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Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (/ˈtrɪnɪdæd ... təˈbeɪɡoʊ/ (listen), /- toʊ-/), is the southernmost island country in the Caribbean.[14][15] Consisting of the main islands Trinidad and Tobago, and numerous much smaller islands, it is situated 130 kilometres (81 miles) south of Grenada and 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) off the coast of northeastern Venezuela.[16] It shares maritime boundaries with Barbados to the northeast, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west.[17][18]

The island of Trinidad was inhabited for centuries by native Amerindian peoples before becoming a colony in the Spanish Empire, following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498. Spanish governor Don José María Chacón surrendered the island to a British fleet under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby in 1797.[19] During the same period, the island of Tobago changed hands among Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Courlander colonisers more times than any other island in the Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago were ceded to Britain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens as separate states and unified in 1889.[20] Trinidad and Tobago obtained independence in 1962, becoming a republic in 1976.[15][16]

Trinidad and Tobago has the third highest GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP) in the Americas after the United States and Canada.[21] It is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Unlike most Caribbean nations and territories, which rely heavily on tourism, the Trinidadian economy is primarily industrial with an emphasis on petroleum and petrochemicals;[22] much of the nation's wealth is derived from its large reserves of oil and natural gas.[23][24]

Trinidad and Tobago is well known for its mix of African and Indian cultures, reflected in Carnival and Diwali celebrations, as well being the birthplace of steelpan, the limbo, and music styles such as calypso, soca, rapso, parang and chutney.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]

Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Flag of Trinidad and Tobago
Coat of arms of Trinidad and Tobago
Coat of arms
**Motto:**Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve
Anthem:"Forged from the Love of Liberty"
Location of Trinidad and Tobago
Location of Trinidad and Tobago
CapitalPort of Spain
10°40′0″N 61°30′27″W [187]
Largest cityChaguanas
10°31′7″N 61°24′37″W [188]
Official languagesEnglish[1]
Other languages**See Languages in Trinidad and Tobago**[2]
Ethnic groups
  • 37.6% Indian
  • 36.3% African
  • 24.4% Mixed
      • 7.66% Dougla
  • 0.65% European
  • 0.30% Chinese
  • 0.11% Indigenous Amerindian
    (incl. the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community)
  • 0.08% Arab
  • 0.17% Other
  • 6.22% Undeclared
  • 49.6% Christian
  • 18.2% Hindu
  • 5.7% Spiritual Baptist
  • 5.0% Muslim
  • 1.2% Bahá'í
  • 0.9% Orisha-Shango (Yoruba)
  • 0.3% Rastafarian
  • 5.8% Other
  • 11.1% Not stated
  • 2.2% None
  • Trinidadians and Tobagonians
  • Trini (colloquial)
  • Trinbagonian (colloquial)[5]
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary constitutional republic
• President
Paula-Mae Weekes (I)
• Prime Minister
Keith Rowley (PNM)
• Leader of the Opposition
Kamla Persad-Bissessar (UNC/PP)
• Speaker of the House of Representatives
Brigid Annisette-George (PNM)
• President of the Senate
Christine Kangaloo (PNM)
• Chief Justice
Ivor Archie
• Upper house
• Lower house
House of Representatives
• Amerindian tribes settle in Trinidad and Tobago
c. 5000 B.C.
• Colonised by Spain
• Spain cedes Trinidad to Great Britain as a result of the Invasion of Trinidad and is formalised at the Treaty of Amiens
1797 and 25 March 1802
• France cedes Tobago to the United Kingdom at the Treaty of Paris, which puts Tobago under British sovereingty for a third time
30 May 1814
• Unification of Trinidad and Tobago
• Part of the West Indies Federation
3 January 1958 to 31 May 1962
• Independence from the United Kingdom
31 August 1962
• Joins CARICOM at the Treaty of Chaguaramas
1 August 1973
• Republic
1 August 1976
(celebrated 24 September)[6][7][8]
• Total
5,131 km2(1,981 sq mi) (165th)
• Water (%)
• 2018 estimate
1,359,193[9] (151st)
• 2011 census
• Density
264/km2(683.8/sq mi) (54th)
GDP(PPP)2019 estimate
• Total
$45.149 billion
• Per capita
GDP(nominal)2019 estimate
• Total
$22.438 billion
• Per capita
HDI(2017)Increase 0.784[13]
high · 69th
CurrencyTrinidad and Tobago dollar (TTD)
Time zoneUTC-4(AST)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideleft
Calling code+1 (868)
ISO 3166 codeTT
Internet TLD.tt


