Trinidad and Tobago, the earliest-settled part of the Caribbean, was originally inhabited by Amerindians of South American origin. In 1498, Christopher Columbus discovered the islands.
In 1530, Antonio de Sedeno, a Spanish soldier intent on conquering the island of Trinidad, landed on its southwest coast with a small army of men.
Sedeno and his men fought the native Carib Indians on many occasions, and subsequently built a fort.
In 1595, Sir Walter Raleigh, searching for the long-rumored "City of Gold" in South America, arrived in Trinidad.
By the early 1700s, following the total conquest of the Aztec Empire, Trinidad belonged to New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain, with Mexico City its capital.
Spanish King Charles III authorized free lands in Trinidad if settlers would swear their allegiance and loyalties to him. Well, they did, and as a result, English, German, Irish, Italian and Scottish families arrived.
Near the end of the 18th century, Port of Spain's population exceeded 10,000 and the total population of Trinidad was almost 18,000.
In 1797, British General Sir Ralph Abercromby and his impressive fleet sailed in. The Spanish Governor quickly surrendered and almost overnight Trinidad became a British crown colony.
The conquest and formal ceding of Trinidad in 1802 led to an influx of settlers from England itself, and from the British colonies in the Eastern Caribbean.
With the British in control, new plantation estates were created and slave importation increased to facilitate development of the land into highly profitable sugar-cane estates.
Like all of the British colonies and possessions in the Caribbean, African slavery and civil rights were on-going hot-button issues in Trinidad.
The emancipation of all African slaves occurred throughout the British Empire in 1834, and in 1838, Trinidad had some 18,000 slaves on the island.
British Plantation owners needing to fill their now depleted labor imported thousands of Chinese, Indians and Portuguese to work the plantations. These indentured (slaves) swelled in number, with Indians, in the end, exceeded 150,000.
In addition to sugar, the cocoa crop grew in significance in the late 19th century, and on into the 20th century. However, both industries eventually collapsed (primarily from disease) and a severe depression followed.
Petroleum increasingly came to dominate the economy and with the collapse of the sugar cane industry the oil economy led to changes in the social structure.
By the 1950s oil had become a staple in Trinidad's export market and was responsible for a growing middle-class among all sections of the Trinidad population.
Trinidad and Tobago became an independent nation (from the United Kingdom) in 1962, and in 1976, the country severed its links with the British monarchy and became a republic within the Commonwealth.
Between the years 1972 and 1983, profits from oil greatly increased the living standards in Trinidad. In fact, since late 2003, the country has entered a second oil boom and it is now one of the most prosperous island nations in the Caribbean.
Petroleum and related industries continue to be the backbone of Trinidad's economy, but as a backup, the island is trying to reestablish the sugar business, as well as other agriculture ventures.
Tourism is a significant industry here, with most visitors favoring the idyllic island of Tobago.
As for Tobago, Dutch settlers arrived in the 17th century; cotton and tobacco crops were the main exports.
The island changed hands many times between the British, Dutch and French, and finally Britain consolidated its hold on both islands in the late 18th century, then combining them into the colony of Trinidad and Tobago.
About Trinidad and Tobago
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