Trinidad & Tobago: Culture & History
Trinidad can be truly described as the birthplace of calypso, limbo, soca and, of course, the steelband. It is a richly cosmopolitan country, comprising of people whose ancestry were Africans, Indians, Creole who are a mixture of two different ethnicities - usually Black and Indian,
French, Spanish, Chinese, Lebanese, Syrians, Americans, Venezuelans, and some of the original settlers, the Amerindians. The largest non-secular groups are of the Christian faith, followed by those of the Hindu, Islamic and tradition African faiths, especially Orisha.
It is one of the most industrialized places in the Caribbean, and it is the fourth largest exporter of oil in the Western Hemisphere. It is one of the major sources of asphalt with the Pitch Lake at La Brea in the southern part of the island. It is also the home of Angostura Bitters, the recipe of which is a closely guarded family secret. It possesses lush forests especially in the northeast portion of the country and verdant hills where wealth of wild life and flora which accentuates the richness of the land. Trinidadians have made great contributions in sports, music, science, theatre and arts and crafts. Most people hold Pan music, which was invented in Trinidad, in great wonderment, as it begins to be inculcated ed into the cultures of other nations throughout the world. These different ethnicities blend to produce their cultures, which blend with the rest of the island's. All celebrates the Hindu Festival of the Lights -Divali; the Spring Festival - Phagwa; the Muslim Festival of Hosay, Carnival, Christmas, calypso, soca, chutney, parang, steelpan and other combinational forms.
Noteworthy Trinidadians are writers V.S. Naipaul, recent Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Earl Lovelace, and Samuel Selvon. Carnival artists Peter Minshall, Edmond Hart and Stephen Deryk; philosopher C.L.R. James; cricketer Brian Lara, holder of the world records for the most runs in a match and also holder for the most runs in a Test Match and the world's greatest calypsonians, the Mighty Sparrow.
Tobago, the sister island of Trinidad is located at the northeast of Trinidad. It is called "the land of the humming bird". Tobago is cool, serene and green and it has its lush tropical rain forests. It has a beauty that is enthralling and some very beautiful beaches. It is known for its oranges, grapefruits, mango, cocoa, breadfruit and copra. It is also known for its bird sanctuary with birds like the Scarlet Ibis, one of its most prominent. It is a place where Trinidadians and others come to avoid the hustling and bustling. It is a quiet romantic place for weddings and honeymoons. The southern part of the island is mountainous which allows for a beautiful scenic background. Tobago's capital is called Scarborough, which has a number of shops where tourists as well as the locals do their shopping.
Christopher Columbus was the first European on record to have sighted Trinidad on his second visit in 1498. He called it La Isla de la Trinidad because of the three mountain peaks. Columbus did not actually land at Trinidad, but the subsequent Spaniards who came after him, enslaved many of the Amerindian inhabitants and carried them to the South American colonies. Spain was very interested in gold from Mexico (New Spain) and the gold from the Incas of Peru. Spain, therefore only paid very little interest in Trinidad, which did not have the precious minerals. It was not until 1592 before Spain established their first settlement at San Josef, which is located just east of Port of Spain, Trinidad's capital.
Britain took over the islands from the Spanish in 1797, and as slavery was abolished in the 1830s, Britain imported thousands of indentures workers, mostly from India to cut the sugar cane remained intact for more than one hundred years. The Portuguese came from the Madeira as early as 1834, Africans came mainly from Sierra Leone, and, Europeans and Chinese came to the island in the 1860s.
Tobago was not "discovered" by Europeans until many decades after Trinidad was "discovered". Some Dutch merchants sent some New Zealanders around 1632. Tobago changed hands several times between its colonialist's masters, the Dutch, English and French, between 1632 and 1793. It was ceded finally to the British in 1814. The British brought over 10,000 African slaves within two decades to work on the island's sugar, cotton and indigo plantations.
After slavery was abolished in the 1830s, Tobago's plantation economy started to decline but rum and sugar, which are derived from sugar cane continued to decline until 1884, when the London Company that was in charge of finances, went bankrupt. Plantation owners abandoned the lands and most of the islanders squatted on the lands. Britain made Tobago a ward of Trinidad in 1889, thereby relieving it of its independent legislature. The finances of the two islands were merged. Trinidad and Tobago became independent in August 1962, and, has since then become a Republic.