Trinidad and Tobago Facts

Trinidad and Tobago Facts and History

North America

When Christopher Columbus returned from his third voyage in 1498, he described the island he discovered and named Trinidad as a paradise of secluded bays, white sandy beaches, coconut trees, crystal clear water and lush vegetation. The Europeans later set out for the paradise that was promised to them, they subjugated the indigenous people and almost completely exterminated them in the course of only three centuries. This tragic development leaves some visitors with a bitter aftertaste when they arrive in Trinidad & Tobago.

But he still finds a true paradise here, the scenic charms of the island are breathtaking, the company colorful, lovable, fun-loving and particularly hospitable. Even if the integration and mixing of the different population groups will never be completely complete, a highly interesting mixture of peoples has emerged here over the centuries, which has given the island a colorful culture and an even more colorful face. A tour of the islands opens up a view of many natural beauties and real wonders such as the asphalt lake and the beautiful bays and beaches. A visit to Port of Spain opens up an interesting mix of culinary offers and some architectural sights.

One of the favorite pastimes of the black population in Trinidad is the so-called “Liming”, which every visitor can learn nowhere better than here: “Liming” means indulgent idleness. People play, talk, drink a few “carib beers” and let their gaze slide over the heavenly bays out to sea. Long before the start of the carnival, however, the “Trinbagonians” are in top form: the carnival in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad, is being prepared. Nowhere in the world – some claim not even in Río de Janeiro – you can admire so many colorful, imaginative costumes. The hustle and bustle attracts visitors from all over the world, but the carnival is the most fun for the visitors themselves. If the carnival as an event seems a bit too big and confusing (apart from the exorbitant travel price increases at this time), you will probably be just as fascinated by the pan-jazz festivals on the islands. The locals make music using metal pots and pans that have been transformed into instruments. There is a special occupational field to make the kitchen utensils ring. The instrument makers burn, bend and grind the pans, draw and scratch the pitches in the metal. Afterwards, the instruments are so finely tuned that a jazz orchestra of young musicians with these metal instruments should not be outdone by any other when they sing their Caribbean concerts in the dark by the lights of candles and torches.

Name of the country The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Form of government Parliamentary democracy
Geographical location The island state of Trinidad and Tobago is located between the Caribbean and the Atlantic in northeast Venezuela.
National anthem Forged From The Love of Liberty
National holiday August 31
Population approx. 1.4 million (Credit: Countryaah: Trinidad and Tobago Population)
Ethnicities South Asians, Africans, mixed race, Europeans
Religions Roman Catholic, Hindu, Anglicans, Baptists, other Christian religions, Muslims, Adventists, other religions and without creed
Languages English, Hindi, French, Spanish, Chinese
Capital Port of Spain with approx. 450,000 residents
Surface 5,128 km² – Trinidad 4,828 km² and Tobago 300 km²
Highest elevation TrinidadEl Cerro del Aripo (941m) of the Northern Range


The Pigeon Hill (572 m) of The Main Ridge

Longest river the Oropuche River, Couva River and Caroni River (none of them are longer than 25 km)
Largest lake the artificial Caroni Area dam
International license plate TT
National currency the Trinidad and Tobago dollar (TT $)
Time difference to CET – 5 h, in summer – 6 h, as there is no summer or winter time in Trinidad and Tobago.
International phone code 001-809
Mains voltage, frequency 115 or 230 volts, 60 hertz; often American flat plug connections, i.e. an adapter is required.
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .tt

Trinidad and Tobago: history

The history of the islands of Trinidad & Tobago can only be precisely traced back to its discovery by the Spaniards. The events on the two islands were sometimes very different, which should be noted in the following presentation.