Historian E. L. Joseph claimed that Trinidad's Amerindian name was Cairi or "Land of the Humming Bird", derived from the Arawak name for hummingbird, ierèttê or yerettê. However, other authors dispute this etymology with some claiming that cairi does not mean hummingbird (tukusi or tucuchi being suggested as the correct word) and some claiming that kairi, or iere, simply means island.[33] Christopher Columbus renamed it "La Isla de la Trinidad" ("The Island of the Trinity"), fulfilling a vow made before setting out on his third voyage of exploration.[34] Tobago's cigar-like shape, or the use of tobacco by the native people, may have given it its Spanish name (cabaco, tavaco, tobacco) and possibly some of its other Amerindian names, such as Aloubaéra (black conch) and Urupaina (big snail),[33] although the English pronunciation is /təˈbeɪɡoʊ/, rhyming with lumbago, sago, and "may go".


Pre-colonial era

Both Trinidad and Tobago were originally settled by Amerindians who came through South America.[16] Trinidad was first settled by pre-agricultural Archaic people at least 7,000 years ago, making it the earliest settled part of the Caribbean.[35] Banwari Trace in south-west Trinidad is the oldest attested archaeological site in the Caribbean, dating to about 5000 BC. Several waves of migration occurred over the following centuries, which can be identified by differences in their archaeological remains.[36] At the time of European contact, Trinidad was occupied by various Arawakan-speaking groups including the Nepoya and Suppoya, and Cariban-speaking groups such as the Yao, while Tobago was occupied by the Island Caribs and Galibi. Trinidad was known to the native peoples as 'Ieri' ('Land of the Humming Bird').[35]

Arrival of Europeans and Spanish colonial period

Sir Walter Raleigh raiding Spanish settlement in Trinidad in 1595

Sir Walter Raleigh raiding Spanish settlement in Trinidad in 1595

Christopher Columbus was the first European to see Trinidad, on his third voyage to the Americas in 1498.[35][37] He also reported seeing Tobago on the distant horizon, naming it Bellaforma, but did not land on the island.[16][38]

In the 1530s Antonio de Sedeño, a Spanish soldier intent on conquering the island of Trinidad, landed on its southwest coast with a small army of men, intending to subdue the Amerindian peoples of the island. Sedeño and his men fought the native peoples on many occasions, and subsequently built a fort. The next few decades were generally spent in warfare with the native peoples, until in 1592, the 'Cacique' (native chief) Wannawanare (also known as Guanaguanare) granted the area around modern Saint Joseph to Domingo de Vera e Ibargüen, and withdrew to another part of the island.[33] The settlement of San José de Oruña was later established by Antonio de Berrío on this land in 1592.[16][35] Shortly thereafter the English sailor Sir Walter Raleigh arrived in Trinidad on 22 March 1595 in search of the long-rumoured "El Dorado" ('City of Gold') supposedly located in South America.[35] He attacked San José, captured and interrogated Antonio de Berrío, and obtained much information from him and from the Cacique Topiawari; Raleigh then went on his way, and Spanish authority was restored.[39]

Meanwhile, there were numerous attempts by European powers to settle Tobago during the 1620-40s, with the Dutch, English and Courlanders (people from the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, now part of Latvia) all attempting to colonise the island with little success.[40][41] From 1654 the Dutch and Courlanders managed to gain a more secure foothold, later joined by several hundred French settlers.[40] A plantation economy developed based on the production of sugar, indigo and rum, worked by large numbers of African slaves who soon came to vastly outnumber the European colonists.[41][40] Large numbers of forts were constructed as Tobago became a source of contention between France, Holland and Britain, with the island changing hands some 31 times prior to 1814, a situation exacerbated by widespread piracy.[41] The British managed to hold the Tobago from 1762-1781, whereupon it was captured by the French, who ruled until 1793 when Britain re-captured the island.[41]

