Trinidad History - History

Trinidad History - History

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Though a Spanish possession for three centuries, Trinidad was ceded to the British in 1797. Tobago came under British control five years later. British rule came to an end in 1962 and the country has largely achieved political stability with the exception of an Islamic militant-run seizure of Parliament in 1990. Reforms were promised and the hostages -- including the prime minister -- were released. In the cause of stability and peace, amnesty was granted to the Muslim militants in 1992.

Trinidad History Museum

Explore Trinidad’s past and its place in the American West at the Trinidad History Museum. Featured exhibits such as Borderlands of Southern Colorado and the Santa Fe Trail museum showcase the region's diverse cultural and ethnic heritage. The property features the historic Bloom Mansion and Baca House, two residences built in the late 19th century, as well as heritage gardens and the Santa Fe Trail museum, all on one block in Trinidad's acclaimed historic district.


The Railway System of Trinidad dates from July 1st 1876, when the first portion of line from Port of Spain to Arouca was opened.

By 1914 the Trinidad Government Railway owned 115 miles of line and 155 miles of track.

Traffic consisted mainly of produce which included cocoa, fruits, timber, petroleum products, general merchandise and sugar cane which was transported to factories.

The system was single line, standard 4 feet, 3 ½ inches with 9 feet native hardwood sleepers having angle fishplates and 60 pounds R.S.S. steel rail.

The average number of passengers carried annually was 1, 500,000. Three (3) classes of accommodation were available- first, second and third class.

Port of Spain provided a trans-service. The electric was working from 6:00 am to 11:00pm. A single fare by any one of the five (5) routes cost Three dollars ($3.00)

In 1880 a railway line was constructed from St. Joseph to Couva.

In 1882 a railway line was constructed from Couva to San Fernando.

In 1884 a railway line was constructed between Marabella and Princes Town.

The railway line between Arima and Sangre Grande was opened in 1897.

In 1913 the San Fernando line was extended to Siparia and one (1) year later, the Tabaquite line was carried through to Rio Claro.

In 1924 the Port of Spain terminus was built at a cost of 61,000 pounds sterling.

By 1963 the Trinidad Government Railway was plagued by loss of revenue and a widening deficit. It was realized that the situation could no longer continue and the system was finally abandoned on December 31st 1968.

The creation of the Public Transport Service Corporation arose out of the report of a working Party on bus transport in Trinidad and Tobago appointed by Government on November 21st, 1964. As a result of their findings on December 2nd, 1964, the Government decided that public (or state) ownership of the bus transport industry should take effect from January 1st, 1965.

The Public Transport Service Corporation, the sole operator of the country’s commercial bus service came into being on May 1st, 1965 as a result of the Transport Service Act No. 11 of that year. The Act mandated that the PTSC provide a safe, clean and inexpensive transport service for the people Trinidad and Tobago.

To properly accommodate the increase in passenger ridership on the East/West corridor, the Priority Bus Route was introduced. On December 17th, 1977 the San Juan route was opened and on July 27th, 1981 the Curepe route was opened. The Tunapuna route was opened on July 8th, 1982.

In 1967 passengers fourteen (14) buses serviced seven (7) routes in Tobago.

With the addition of twenty (20) new units in Tobago in 1984, the passenger ridership grew from 75, 000 per month in 1983 to 240,000 per month in 1985.

History of Ramleela in Trinidad

In 1845, 143,939 Indian Indentured laborers were brought to Trinidad and Tobago under the system of Indian indenture to work on the sugarcane and cocoa plantations. Approximately 85% of the immigrants were Hindus. [11] These indentured laborers made Trinidad and Tobago their permanent home at the end of the contracted periods of indenture. Meanwhile, they brought their practices and culture, including the Ramleela tradition. As they moved into their settlements and villages, their community life took shape, ceremonies, and festivals more in keeping with a community, such as Diwali and Ramleela.[12]

Ramleela also spelt as Ramlila or Ramdilla is a theatrical performance of one of the Hindu epics, the Ramayana, originally written in Sanskrit but re-written as the Ramacharitmanas in the Awadhi dialect of Hindi by Tulsidas in the sixteenth century. [10] Ramleela is the re-enactment of the life and times of Sri Ram, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu as told in the Hindu holy text, the Ramayan.

