Trinidad and Tobago are the last in the string of islands that make up the Caribbean. They are located just off the coast of Venezuela. Although they are two islands, they are managed by the same governing body, hence the term, Twin Island Republic. Trinidad was discovered in 1498 by Christopher Columbus on his third trip to the New World. He saw the three mountain peaks and called the island, Trinidad in honor of the Blessed Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Tobago was named after a local type of tobacco pipe. The islands were inhabited by native Indians called Amerindians. They comprised two main tribes: the Caribs and the Arawaks. They called Trinidad, Iere.
The Arawaks were a peaceful tribe while the Caribs were war-like. Most of the natives were killed by small pox which was brought to the islands by the Spaniards. Today, the majority of Trinbagonians (i.e. Trinidadians and Tobagonians) who claim to have Amerindian ancestry have Carib ancestry. The native Caribs were short in stature, had light to medium brown skin, dark wavy hair, and brown or gray eyes, and characteristically high cheek bones.
After being discovered by Columbus, the islands changed hands several times between the Spanish, Dutch, French, and eventually the British . This is the main reason the islands have such diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In addition to the Spanish, Dutch, French and British cultural and ethnic influences, there are also influences from Africa, India, China, Syria and Lebanon. The Africans came with the slave trade. The Indians (from India) came to work as indentured laborers in 1845 on the Fatel Rozak after slavery was abolished (1834). The Chinese, Syrians and Lebanese came because Trinidad was a port stop on their trading routes. After the British took control of the islands, they were combined in 1889 to form a single British colony for administrative purposes.
Trinidad and Tobago obtained its independence from Britain on August 31, 1962 and became a republic on September 24, 1976. Trinidad is truly a heterogeneous society. 40% are of predominantly Indian or South Asian ancestry and 38% are of predominantly African ancestry. The other 22% are of mixed ancestry. Although the island republic is small (1980 square miles--slightly smaller than Delaware), it possesses a rich and diverse culture.
The cultural diversity can also be seen in the language, music, food, religion, holidays, and celebrations. As of 2000 the religious make up of Trinidad and Tobago was: Christian--58% (26% Catholic), Hindu-23%, Muslim--6%, and Other--13%. The most well known cultural festival in the islands is Carnival which has its roots in the Catholic Faith. This festival has helped to make Calypso (the national music) and the steel band (an instrument made from steel drums which was invented in Trinidad) popular worldwide. The twin island republic has 16 public holidays mainly due to the diverse religious backgrounds. Although English is the official language of Trinidad and Tobago, the natives speak Spanish, French, Hindi and several dialects. There is even a book that explains the meanings and use of many of these dialects and Trini words. The food is also influenced by the diverse ethnic cultures, especially the Indian, European, African, Chinese, Lebanese, and Amerindian cultures. All these cultures have combined to produce some truly exquisite cuisine.
People who were born in Trinidad are called Trinidadians or Trinis, and those who were born in Tobago are called Tobagonians. The term Trinbagonians refers to both Trinidadians and Tobagonians. Trinbagonians tend to be laid back and friendly with little regard for time and deadlines. Trinidad is more commerce-oriented, upbeat, and fun while Tobago is more relaxed. In addition to the food, music, culture and people, the islands boast exquisite beaches and unique flora and fauna. With it's rich history, diverse culture, and natural beauty, this twin island republic is aptly called the land of Paradise.