Before the year 1000

According to Abbreviationfinder website, it is believed that Trinidad has been around since about 4000 BC. Was settled by the Arawak as one of the first islands of the Caribbean archipelago. The Arawak were peaceful; they farmed, hunted and fished. The Caribs, which existed around 1000 BC. B.C. from the Amazon region were more belligerent. Based on archaeological findings, it is believed that the Caribs inhabited the mountainous north, while the Arawak inhabited the rest of the island. Around 1000 AD, the Caribs subjugated the Arawak. When Columbus discovered the island of Trinidad in 1498, around 35,000 people lived here; the Indians inhabited the coastal areas, lived from the cultivation of cassava and the trade with other tribes from the South American mainland.

Trinidad from 1498 to 1898

On his third voyage, Columbus discovered the south-east coast of Trinidad and gave the island its name, which translated means “Trinity”. He went ashore for the first time in Moruga and explored the Gulf of Paria and the west and northwest coasts until he left the region on August 14th. In his reports, he raved about the beautiful vegetation of Trinidad.

In 1580 the Spaniard Don Antonio de Berrio y Oruña settled Trinidad because he believed the island must be very close to El Dorado, the place he was looking for. The Spaniards appointed de Berrio their governor; In 1592 he called Domingo de Vera with 60 soldiers to Trinidad and built a settlement in the area of today’s St. Joseph; San Jose de Oruña. In 1595 the British sailors Robert Dudley and Walter Raleigh looted and destroyed the settlement, which was rebuilt in the following years. The Spaniards did not care much about Trinidad for a long time; some practiced agriculture and had their plantations cultivated by Indians. Capuchin monks came to Trinidad, devoted themselves to Christianization and had churches built. Through the Spanish soldiers and the diseases brought with them by the Europeans, the native population was nearly wiped out within 300 years. In 1757 the Spanish governor moved his seat from San José de Oruña to Puerto de España, today’s Port of Spain, on the coast. After the Spanish Crown tried to persuade Catholic settlers to immigrate to Trinidad since 1776, this decision was codified in 1783 and the number of immigrants increased. There were mainly French, but also British, and mulattos who brought slaves. All this brought the island an economic boom under the new governor, the liberal and reform-oriented Spaniard Don José María Chacón. In 1785 he founded the city of San José. To persuade Catholic settlers to immigrate to Trinidad, this resolution was codified in 1783 and the number of immigrants increased. There were mainly French, but also British, and mulattos who brought slaves. All this brought the island an economic boom under the new governor, the liberal and reform-oriented Spaniard Don José María Chacón. In 1785 he founded the city of San José. To persuade Catholic settlers to immigrate to Trinidad, this resolution was codified in 1783 and the number of immigrants increased. There were mainly French, but also British, and mulattos who brought slaves. All this brought the island an economic boom under the new governor, the liberal and reform-oriented Spaniard Don José María Chacón. In 1785 he founded the city of San José.

In the course of the French Revolution, more and more Europeans of different political convictions came to Trinidad. In 1796 Spain declared war on Great Britain, a year later a British expeditionary corps under Sir Ralph Abercromby conquered the city of Puerto de España and Abercromby appointed his officer Thomas Picton as the new governor. In 1802 the Amiens Peace Treaty was signed. However, Trinidad was not returned and remained in the hands of the British. In the meantime, over 150 sugar cane plantations had been established in Trinidad. The time under Picton developed into a reign of terror, especially for the colored population. He was adamant and cruel, considering the mulattos and slaves as potential inciters.

Although the planters protested vehemently, England banned the slave trade throughout the colonial empire at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1813 Ralph Woodward became the first civilian governor of Trinidad. Above all, Port of Spain experienced remarkable construction activity under him. In 1831 a so-called “Council of Government” was introduced, which replaced the former advisory body of the governor, which consisted of French plantation owners. Slavery was finally abolished in 1834. The slaves were compensated by the government and hired as contract workers for a further six years, but many left the plantations, so that there was a devastating shortage of labor. The government now recruited Indian contract workers who, due to the poor living conditions in India, were actually often willing to to leave their country, so that in 1845 the first ship from Calcutta arrived with 225 immigrants. Almost 150,000 Indians came to Trinidad by 1917. After their contracts with the plantation owners expired, many took a piece of land instead of the return ticket and became smallholders in Trinidad.

