Trinidad in the Past and in the Present

Trinidad and Tobago are two islands with very different histories and cultures, united by politics

Photo credit: © Idless |

The island of Trinidad has a unique history among Caribbean islands. Separated from its sister island of Tobago, the individual histories have led to differences between each of the islands and have created two distinct cultures.


Columbus discovered Trinidad and claimed it for Spain. The island's native Indians were exported as slaves to mine gold in other Spanish territories, including Mexico. The island is located between the Caribbean Sea and North Atlantic Ocean, encompassing a total area of 1,841 square miles; over ninety-percent of the total Trinidad and Tobago nation.

Many European nations fought for the island, but the British walked away with Trinidad around the turn of the 19th century. Once under British control, Trinidad still remained separate from its Tobago neighbor. Today, Trinidad and Tobago share governmental responsibilities, under a bicameral republic. The President is the head of state, kept in check by the Parliament, which is headed by a Prime Minister.


Carnival originated on this island...


The culture of Trinidad has been the stronger of the two islands. Carnival originated on this island and spread to become one of the region's most famed cultural celebrations. This fun-loving lifestyle has dominated Trinidad, while Tobago is home to a more laid-back lifestyle.

Music has always gone hand-in-hand with Carnival celebrations, and is a truly important aspect of island culture. Calypso, soca, and other musical styles that have become popular throughout the country, even if they haven't made it to worldwide popularity, have played an important role historically, as well.


While lacking large scale gold deposits commonly found in South America, Trinidad has something just as valuable; oil. This black gold has supported the island’s economy for years. Agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism have also had a part in the country's economic development. Though the tourism industry plays a smaller role on Trinidad than it does on other Caribbean islands, it is still an important one. The nation boasts over 4 thousand hotel rooms, and sees over 200 thousand visitors each year during tourist season - a significant number of these guests arriving during Carnival.

Throughout the islands' relatively peaceful history, a distinct culture has developed. However, while Trinidad and Tobago are culturally rich, their economy is poor. In recent years the struggle has been toward a better life for island inhabitants. The tourism industry has helped to do this, and visitors can enjoy their vacation knowing that they are not only relaxing in a tropical paradise, but contributing to Trinidad and Tobago's economy as well.


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