Subsequently, Ramleela began in Trinidad soon after the arrival of the indentured labourers, in fact within the first forty years of their coming to Trinidad. [1] In Dr. Primnath Gooptar doctoral thesis, he stated that even before the jahajees started building their villages and settlements they were playing Ramleela on small tracts of land between barrack buildings. Even under the harsh conditions of indenture ship, they were able to maintain the traditional performance of Ramleela, and even non-Hindus participated. [2] Social scientist Maslow showed in his “hierarchy of needs” that man’s first concern in survival is to satisfy his physiological needs, food, clothes and shelter. Our ancestors defied that theory by showing that while trying to survive and fulfill their physical needs they also ensured that they satisfied their social and safety needs through adherence and practice of their cultural and spiritual pursuits. They held on to Ramayan from which they received the inner strength required for their survival.

Ramleela is perhaps the oldest living form of free outdoor folk’s theatre in the Caribbean.[4] The traditional festival of Ramleela is celebrated mostly by Hindus whereas they produced their plays through various communities with the aid of villagers to serve freely. Ramleela survived continuously , in some instances for over 100 years, 50 in some cases and some old ramleela groups were located in biallgea such as Dow village, Cedar Hill,St John’s Trace (Avocat), Felicity,Pierre Road,Sangre Grande and St. Augustine.[4] Ramleela is surviving throughout Trinidad, as performances take place in both rural and urban areas.

In Trinidad and Tobago, Ramleela was usually celebrated annually in large open air fields in rural Indian villages for a period of ten days, during the daytime in the Hindu religious period called Nauraatri [6] at the last day of the festival, the evil “Lord Rawana” is burned to death. There we many changes and development through Ramleela celebrations in Trinidad. Some are technology where there are sound systems for the narration of the play in some Ramleela while in other celebrations there are still script readings.

Ramleela is important to many Hindus in Trinidad and Tobago and the festival should be respected and honored because it is part of our culture. I think you all should attend any Ramleela festival that is situated in your community in order to support our Hindu bhaiyon (brothers) and bahanon (sisters).

History of Trinidadian Creole

Trinidadian Creole English is the result of cultural influence by those in power and those that passed through over the years and left an indelible mark on the speech of the nation.

Originally, the island of Trinidad was inhabited by the Arawak and Carib people who were swiftly annihilated, after the arrival of the Spanish in 1498. The few indigenous people that remained were absorbed into the life of Spanish Trinidad and maintained a pidgin of their own native tongues, which also died out shortly thereafter. Spanish, however, never became a dominant language in Trinidad. It was considered the language of government for some time but the island was dominated by French settlers. The French had claimed Tobago, the sister island to Trinidad, and used it as a large sugar plantation. The close proximity with which the French had to mainland Trinidad caused French and French Creole to become the lingua franca of the island for a long portion of the its history due to it being necessary for trade and commerce.

In 1797, the British seized Trinidad from the Spanish and, five years later, the Spanish finally conceded with the Treaty of Amiens. This five year gap is important in that both countries staked claim to possession of the island and this time period would most likely be filled with language contact as both of the empires were attempting to wrestle control of the island and as many know, “Language is Power.” The power struggle here is definitely responsible for whatever little Spanish influence there is on modern day Trinidadian Creole.

The cultural variety of Trinidad became vast under the British rule due to immigration from other islands and the Slave Trade Act of 1807 lead to many freed slaves fleeing their homelands for Trinidad. This resulted in a massive gathering of languages and cultures. Still, French Creole remained the dominant lingua franca due to its importance to trade. The British Empire, however, took it upon itself to impose English on the island.

Schools were established that taught in English and, over time, the dominant language became English. As with most languages that are taught via the school system, the Queen’s English became the language of those with education while the Trinidadian Creole English because the true voice of the nation. By the 1900’s, Trinidadian Creole English had supplanted French Creole, in every facet. Trading and commerce was no longer dominated by the French Creole. Going forward, English would be the lingua franca of the island. Therefore, one can claim that the existence of Trinidadian Creole English is the result of a strict and dominant linguistic policy enforced by the British and the continued contact with the native tongues of those that immigrated to the island over the years.

Trinidad was founded on December 23, 1514 [1] by Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar under the name Villa de la Santísima Trinidad. [5]

Hernán Cortés recruited men for his expedition from Juan de Grijalva's home in Trinidad, and Sancti Spíritus, at the start of his 1518 expedition. This included Pedro de Alvarado and his five brothers. After ten days, Cortes sailed, the alcayde Francisco Verdugo failing to prevent Cortes from leaving, despite orders from Diego Velázquez. [6] : 49–52

The Narvaez Expedition landed at Trinidad in 1527 en route to Florida. Caught in a hurricane, the expedition lost two ships, twenty horses and sixty men to the violent storm.