The 17th century on Trinidad passed largely without major incident, but sustained attempts by the Spaniards to control and rule over the Amerindians were often fiercely resisted.[35] In 1687 the Catholic Catalan Capuchin friars were given responsibility for the conversions of the indigenous people of Trinidad and the Guianas.[35] They founded several missions in Trinidad, supported and richly funded by the state, which also granted encomienda right to them over the native peoples, in which the native peoples were forced to provide labour for the Spanish.[35] One such mission was Santa Rosa de Arima, established in 1789, when Amerindians from the former encomiendas of Tacarigua and Arauca (Arouca) were relocated further west. Escalating tensions between the Spaniards and Amerindians culminated in violence 1689, when Amerindians in the San Rafael encomienda rebelled and killed several priests, attacked a church, and killed the Spanish governor José de León y Echales. Among those killed in the governor's party was Juan Mazien de Sotomayor, missionary priest to the Nepuyo villages of Cuara, Tacarigua and Arauca. The Spanish retaliated severely, slaughtering hundreds of native peoples in an event that became known as the Arena massacre.[35] As a result of this, continuing Spanish slave-raiding, and the devastating impact of introduced disease to which they had no immunity, the native population was virtually wiped out by the end of the following century.[42][35]

During this period Trinidad was an island province belonging to the Viceroyalty of New Spain, together with Central America, present-day Mexico and the southwestern United States.[43] In 1757 the capital was moved from San José de Oruña to Puerto de España (modern Port of Spain) following several pirate attacks.[44] However the Spanish never made any concerted effort to colonise the islands; Trinidad in this period was still mostly forest, populated by a few Spaniards with a handful of slaves and a few thousand Amerindians.[43] Indeed, the population in 1777 was only 1,400, and Spanish colonisation in Trinidad remained tenuous.

Influx of French settlers

Spanish Governor José María Chacón

Spanish Governor José María Chacón

Since Trinidad was considered underpopulated, Roume de St. Laurent, a Frenchman living in Grenada, was able to obtain a Cédula de Población from the Spanish king Charles III on 4 November 1783.[45] A Cédula de Población had previously been granted in 1776 by the king, but had not shown results, and therefore the new Cédula was more generous.[16] It granted free land and tax exemption for 10 years to Roman Catholic foreign settlers who were willing to swear allegiance to the King of Spain.[16] The Spanish also gave many incentives to lure settlers to the island, including exemption from taxes for ten years and land grants in accordance with the terms set out in the Cédula.[46] The land grant was 30 fanegas (13 hectares/32 acres) for each free man, woman and child and half of that for each slave that they brought with them. The Spanish sent a new governor, José María Chacón, to implement the terms of the new cédula.[45]

It was fortuitous that the Cédula was issued only a few years before the French Revolution. During that period of upheaval, French planters with their slaves, free coloureds and mulattos from the neighbouring islands of Martinique, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Guadeloupe and Dominica migrated to Trinidad, where they established an agriculture-based economy (sugar and cocoa).[43] These new immigrants established local communities in Blanchisseuse, Champs Fleurs, Paramin,[47] Cascade, Carenage and Laventille.

As a result, Trinidad's population jumped to over 15,000 by the end of 1789, and by 1797 the population of Port of Spain had increased from under 3,000 to 10,422 in just five years, with a varied population of mixed race individuals, Spaniards, Africans, French republican soldiers, retired pirates and French nobility.[43] The total population of Trinidad was 17,718, of which 2,151 were of European ancestry, 4,476 were "free blacks and people of colour", 10,009 were enslaved people and 1,082 Amerindians. The sparse settlement and slow rate of population-increase during Spanish rule (and even later during British rule) made Trinidad one of the less populated colonies of the West Indies, with the least developed plantation infrastructure.[48]

British colonial era

A medallion showing the capture of Trinidad and Tobago by the British in 1797.

A medallion showing the capture of Trinidad and Tobago by the British in 1797.

