In 1498, a three ship expedition led by a driven promoter on his third voyage into the West's uncharted waters came to this enchanted gateway island a mere seven miles or 11 kilometers off the coast of South America. Christopher Columbus, a passionate and religious explorer, upon viewing island's three peaks now known as the "The Three Sisters" caused him to name the island Trinidad in honor of the Blessed Trinity. more
Trinidad was ruled liberally by the Spanish whose early settlers were primarily French planters and their slaves who had emigrated from other Caribbean islands. As in New Orleans, the French introduced Carnival and many other social customs to the island. The Spanish Crown's most important Governor (from 1784 to 1797) was Don Josť Maria Chacon, a multilingual Spaniard with a black mistress and mulatto children was most responsible for the British colonizing Trinidad. Chacon executed a well negotiated surrender preceded by a weak fight with the British. Apparently, he felt abandoned by the Spanish and trusted the British more than the French whom he called "treacherous friends."
The British followed their 1797 Trinidad appropriation with an unopposed takeover of the nearby Tobago from the French in 1803. Slavery was abolished in 1833 by the British Parliament. By mid-century, the island's already cosmopolitan mix turned to India to find cheap labor for the islands main product, the labor intensive sugar cane crop. Unlike the former slaves, the East Indians, as indentured servants, were allowed to keep their customs which included religious festivals with drumming, dancing and processions. Today the cultural mix of Trinidad is described as: 40% black, 40% East Indian, and 20% other, but all identify themselves first as "Trinis" or trinidadian.
Trinidad's sister island, Tobago, was named in 1502 for the tobacco the local Carib Indians smoked. Merged by the British into the main island in 1889 when its limited, typical West Indian plantation economy struggled, Tobago is said to be the self-contained Caribbean paradise described by Robinson Crusoe. Discovery of Tobago's unspoiled classic island beauty is accelerating these days being led by increasing European interest. The soothing natural rhythms of Tobago's seaside economy are the much sought after tonic for the cosmopolitan frenzy of Port of Spain, particularly following Carnival.
Unlike other Caribbean islands, Trinidad is blessed with many natural resources. The island's prior ancient status as part of the mainland means it shares substantial marine oil and gas reserves with its neighbor Venezuela and the 1970's oil boom wealth transformed T&T into democratically middle class nation. Yet the resource most highly valued in Trinidad is its people who often emigrate to take advantage of their education and skills. Every year, Trinidad with less than 2000 hotel rooms, will host tens of thousands of returning natives for the great Carnival and family reunions.
The resulting friendly celebratory atmosphere is most infectious