- For other uses of the word Trinidad, see Trinidad (disambiguation)
The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a nation located in the southern Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Venezuela. It is an archipelagic state consisting of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and 21 smaller islands, the most important being Chacachacare, Monos, Huevos, Gaspar Grande (or Gasparee), Little Tobago and St Giles Is. The larger and more populated island is Trinidad, while the island of Tobago is smaller (303 square kilometres; about 6% of the total area) and less populous (50,000 people; 4% of the total population). Citizens are officially called Trinidadians or Tobagonians or Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, but are informally referred to as Trinis or Trinbagonians.
Capital city Port-of-Spain is currently a leading candidate to serve as the headquarters of the Permanent Secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA-ALCA).
Main article: History of Trinidad and Tobago, History of the Caribbean
Prior to European contact, the island of Trinidad was occupied by various Amerindian tribes including the Arawak-speaking Nepoya and Suppoya and the Carib speaking Yao. Tobago was inhabited by Island Caribs (Kalinago). The aboriginal name for Trinidad was Kairi or Iere which is usually said to mean The Land of the Hummingbird, although others have reported that it simply meant island. Christopher Columbus discover the island of Trinidad on July 31, 1498 and named it Trinidad after the Holy Trinity; Tobago was named Bella Forma by him, but this later became Tobago (probably derived from tobacco).
The Spanish settled on Trinidad, while Tobago frequently changed hands between the European sea powers, but the settlements on both islands were small and underdeveloped. The changing of hands of the European powers was mainly to keep Tobago free of pirates. After changing hands between the British, French, Dutch and Courlanders, Britain consolidated its hold on both islands during the Napoleonic Wars, and they were combined into the colony of Trinidad and Tobago in 1889. Because of the colonial struggles, English, Spanish, and French place names are all common in the country. African slaves and Indian, Chinese, Portuguese and free African indentured labourers were imported to supply labour in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Immigration from Barbados and the Lesser Antilles and from Syria and Lebanon also impacted on the ethnic make-up of the country.
Although originally a sugar colony, cacao dominated the economy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. After the collapse of the cacao crop (due to disease and the Great Depression) petroleum increasingly came to dominate the economy. The Depression and the rise of the oil economy led to changes in the social structure.
The presence of American military bases in Chaguaramas and Cumuto in Trinidad during World War II profoundly changed the character of society. In the post-war period, the wave of decolonisation that swept the British Empire led to the formation of the West Indies Federation in 1958 as a vehicle for independence. The Federation dissolved after the withdrawal of Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago elected for independence in 1962.
In 1976 the country severed its links with the British monarchy and became a republic within the Commonwealth.
Petroleum, petrochemicals and natural gas continue to be the backbone of the economy. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy of Tobago, although it has declined in the environment after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most prosperous nations in the Caribbean, although less so than it was during the "oil boom" between 1973 and 1983.
Main article: Politics of Trinidad and Tobago
The Head of State of Trinidad and Tobago is the president, currently Professor Emeritus George Maxwell Richards. The President is elected by an Electoral College consisting of the full membership of both houses of Parliament. The parliament consists of two chambers, the Senate (31 seats) and the House of Representatives (36 seats). The members of the Senate are appointed by the president. The 16 Government Senators are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, the 6 Opposition Senators are appointed on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and the 9 Independent Senators are appointed by the President to represent other sectors of civil society. The 36 members of the House of Representatives are elected by the people for a maximum of five years.
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President. The President is obligated to appoint the person who in his opinion has the most support in the House of Representatives to this post; this has generally been the leader of the party which won the most seats in the previous election (except in the case of the 2001 General Elections).
Since December 24 2001, the governing party has been the People's National Movement led by Patrick Manning; the Opposition party is the United National Congress led by Basdeo Panday.
Trinidad and Tobago is an active member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Regional Corporations and Municipalities
Main article: Regional Corporations and Municipalities of Trinidad and Tobago
The local government bodies consist of nine Regional Corporations and five municipalities in Trinidad and the Tobago House of Assembly in Tobago.
The five towns with municipality-status are:
The nine Regional Corporations are:
Local government in Tobago is handled by the Tobago House of Assembly
Historically, Trinidad was divided into eight counties, and these counties were subdivided into Wards. Tobago was adminstered as a Ward of County Saint David.
- Saint Andrew
- Saint David
- Saint George
- Saint Patrick
Prior to reform of the system in the early 1990s these counties functioned as the administrative bodies for Local Government with the following modifications:
- Saint George was divided into Saint George East, Saint George West, the City of Port of Spain and the Royal Borough of Arima.
- The Borough (City after 1988) of San Fernando was separate from County Victoria.
- After 1980 the Borough of Point Fortin was separated from the County Saint Patrick.
- Saint Andrew and Saint David were combined under a single County Council.
- Nariva and Mayaro were combined under a single County Council.
- Since its establishment in 1980 the Tobago House of Assembly has gradually assumed many of the roles of the central government, in addition to those of local government.
Counties and Wards still play a role in revenue collection by the government.