The British has begun to take a keen interest in Trinidad, and in 1797 a British force led by General Sir Ralph Abercromby launched an invasion of Trinidad.[16][49] His squadron sailed through the Bocas and anchored off the coast of Chaguaramas. Seriously outnumbered, Governor Chacón decided to capitulate to British without fighting.[49] Trinidad thus became a British crown colony, with a largely French-speaking population and Spanish laws.[43] British rule was later formalised under the Treaty of Amiens (1802).[16][49] The colony's first British governor was Thomas Picton, however his heavy-handed approach to enforcing British authority, including the use of torture and arbitrary arrest, led to his being recalled.[49]

British rule led to an influx of settlers from the United Kingdom and the British colonies of the Eastern Caribbean. English, Scots, Irish, German and Italian families arrived, as well as some free blacks known as 'Merikins' who had fought for Britain in the War of 1812 and were granted land in southern Trinidad.[50][51][52] Under British rule, new states were created and the importation of slaves increased, however by this time support for abolitionism had vastly increased and in England the slave trade was under attack.[48][53] Slavery was abolished in 1833, after which former slaves served an "apprenticeship" period. Discontent with this system erupted into a rebellion in 1837 by the British West Indian Regiment, led by Daaga, an ex-slave; the revolt was crushed at the cost of some 40 dead, and Daaga was executed.[54] The apprenticeship system ended on 1 August 1838 with full emancipation.[16][52] An overview of the populations statistics in 1838, however, clearly reveals the contrast between Trinidad and its neighbouring islands: upon emancipation of the slaves in 1838, Trinidad had only 17,439 slaves, with 80% of slave owners having enslaved fewer than 10 people each.[55] In contrast, at twice the size of Trinidad, Jamaica had roughly 360,000 slaves.[56]

Arrival of Indian settlers

Newly arrived indentured East Indian labourers in Trinidad and Tobago.

Newly arrived indentured East Indian labourers in Trinidad and Tobago.

After the African slaves were emancipated many refused to continue working on the plantations, often moving out to urban areas such as Laventille and Belmont to the east of Port of Spain.[52] As a result, a severe agricultural labour shortage emerged; the British filled this gap by instituting a system of indentureship. Various nationalities were contracted under this system, including (East) Indians, Chinese and Portuguese.[57] Of these, the East Indians were imported in the largest numbers, starting from 1 May 1845, when 225 Indians were brought in the first shipment to Trinidad on the Fatel Razack, a Muslim-owned vessel.[52][58] Indentureship of the East Indians lasted from 1845 to 1917, during which time more than 147,000 Indians came to Trinidad to work on sugarcane plantations.[16][59]

Indentureship contracts were invariably exploitative, to such an extent that that historians such as Hugh Tinker were to call it "a new system of slavery". People were contracted for a period of five years, with a daily wage as low as 25 cents in the early 20th century, and they were guaranteed return passage to India at the end of their contract period. However, coercive means were often used to retain labourers, and the indentureship contracts were soon extended to 10 years from 1854 after the planters complained that they were losing their labour too early.[48][52] In lieu of the return passage, the British authorities soon began offering portions of land to encourage settlement; however, the numbers of people who did receive land grants is unclear.[60] East Indians entering the colony were also subject to certain crown laws which segregated them from the rest of Trinidad's population, such as the requirement that they carry a pass with them if they left the plantations, and that if freed, they carry their "Free Papers" or certificate indicating completion of the indenture period.[61]

Few Indians settled on Tobago however, and the descendants of African slaves continued to form the majority of the island's population. An ongoing economic slump in the middle-to-late 19th century caused widespread poverty.[62] Discontent erupted into rioting on the Roxborough plantation in 1876, in an event known as the Belmanna Uprising after a policeman who was killed.[62] The British eventually managed to restore control, however as a result of the disturbances Tobago's Legislative Assembly voted to absolved itself and the island became a Crown colony in 1877.[62] With the sugar industry in a state of near-collapse and the island no longer profitable, the British attached Tobago to their Trinidad colony in 1899.[16][63][64]

Early 20th century

A soldier at Waller Air Force Base, leased by Britain to America in the 1940s

A soldier at Waller Air Force Base, leased by Britain to America in the 1940s

In 1903 a protest against the introduction of new water rates in Port of Spain erupted into rioting; 18 people were shot dead, and the Red House (the government headquarters) was damaged by fire.[63] A local elected assembly with some limited powers was introduced in 1913.[63] Economically Trinidad and Tobago remained a predominantly agricultural colony; alongside sugarcane, the cacao (cocoa) crop also contributed greatly to economic earnings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, in the 1920s the collapse of the sugarcane industry, concomitant with the failure of the cocoa industry, resulted in widespread depression among the rural and agricultural workers in Trinidad, and encouraged the rise of a labour movement. Conditions on the islands worsened in the 1930s with the onset of the Great Depression, with an outbreak of labour riots occurring in 1937 which resulted in several deaths.[65] The labour movement aimed to unite the urban working class and agricultural labour class; the key figures being Arthur Cipriani, who led the Trinidad Workingmen's Association (TWA), and Tubal Uriah "Buzz" Butler of the British Empire Citizens' and Workers' Home Rule Party.[65] As the movement developed calls for greater autonomy from British colonial rule became widespread; this effort was severely undermined by the British Home Office and by the British-educated Trinidadian elite, many of whom were descended from the plantocracy class.