Tobago from 1498 to 1898

It is not entirely certain whether Columbus discovered the island of Tobago or not, in any case he never set foot on it. Nicholas Leverton was the first British citizen to set foot on the island in 1625, but was immediately expelled by the residents. The Dutch captain Joachim Gijsz anchored off Tobago on his journey from Brazil back to the Netherlands in 1627. Gijsz reported his discovery to the wealthy trading adventurer Jan de Moor, who sent 61 settlers with the captain Jacob Maerz to Tobago. In 1628 the settlers reached the island, settled in the Plymouth area and named the island “Niew Walcheren”. When the Spanish governor Don Luis de Monsalves heard of the settlement, he instigated the Caribs to attack the newcomers, so that they soon fled to Guiana, discouraged. At first there were further and equally unsuccessful attempts at settlement by the British and English, until the English King Charles I gave the island to his godchild Jacobus Duke of Courland. He wanted to ship slaves from the island to the West Indian world and sent 212 men to Tobago who founded the settlement called Jacobus. Although they were not attacked by the Caribs, a significant number of them died of disease. Jacobus sent the second expedition in 1654 under the command of Captain Molleyns. This built Fort Jacobus and the cultivation of sugar cane, ginger and tobacco began. Soon other families arrived and in 1654 the Dutch brothers Cornelius and Adrian Lampsins, who settled on the opposite side of the island in what is now Scarborough. There was peace between the settler groups until the Swedes invaded Courland and captured the Duke, giving the Dutch an opportunity to take the Kurland settlement on Tobago. Before the British finally attained supremacy over Tobago in 1814, there were several changes of rule.

Sugar, rum, cotton and indigo were grown on Tobago, while the island was increasingly populated by the British and French. With the abolition of slavery, Tobago also had great labor problems and the flourishing plantation economy was in a predicament. Attempts were made in several countries to recruit labor, but the wages in Tobago were too low, so the process was not as successful as in Trinidad. In 1847, a hurricane also destroyed large parts of the country. Due to the poor economic situation, there were increasing tensions between the plantation owners and the workers, which culminated in the Belmanna uprising in 1876. The planters came under the protection of the British crown out of fear and Tobago became a crown colony. To save money,

Trinidad and Tobago from 1898 to the present day

Towards the end of the 20th century the social structure of Trinidad changed, so that in addition to the rich upper class of white planters and the predominantly black lower class, a middle class was created. The then governor Lord Harris improved the school system and some blacks and many Indians made it into the middle class. In 1897 the “Trinidad Workingmen’s Association” (TWA) and the “Pan African Association” (PAA) were founded in Trinidad. Both are to be seen as forerunners of the later trade union and party organizations and demanded more social and democratic rights for the citizens of the islands. In 1903 there were various unrest in Port of Spain, which had been triggered by water scarcity. The police intervened at one of the most spectacular protest meetings. There were 18 dead and members of the angry crowd gained access to the Parliament building, the Red House, and set it on fire. The Red House burned down completely. The English Minister for Colonial Affairs Chamberlain advocated the reintroduction of the Borough Council and the first council was elected in 1913. As early as 1857, the Merrimac Oil Company had drilled the world’s first oil well in La Brea, and in 1914 the Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd. opened. the first oil refinery in Pointe-à-Pierre. In the years of the First World War and the post-war period, the industrialization of Trinidad began, but there was also inflation, the rise in the price of basic foods and the stagnation of wages; the social problems grew. In 1919 there were more demonstrations and strikes. The government issued a ban on strikes, there was a real wave of arrests and many of the demonstrators were expelled from the country.