Francisco Iznaga, [7] a Basque landowner in the southern portion of Cuba during the first 30 years of the colonization of Cuba, was elected Mayor of Bayamo in 1540. Iznaga was the originator of a powerful lineage which finally settled in Trinidad where the Torre Iznaga (Iznaga Tower) is. His descendants fought for the independence of Cuba and for annexation to the U.S., from 1820 to 1900.

The town proper is divided into the barrios (quarters) of Primero, Segundo and Tercero. The whole municipality counts the consejos populares (villages) of Aguacate, Cabagán, Caracusey, Casilda, Guaniquical, Río de Ay, San Francisco, San Pedro, and Táyaba. [1]

Nowadays, Trinidad's main industry is tobacco processing. The older parts of town are well preserved, as the Cuban tourism industry sees benefit from tour groups. In contrast, some parts of town outside the tourist areas are very run down and in disrepair, especially in the centre. Tourism from Western nations is major source of income in the city.

  • Region: Caribbean and Americas
  • Population: 1.4 million (2018)
  • Area: Trinidad, 4,800 square kilometres, Tobago, 300 square kilometres
  • Capital: Port of Spain
  • Joined Commonwealth: 1962, following independence from Britain
  • Commonwealth Youth Index: 21 out of 49 countries


Trinidad and Tobago received Commonwealth Election Professionals (CEP) Initiative training in May 2018. Its election officials improved their knowledge of international standards to conduct free, fair and trusted elections.

Countering violent extremism

The Secretariat advised Trinidad and Tobago on setting up a national plan to counter violent extremism.

Since 2017, the Secretariat has helped Trinidad and Tobago deliver a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) workshop for imams. It also delivered a CVE roadshow aimed at young people.

In January 2019, the Secretariat helped Trinidad and Tobago’s prison service to improve programmes.

Human rights

In June 2019, the Secretariat gave Trinidad and Tobago guidance on reporting to treaty bodies, including United Nations organisations.


Trinidad and Tobago implemented a Secretariat programme to improve respect for diversity and religious tolerance among young people. The country committed to deliver a toolkit in global citizenship by December 2018.

Debt management

The Secretariat helped the Trinidad and Tobago government switch to Meridian, the new version of the Commonwealth’s debt management system.

Blue Charter

Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the following Action Groups: Coral Reef Protection and Restoration, Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods, Ocean and Climate Change, Ocean Observation, Sustainable Aquaculture, and Sustainable Blue Economy.

Connectivity Agenda

Trinidad and Tobago is a member of the Physical, Digital and Regulatory Connectivity clusters of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. The Connectivity Agenda is a platform for countries to exchange best practices and experiences to trade and investment and undertake domestic reform.

Trinidad History Timeline

Historical timeline of events for the island of Trinidad from the 1400’s to the present day.

Trinidad History Timeline

Trinidad claimed for Spain on 31 Jul 1498.

Spanish settle in Trinidad and remain for two centuries.

Trinidad is occupied by Britain on the 18 February 1797

Spain formally cedes Trinidad to Britain Trinidad becomes a British colony.

The Great fire in Port of Spain.

The emancipation of slaves is complete in Trinidad and all the slaves are freed.

Indian indentured immigration begins and lasts until 1917

Oil resources and the first well are established in south Trinidad in 1869

Trinidad is unified with Tobago to form a single colony.

Becomes part of the Federation of the West Indies (3 Jan 1958 – 31 May 1962)

Trinidad and Tobago achieves self-government.

Independence from Britain (Trinidad and Tobago) on the 31 Aug 1962

Republic of Trinidad and Tobago 1 Mar 1976

Capital: Port-of-Spain (San Jose de Oruña – St Joseph -1592-1783)
National Anthem: “Forged from the love of Liberty”.

Prime ministers of Trinidad and Tobago

Eric Eustace Williams – Dec 1961 – 29 Mar 1981
George Michael Chambers – 30 Mar 1981 – 18 Dec 1986
Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson- 18 Dec 1986 – 17 Dec 1991
Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning 17 Dec 1991 – 9 Nov 1995
Basdeo Panday (1st time) 9 Nov 1995 – 24 Dec 2001
Patrick Augustus Mervyn Manning (2nd time) 24 Dec 2001 – 2010
Kamla Persad-Bissessar 26 May 2010 – 9 September 2015
Keith Rowley 9 September 2015 –


When Christopher Columbus came to Trinidad, he thought he had found India. The island was already inhabited by indigenous tribes known as the Arawaks and Caribs . He called them Indians because of their physical similarities. Due to this misunderstanding, the Arawaks and Caribs were later referred to as Amerindians to differentiate them from the East Indians who came to Trinidad as indentured labourers after the emancipation of slavery.