Petroleum had been discovered in 1857, but became economically significant only in the 1930s and afterwards as a result of the collapse of sugarcane and cocoa, and increasing industrialisation.[66] [67][68] By the 1950s petroleum had become a staple in Trinidad's export market, and was responsible for a growing middle class among all sections of the Trinidad population. The collapse of Trinidad's major agricultural commodities, followed by the Depression, and the rise of the oil economy, led to major changes in the country's social structure.

The presence of American military bases in Chaguaramas and Cumuto in Trinidad during World War II had a profound effect on society. The Americans vastly improved the infrastructure on Trinidad and provided many locals with well-paying jobs; however the social effects of having so many young soldiers stationed on the island, as well as their often unconcealed racial prejudice, caused resentment.[63] The Americans left in 1961.[69]

In the post-war period the British began a process of decolonisation across the British Empire. In 1945 universal suffrage was introduced to Trinidad and Tobago.[16][63] Political parties emerged on the island, however these were largely divided along racial lines: Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians primarily supported the People's National Movement (PNM), formed in 1956 by Eric Williams, with Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians mostly supporting the People's Democratic Party (PDP), formed in 1953 by Bhadase Sagan Maraj[70], which later merged into the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) in 1957.[71] Britain's Caribbean colonies formed the West Indies Federation in 1958 as a vehicle for independence, however the Federation dissolved after Jamaica withdrew following a membership referendum in 1961. The government of Trinidad and Tobago subsequently chose to seek independence from the United Kingdom on its own.[72]

Post-independence era

First Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Rudranath Capildeo

First Leader of the Opposition of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Rudranath Capildeo

First Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams

First Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Eric Williams

Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from the United Kingdom on 31 August 1962.[16][68] Elizabeth II remained head of state as Queen of Trinidad and Tobago, represented locally by Governor-General Solomon Hochoy. Eric Williams of the PNM, a noted historian and intellectual widely regarded as The Father of The Nation, became the first Prime Minister, serving in that capacity uninterrupted until 1981.[16] The dominant figure in the opposition in the early independence years was Rudranath Capildeo of the DLP. The 1960s saw the rise of a Black Power movement, inspired in part by the civil rights movement in the United States. Protests and strikes became common, with events coming to head in April 1970 when police shot dead a protester named Basil Davis.[71] Fearing a breakdown of law and order, Prime Minister Williams declared a state of emergency and arrested many of the Black Power leaders. Some army leaders who were sympathetic to the Black Power movement, notably Raffique Shah and Rex Lassalle, attempted to mutiny; however, this was quashed by the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard.[71] Williams and the PNM retained power, largely due to divisions in the opposition.[71]

In 1963 Tobago was struck by Hurricane Flora, which killed 30 people and resulted in enormous destruction across the island.[73] Partly as a result of this, tourism came to replace agriculture as the island's main income earner in the subsequent decades.[73]

Between the years 1972 and 1983, the republic profited greatly from the rising price of oil and the discovery of vast new oil deposits in its territorial waters, resulting in an economic boom that increased living standards greatly.[16][71] In 1976 the country became a republic within the Commonwealth, though it retained the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as its final appellate court.[16] The position of governor-general was replaced with that of President; Ellis Clarke was the first to hold this largely ceremonial role.[74] Tobago was granted limited self-rule with the creation of the Tobago House of Assembly in 1980.[62]

