The two islands lie near the coast of Venezuela, in the south-east
Caribbean. Trinidad (10.5º N, 61.5º W) is the southernmost island of the Caribbean chain; Tobago (11º N, 60º W) is 21 miles
north-east of Trinidad. Both islands were once connected to the South American continent, and our flora and fauna reflect
that historical link.
Trinidad and Tobago enjoys a warm tropical climate, tempered by
the north-east trade winds. The average daytime temperature is 29º C (83º F), with maximums in the mid 30s. The wet season
is from June to December, but rain usually falls in short, intense bursts, and most days have lots of sunshine. The early
months of the year are drier.
The islands’ first inhabitants were Amerindians of the Arawak
and Carib tribes. Columbus encountered Trinidad in 1498, but the island remained a neglected corner of the Spanish empire
until the 1780s, when an influx of French Catholic settlers and their African slaves marked the real beginning of the country’s
After Trinidad was captured by the British in 1797, the population began to grow steadily; during the
19th century, labourers were imported from various other parts of the world — chiefly India, but also China and the
Portuguese island of Madeira. Tobago was long fought over by Dutch, French, British, and Latvian settlers, but from 1762 was
controlled primarily by Britain.
In 1888 the two islands became a single political entity, a crown colony of the British
empire. Since independence in 1962, Trinidad and Tobago has been a parliamentary democracy; in 1976 it became a republic within
the Commonwealth, cutting ceremonial ties with the old “mother country”. In 1980 the Tobago House of Assembly
was re-established, giving a significant degree of internal self-government to the smaller island.
Capitals & major towns
The nation’s capital is Port of Spain, in north-west Trinidad.
Other important Trinidadian towns include San Fernando, Arima, Chaguanas and Point Fortin. Tobago’s capital is Scarborough.
People & culture
Trinidad and Tobago’s 1.3 million people are English-speaking,
and share a vibrant common culture, but trace their roots back to Africa, India, Europe, China, the Middle East and the Mediterranean.
Trinidad is the home of Caribbean Carnival, as well as calypso — the musical form which fuels the national festival
— and of steelband music, which evolved in Port of Spain 60 years ago.
Musical forms derived from Indian traditions,
such as chutney, also thrive here. Apart from music, there are strong traditions of dance, literature, theatre, painting and
Trinidad and Tobago is the Caribbean’s strongest economy,
thanks to abundant natural resources, including both oil and natural gas. There is also a healthy industrial sector, including
manufacturing and heavy industry. Tourism, mainly concentrated in Tobago, is also important, and agriculture remains a small
but crucial part of the national economy.
The official language is English, but the local dialect contains
many words and expressions borrowed from Trinidad and Tobago’s many ancestral cultures. You may hear words like these
in everyday speech:
- Lime/liming: hanging out with friends
- Fete: party
- Bacchanal: scandal or commotion
- Maco: to be nosy
- Mas: Carnival
- Picong: playful teasing.