In 1498, Christopher Columbus claimed Trinidad as a Spanish colony. The indigenous peoples resisted for almost 100 years before the Spaniards could permanently settle on the island. When the dust finally cleared, Trinidad’s era of colonialism began. During this era, the Spanish Monarch was obsessed with gold. So development of the island was delayed while the land was excavated for the precious metal. The Spaniards eventually gave up on that fruitless endeavour and began utilizing the land to plant crops.

Trinidad remained a Spanish colony until 1797, during which time the island was mostly inhabited by French migrants. Trinidad became rich from the production and trade of sugar, cotton, cocoa, and coffee. The plantations and mills required a labour force, so the French owners recruited slave traders to sustain their industry. Most Afro Trinidadians can trace their lineage back to slaves from this period who were brought to work on the plantations.

In 1797, British General Sir Ralph Abercromby launched an invasion of Trinidad after relations between Spain and Britain soured due to a new Spanish alliance with the French. The Spanish governor of Trinidad, Don José María Chacón , quietly surrendered after his troops retreated without putting up a fight. Subsequently, he was found derelict of duty by a Spanish Council of War and was banished from the “Royal Domain”. Chacón went on to die in exile in Portugal. Trinidad thus became a British Crown Colony, formalised under the Treaty of Amiens in 1802.

In 1833, attempts were made to finalise the abolition of slavery in Trinidad and Tobago. The Act of Emancipation was passed by the British Parliament in 1833 and it became law on August 1st, 1834 – Emancipation Day. Facing a shortage of labour, the colonists began importing workers from China, West Africa (a free state), and the Portuguese island of Madeira. Eventually, the British started bringing over indentured workers from the Asian subcontinent.

These Indian migrants first arrived on May 30 th , 1845 aboard the Fatel Razack. They docked on Nelson Island and from there were disbursed throughout the plantations on the island. The last shipment of East Indians to Trinidad happened in 1917.

The first intrepid colonisers of Tobago were 68 Dutch settlers who situated their holding, Fort Vlissingen, near modern-day Plymouth in 1628. More Dutch folks from the Zeeland region arrived in 1629 and 1632, bolstering the population. On January 1 st , 1637, a Spanish force massacred the entire colony, leaving the island uninhabited and up for grabs. After this, no one coloniser was able to set up a permanent settlement and the island underwent a succession of hands over centuries. Finally, Britain gained a stronghold in the 19 th century. In 1889 Tobago was made a ward of Trinidad and the two islands were unified.

Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from Great Britain on August 31 st , 1962. On August 1st, 1976 the twin island nation became the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The Republic Day holiday is celebrated annually on September 24th to commemorate the first assembly of Parliament.

Trinidad and Tobago - History and Heritage

Christopher Columbus landed on Trinidad, which he named for the Holy Trinity, in 1498 and found a land quietly inhabited by the Arawak and Carib Indians. It was nearly a century later that Europeans began to settle Trinidad (called "leri&—land of the hummingbird—by the Amerindians). The Spanish settlement of San Jose de Oruma, located near the current city of Port of Spain, was the first of the island’s European villages, but was summarily invaded and destroyed by England's Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. Trinidad remained under Spanish control until eventually seized by the British in 1797. As sugar plantations developed around the island, thousands of African slaves were brought to the island as laborers. When Britain abolished slavery, plantation owners looked to India, China, and the Middle East for laborers, bringing to Trinidad thousands more indentured workers.

Related Content

Tobago, seen more as a strategic possession than an island for settlement, was often a point of contention. Amerindian tribes battled over the island and later, England, France, Spain, Latvia and others fought to control Tobago—over the years, control of this small parcel of land shifted more than 30 times. In the late 1600s, settlers established successful sugar, cotton and indigo plantations, largely through slave labor imported from Africa. In 1781, the French invaded again, causing tremendous destruction around Tobago, which impacted the previously thriving local economy.

In 1814, Britain regained control of Tobago, which it annexed to Trinidad in 1889. Trinidad and Tobago became independent of England in 1962 and was officially named the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1976

Watch the video: Trinidad History


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