In 1925, Arthur Cipriani won the electoral district of the capital in the national elections. Only about 6% of the population were eligible to vote in the elections. Cipriani had been the leader of the Trinidad Workingmen’s Association (TWA) since 1923 and for years formed a kind of “one-man opposition” in parliament, fighting for higher wages, better working conditions, compulsory schooling and the country’s independence. In 1934 the Trinidad Labor Party was founded under his leadership; Cipriani held the chair until his death (1945). In the wake of the global economic crisis, unemployment rose rapidly and working conditions deteriorated. The differences between the social classes became more and more evident. Tubal Uriah Butler then founded the workers ‘organization Trinidad Citizen’ s League, with which he organized an oil workers’ strike in 1937 and marched to Port of Spain to demonstrate. Together with the leader of the sugar cane workers Adrian Cola Rienzi, he founded the first trade union congress. Cola Rienzi became the first chairman of the Oilfield Worker’s Trade Union (OWTU).

At the time of the Second World War, Trinidad was Britain’s main oil supplier, so German submarines appeared off Trinidad to interrupt supplies. In 1941 the government leased the areas around Chaguaramas and Waller Field, where the Americans established military bases, to the US military. The plantation owners put themselves in the service of the Americans and innumerable night clubs and bars were built. All trade union and socio-political activities were prohibited during the war. Universal suffrage was introduced in 1945, and calls for social justice and independence grew louder in the post-war years. But the British were able to keep Governor Albert Gomes in power until 1965.

In 1954, under the leadership of Eric Williams, a black party, the People’s National Movement (PNM), was formed. Eric Williams brought together the social and democratic demands and the democratic demands. In 1958, his opponent founded the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), which was composed mainly of citizens of Indian descent and also called for independence from Great Britain and the USA. In September 1956, under Eric Williams, the PNM won the elections and remained in power for 30 years with Williams at the helm.

When the Federation of the West Indies, founded in 1958, threatened to break up in 1961, Williams campaigned for an independent Trinidad & Tobago. In 1960, protest marches by thousands of Trinidadian Americans moved the Americans to withdraw from the occupied territories. In 1962 the two islands achieved national independence and Eric Williams became the first prime minister. Until his death in 1981 he was re-elected six times. During his reign, 169 industrial companies first settled there until 1966, so that the industry was almost entirely in foreign hands and there were protests against this new colonization of the country. Severe Black Power riots broke out in Port of Spain in 1970. On April 20 of that year, the government declared a state of emergency. From 1973 the economic situation of Trinidad improved with the price decisions of OPEC and Williams bought the majority of shares in Shell and BP, nationalized the sugar cane factories, the airline BWIA and the telephone and television companies, resulting in an economic boom and an unprecedented atmosphere of optimism Country led. However, the wage gap between industrial and agricultural workers continued to widen, with 40% of the population living below the poverty line in 1983.

The 80s were initially shaped by the recession, falling oil prices, poverty and inflation. Former Treasury Secretary George Chambers came to power after Williams’ death in 1981. In 1986, however, the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) won the elections, and Prime Minister Robinson was forced to submit to some IMF conditions, to induce layoffs in the civil service and to push ahead with privatization. His stabilization measures suffered a severe setback in 1990 when militant Muslims attempted a coup. However, the coup plotters who occupied the Red House and took Robinson hostage did not find a majority in the population and had to give up after six days. Foreign investors were now more reluctant and people’s confidence in the NAR was shattered, so that in 1991 the PNM under Patrick Manning won the election again. In 1995, due to the tight election result, an alliance between the PNM and the UNC under Basdeo Panday was formed. The government began to focus more on fighting crime, drug trafficking and corruption. From 1994 the number of unemployed fell and the foreign debt could be reduced. Between 1995 and 2001, Basdeo Panday took over the post of Prime Minister and was replaced by Manning again in 2001. The stability of the oil state Trinidad & Tobago is still economically and politically dependent on the world oil market. However, efforts are currently being made to expand alternative industries.

Trinidad and Tobago Facts