a permanent settlement were not realized because there were not a lot of Spaniards willing to immigrate to Trinidad. There were a few African slaves who were imported during this time to do the labor, but the production of just about everything was sparse and there was virtually nothing exported at that time. Later, during the 17th and 18th centuries, tobacco and cacao grew on Trinidad with Indian labor, but the 1720s saw a massive failure of the cacao crops, and the industry declined precipitously. The island remained undeveloped until the late 1700s.

In 1776, the Spanish government tried to encourage roman Catholics from other islands in the Caribbean to immigrate, along with their slaves, to Trinidad to settle. Successes were small in this effort until 1783 when tax incentives were offered to those who would commit to settling there. Most of the new settlers were French, and soon the French influence in everything on the island was noticeable. New plantations popped up all over the island, and sugar and cotton were grown, processed, and imported, thanks to newly-imported African slaves. But trade flourished and things looked promising, and the settlers were well on their way to becoming the plantation economy they wanted to be. In 1797, Britain seized Trinidad from Spain and negotiated an amicable treaty, and in 1802, the Spanish officially ceded the island to Britain. Under British rule, the economy continued to flourish.

In 1807, the slave trade was abolished by Britain's Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, thanks to the dogged persistence of Parliament member William Wilberforce. But that act did not free slaves or abolish slavery. That didn't happen until the Slave Abolition Act passed in Britain in 1833, and slaves in the Caribbean colonies were freed in two phases, and complete and absolute freedom was granted to all slaves in 1838. This, of course, caused the plantation owners problems, because there was no longer free labor, and it was hard to find cheap labor. In 1845, there was an influx of indentured servants from the Indian subcontinent which lasted until 1917.

In 1889, Tobago's economy was nearly dead. It was united with Trinidad, though they each kept their tax administration as well as their governments. The two islands differed in a few ways. The one most notable is that they were governed as a crown colony, rather than having a legislature.

In 1962, Trinidad and Tobago won independence from the United Kingdom and joined the Commonwealth and the United Nations the same year. In 1976, it became a republic. Throughout the 21st century, Trinidad and Tobago has been built up economically, with its major industries being steel smelting, liquified natural gas, petrochemicals, and tourism. Although the state-imbed sugar company closed in 2003, independent sugar cane farmers work the farms for the rum industry.


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