Main article: Geography of Trinidad and Tobago
The terrain of the islands is a mixture of mountains and plains. The highest point in the country is found on the Northern Range at El Cerro del Aripo which is situated at 940 m above sea level. The climate is tropical. There are two seasons annually. The dry season, for the first six months of the year, and the rainy season, in the second half of the year. The rainy season is also known as the hurricane season; however unlike most of the other Caribbean islands, Trinidad and Tobago have frequently escaped the wrath of major devastating hurricanes, including Hurricane Ivan, the most powerful storm to pass close to the islands in recent history in September 2004. Hurricane Ivan month went on to devastate the small nations of Grenada and Haiti (among others) before hitting Florida. Trinidad and Tobago are supplied with the North Westerly winds which blow from the north west of the islands to the south east of the islands.
As the majority of the population live in Trinidad, this is the location of most major towns and cities. There are three major cities in Trinidad: Port-of-Spain, the capital, San Fernando and Chaguanas, the largest (and fastest growing) of the three. The largest town in Tobago is Scarborough.
Trinidad is made up of a variety of soil types, the majority being fine sands and heavy clays. The alluvial valleys of the Northern Range and the soils of the East-West Corridor being the most fertile.
The Northern Range consists mainly of Upper Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks, mostly andesites and schists. The Northern Lowlands (East-West Corridor and Caroni Plains ) consist of Pleistocene or younger soft sands and clays with superficial gravel terraces and river and swamp alluvia. South of this, the Central Range is a folded anticlinal uplift consisting of Cretaceous and Eocene rocks, with Miocene formations along the southern and eastern flanks. The Naparima Plains and the Nariva Swamp form the southern shoulder of this uplift. The Southern Lowlands consist of Miocene and Pliocene sands, clays, and gravels. These overlie oil and natural gas deposits, especially north of the Los Bajos Fault . The Southern Range forms the third anticlinal uplift. It consists of several chains of hills, most famous being the Trinity Hills. The rocks consist of sandstones, shales and siltstones and clays formed in the Miocene and uplifted in the Pleistocene. Oil sands and mud volcanoes are especially common in this area.
Although it is located just off-shore from South America, Trinidad and Tobago is sometimes considered to be part of the North American continent by virtue of its being a Caribbean country. See Bicontinental countries.
Main article: Economy of Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago has earned a reputation as an excellent investment site for international businesses. A leading performer the past four years has been the booming natural gas sector. Tourism is a growing sector, although not proportionately as important as in many other Caribbean islands. The economy benefits from low inflation and a trade surplus. The year 2002 was marked by solid growth in the oil sector, offset in part by domestic political uncertainty.
Main article: Demographics of Trinidad and Tobago
The two predominant ethnic groups are Indo-Trinidadians, the descendants of indentured labourers from India (40.3% of the population) and Afro-Trinidadians who descend from African slaves (39.5%). Together the two groups form about 79.8% of the population; most of the remainder are people of mixed descent, with small minorities of Europeans, Chinese, Syrian-Lebanese and Caribs (descendants of the indigenous inhabitants, not recognized as a distinct census category).
Many different religions are present in Trinidad and Tobago. The largest two are the Roman Catholics and Hindus; the Anglicans, Muslims, Presbyterians, Methodist are among the smaller faiths. Two Afro-Caribbean syncretic faiths, the Shouter or Spiritual Baptists and the Orisha faith (formerly called Shangos, a less than complimentary term) are among the fastest growing religious groups, as are a host of American-style evangelical and fundamentalist churches usually lumped as "Pentecostal" by most Trinidadians (although this designation is often inaccurate). The Mormon Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) has also expanded its presence in the country since the mid-1980s.
English is the country's only official language, but Hindi is also spoken by some Indo-Trinidadians and widely used in popular music. The main spoken language, Trinidad English is either classified as a dialect of English or as an English Creole (Trinidadian Creole English). The major spoken language in Tobago is Tobagonian Creole English. Both languages contain African elements; Trinidad English is also influenced by French and by Hindi. These Creole languages are normally spoken in informal situations only, and there is no formalized system of writing (other than proper English). Short-term visitors need not be concerned about learning Creole, as virtually everyone understands English. However, visitors should expect to hear Creole spoken frequently when they are not being directly addressed. Although Patois (a dialect of French Creole) was once the most widely spoken language on the island, it is now rarely heard. Due to Trinidad's location on the coast of South America, the country is slowly developing a connection with the Spanish-speaking peoples, and therefore government regulations now require Spanish to be taught to all high school students while Venezuelans often come to Trinidad and Tobago to learn English.
Main article: Culture of Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago are famous as the birthplace of calypso music, as well as the development of the steel pan, which is widely claimed to be the only acoustic musical instrument invented during the 20th century. The diverse cultural and religious background allows for many festivities and ceremonies throughout the year. Other indigenous art forms include soca (a derivate of calypso), Parang (Venezuelan-influenced Christmas music), chutney, and pichakarie (musical forms which blend the music of the Caribbean and India) and the famous Limbo dance.
- Besson, Gerard & Bereton, Bridget. 1992. The Book of Trinidad. Paria Publishing Co. Ltd., Port of Spain. 2nd Edition. ISBN 976-8054-36-0.
- Mendes, John. 1986. Cote ce Cote la: Trinidad & Tobago DICTIONARY. Arima, Trinidad.
- Saith, Radhica and Lyndersay, Mark. 1993. Why not a Woman? Paria Publishing Co., Ltd., Port of Spain. ISBN 976-8054-42-5.