About Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago in Brief
Trinidad and Tobago is a twin-island Republic, situated at the southernmost end of the Caribbean chain, with Trinidad being only 7 miles (10 kilometres) off the coast of Venezuela.
English is the official language spoken among its population of 1.3 million people. Trinidad is rich in many natural resources from oil and natural gas to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Trinidad was once part of the South American continent hence the richness of its vegetation, and the close resemblance of its flora and fauna to that of the continent. Tobago has white sandy beaches due to the presence of coral around the island, and clear, turquoise waters.
The seat of government and capital city is Port of Spain, which is situated in the north-west of the island of Trinidad. San Fernando, the second largest city in the country, is considered "the industrial capital" of the twin-island republic.
The principal administrative centre of Tobago is Scarborough which is situated in the south of the island.
Land and Climate
The island of Trinidad , the larger of the two, has an area of 4,828 square kilometres (1,864 square miles) and is situated at 10.5 degrees north of the equator. Trinidad has a mountain range running along the north coast of the island with the highest peak rising to 940 metres (3,085 feet) and rolling hills in the south of the island.
Much of the north coast is densely forested and is home to a number of wild animals. Many of the island's more popular beaches are located on the north coast. There is a flat central plain where sugar cane is grown and much of the island's wet lands can be found.
Tobago is 300 square kilometres (116 square miles) in area and is situated just 32 kilometres (20 miles) off the north-east coast of Trinidad, 11 degrees north of the equator. Tobago has a central hilly range with a flat area in the south and west of the island where much of the tourism has developed.
The islands are warm all year round, with a mean air temperature ranging between 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) at the maximum and 23 degrees Celsius (73 degrees Fahrenheit) at the minimum. There are only two seasons, a 'dry' that lasts from about January to May and a 'wet' that lasts from June to December. The annual rainfall is approximately 2,000 mm and the average number of hours of daylight is approximately 11 hours per day.
History and Culture
Like their South American neighbours, the islands were inhabited by indigenous people, mainly the Caribs and the Arawaks, prior to their discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1498.
Trinidad was in the hands of the Spanish from the 15th century until it was captured by the British in 1797. During the Spanish rule, very few Spanish people settled in Trinidad and by the 1780's, Spain through the Cedula Act, invited all Catholic nations, to come to Trinidad .
This was during the time of the French revolution, and many French fleeing the conflicts between the Royalians and the Republicans accepted the offer made by the Spanish to colonise Trinidad.
French planters from the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe came during this time. The plantation owners cultivated sugar-cane, coffee and cocoa, and brought with them African slaves to cultivate the land.
When the British arrived, they met a country ruled by the Spanish with French speaking citizens.
Tobago's history is very different from that of Trinidad. It changed hands many more times and was ruled at one time or another, by the Spanish, Dutch, French and British.
Trinidad became a British colony in 1802 and Tobago in 1814. They were enjoined administratively by the British in 1889 and then politically linked as a joint colony in 1890.
With the abolition of slavery, a shortfall in labour for agriculture was met by the Indians who began to arrive in Trinidad in 1845, as indentured labourers. They emigrated from Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Punjab and other provinces, and had both Muslims and Hindus among them.
Chinese and Portuguese from the island of Madeira, also came as indentured labourers.
Early this century, many Syrian and Lebanese also came to Trinidad and played an important role in commerce, particularly in the textile and retail industries.
Up to the 19th century the islands like most colonies, developed as primary producers, supplying produce to be traded on the international market. Sugar and cocoa were big businesses in those days.
Traders from England, Scotland, Germany, France and the United States, came to Trinidad as salesmen, entrepreneurs and bankers. Compared to the other islands, Trinidad was a wealthy, cosmopolitan country.
The direction of economic development began to change with first, the discovery of oil in Trinidad and then the commercialisation of the petroleum industry during the 20th century.
The first oil deposits were discovered in 1866 and by 1908 crude oil production began. In 1912, the first oil refinery in Trinidad was established. In 1954, marine drilling began off the west coast of the island.
In 1959 commercialisation of natural gas began with the establishment of the first ammonia plant. By 1986, the first commercial oil and gas discoveries were made off the east coast.
During the 1970's with the oil boom, Trinidad and Tobago was well poised to use the revenue generated from the increased production in the energy sector, to diversify its economy.
In 1962, Trinidad and Tobago became independent and in 1976, it became a Republic.
English is the official language used in Trinidad and Tobago.
Spanish and French are taught at many of the nation's schools. There are also institutes in Trinidad which offer opportunities to study Spanish, French, Hindi, Japanese,Portuguese and German.
Translation and interpretation services in German, Spanish and French are available.