Who we are
Trinidad and Tobago is the most southerly island state of the West Indian archipelago with co-ordinates 11 00N, 61 00 W. We are located northeast of the Venezuelan mainland, and bound by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Geologically, the islands are not part of the Antillean arc. The island of Trinidad was once part of the South American mainland and is situated on its continental shelf while the island of Tobago is part of an island arc chain associated with the Caribbean Plate. The original inhabitants were Amerindian tribes who had migrated northwards from the South American coast. They maintained trade and cultural contacts not only with their Venezuelan brethren but with others in the northern Antillean chain. In July 1498 Christopher Columbus claimed the island in the name of Spain. Native peoples felt the brunt of the colonization process but in spite of it all a significant number of our citizens claim Amerindian ancestry and contribute to the diversity of life and culture in Trinidad and Tobago.
Since the island did not possess the mineral deposits which were the targets of Spanish exploitation, the colony was largely neglected until 1783 when the Grenada-based French colonist Roume de St. Laurent was allowed to bring slaves to engage in sugar cultivation in northern Trinidad.
The poorly defended colony was captured by the British in 1797 from which time it remained a British colony until independence in 1962. From the early 18th century, British merchants and planters gradually replaced the Spanish and French colonizers bringing African slaves to bolster the plantation system.
The abolition of slavery in 1838 created a serious labour problem since the majority of the African population abandoned the estates and sought free lives away from their forced existence as slaves. Efforts were now made to fill that void by encouraging wage labourers from Portugal, China and from Eastern North America.
Finally, India emerged as the major supplier between 1845 and 1917. In 1889 Tobago was administratively joined to Trinidad and ten years later it was made a ward of the colony of Trinidad and Tobago. In 1925 the colony was allowed to elect its first representatives to its uni-cameral (one chambered) legislature first established in 1831 and on 31st August 1962 that legislature was enhanced to a bi-cameral (two chambered) parliament.
On 24th September 1976, the nation moved from a constitutional monarchy to Republican status.