Williams died in 1981, being replaced by George Chambers who led the country until 1986. By this time a fall in the price of oil had resulted in a recession, causing rising inflation and unemployment.[75] The main opposition parties united under the banner of National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) and won the 1986 Trinidad and Tobago general election, with NAR leader A. N. R. Robinson becoming the new Prime Minister.[76][71] Robinson was unable to hold together the fragile NAR coalition, and social unrest was caused by his economic reforms, such as devaluing the currency and implementing an International Monetary Fund Structural Adjustment Program.[16] In 1990 114 members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, led by Yasin Abu Bakr (formerly known as Lennox Phillip) stormed the Red House (the seat of Parliament), and Trinidad and Tobago Television, the only television station in the country at the time, holding Robinson and country's government hostage for six days before surrendering.[77] The coup leaders were promised amnesty, but upon their surrender they were then arrested, but later released after protracted legal wrangling.[57]

The PNM under Patrick Manning returned to power following the 1991 Trinidad and Tobago general election.[16] Hoping to capitalise on an improvement in the economy, Manning called an early election in 1995, however, this resulted in a hung parliament. Two NAR representatives backed the opposition United National Congress (UNC), which had split off from the NAR in 1989, and they thus took power under Basdeo Panday, who became the country's first Indo-Trinidadian Prime Minister.[16][75][78] After a period of political confusion caused by a series of inconclusive election results, Patrick Manning returned to power in 2001, retaining that position until 2010.[16]

Since 2003 the country entered a second oil boom, and petroleum, petrochemicals and natural gas continue to be the backbone of the economy. Tourism and the public service are the mainstay of the economy of Tobago, though authorities have attempted to diversify the island's economy.[79] A corruption scandal resulted in Manning's defeat by the newly formed People's Partnership coalition in 2010, with Kamla Persad-Bissessar becoming the country's first female Prime Minister.[80][81][82] However, corruption allegations bedevilled the new administration, and the PP were defeated in 2015 by the PNM under Keith Rowley.[83][84]


Trinidad and Tobago is situated between 10° 2' and 11° 12' N latitude and 60° 30' and 61° 56' W longitude, with the Caribbean Sea to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, and the Gulf of Paria to the west. It is located in the far south-east of the Caribbean region, with the island of Trinidad being just 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) off the coast of Venezuela in mainland South America across the Columbus Channel.[16] Covering an area of 5,128 km2 (1,980 sq mi),[85] the country consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, separated by a 20m (30 km) strait, plus a number of much smaller islands, including Chacachacare, Monos, Huevos, Gaspar Grande (or Gasparee), Little Tobago, and Saint Giles Island.[16]

Trinidad is 4,768 km2 (1,841 sq mi) in area (comprising 93.0% of the country's total area) with an average length of 80 kilometres (50 mi) and an average width of 59 kilometres (37 mi). Tobago has an area of about 300 km2 (120 sq mi), or 5.8% of the country's area, is 41 km (25 mi) long and 12 km (7.5 mi) at its greatest width. Trinidad and Tobago lie on the continental shelf of South America, and are thus geologically considered to lie entirely in South America.[16]

The terrain of the islands is a mixture of mountains and plains.[15] On Trinidad the Northern Range runs parallel with the north coast, and contains the country's highest peak (El Cerro del Aripo), which is 940 metres (3,080 ft) above sea level[15] and second highest (El Tucuche, 936 metres (3,071 ft)).[16] The rest of the island is generally flatter, excluding the Central Range and Montserrat Hills in the centre of the island and the Southern Range and Trinity Hills in the south. The east coast is noted for its beaches, most notably Manzanilla Beach. The island contains several large swamp areas, such as the Caroni Swamp and the Nariva Swamp.[16] Major bodies of water on Trinidad include the Hollis Reservoir, Navet Reservoir, Caroni Reservoir. Trinidad is made up of a variety of soil types, the majority being fine sands and heavy clays. The alluvial valleys of the Northern Range and the soils of the East–West Corridor are the most fertile.[86] Trinidad is also notable for containing Pitch Lake, the largest natural reservoir of asphalt in the world.[15][16] Tobago contains a flat plain in its south-west, with the eastern half of the island being more mountainous, culminating in Pigeon Peak, the island's highest point at 550 metres (1,800 ft).[87] Tobago also contains several coral reefs off its coast.[16]

The majority of the population reside on the island of Trinidad, and this is thus the location of largest towns and cities. There are four major municipalities in Trinidad: the capital Port of Spain, San Fernando, Arima and Chaguanas. The main town on Tobago is Scarborough.


The Northern Range consists mainly of Upper Jurassic and Cretaceous metamorphic rocks. The Northern Lowlands (the East–West Corridor and Caroni Plain) consist of younger shallow marine clastic sediments. South of this, the Central Range fold and thrust belt consists of Cretaceous and Eocene sedimentary rocks, with Miocene formations along the southern and eastern flanks. The Naparima Plain and the Nariva Swamp form the southern shoulder of this uplift.

The Southern Lowlands consist of Miocene and Pliocene sands, clays, and gravels. These overlie oil and natural gas deposits, especially north of the Los Bajos Fault. The Southern Range forms the third anticlinal uplift. The rocks consist of sandstones, shales, siltstones and clays formed in the Miocene and uplifted in the Pleistocene. Oil sands and mud volcanoes are especially common in this area.


Pitch Lake, in south-west Trinidad

Pitch Lake, in south-west Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago has a maritime tropical climate.[15][16] There are two seasons annually: the dry season for the first five months of the year, and the rainy season in the remaining seven of the year. Winds are predominantly from the northeast and are dominated by the northeast trade winds. Unlike many Caribbean islands Trinidad and Tobago lies outside the main hurricane alleys. Hurricane Ivan has been the most powerful storm to have passed close to the islands in recent history, in September 2004. In the Northern Range of Trinidad, the climate is often cooler than that of the sweltering heat of the plains below, due to constant cloud and mist cover, and heavy rains in the mountains.

Record temperatures for Trinidad and Tobago are 39 °C (102 °F)[88] for the high in Port of Spain, and a low of 12 °C (54 °F).[89]


Trinidad and Tobago is a major nesting site for Leatherback Turtles.

Trinidad and Tobago is a major nesting site for Leatherback Turtles.

Mayaro Beach, in the southeastern area of Trinidad

Mayaro Beach, in the southeastern area of Trinidad

Because Trinidad and Tobago lies on the continental shelf of South America, and in ancient times were physically connected to the South American mainland, its biological diversity is unlike that of most other Caribbean islands, and has much more in common with that of Venezuela.[90] The main ecosystems are: coastal and marine (coral reefs, mangrove swamps, open ocean and seagrass beds); forest; freshwater (rivers and streams); karst; man-made ecosystems (agricultural land, freshwater dams, secondary forest); and savanna. On 1 August 1996, Trinidad and Tobago ratified the 1992 Rio Convention on Biological Diversity, and it has produced a biodiversity action plan and four reports describing the country's contribution to biodiversity conservation. These reports formally acknowledged the importance of biodiversity to the well-being of the country's people through provision of ecosystem services.[91]

Information about vertebrates is good, with 472 bird species (2 endemics), about 100 mammals, about 90 reptiles (a few endemics), about 30 amphibians (including several endemics), 50 freshwater fish and at least 950 marine fish.[92] Notable mammal species include the ocelot, manatee, collared peccary (known as the quenk locally), agouti, lappe, red brocket deer, otter, weeper capuchin and red howler monkey; there are also some 70 species of bat, including the vampire bat and fringe-lipped bat.[16][93] Amongst the reptiles, the spectacled caiman is the largest, sometimes growing up to 3m.[90] There are also 47 species of snake, including four venomous species, lizards such as the gecko, iguana, matte lizard and also several species of turtle.[16][94] are present. Of the amphibians, the golden tree frog is endemic to Trinidad.[94] Marine life is abundant, with several species of sea urchin, coral, lobster, anemone, starfish, manta ray, dolphin, porpoise and whale shark present in the islands' waters.[95] The introduced lionfish is viewed as a pest, as it eats many native species of fish and has no natural predators; efforts are currently underway to cull the numbers of this species.[95]

Trinidad and Tobago is noted particularly for its large number of bird species, and is a popular destination for bird watchers. Notable species include the scarlet ibis, cocrico, egret, shiny cowbird, bananaquit, oilbird and various species of honeycreeper, trogon, toucan, parrot, tanager, woodpecker, antbird, kites, hawks, boobies, pelicans and vultures; there are also 17 species of hummingbird, including the tufted coquette which is the world's third smallest.[96]

Information about invertebrates is dispersed and very incomplete. About 650 butterflies,[92] at least 672 beetles (from Tobago alone)[97] and 40 corals[92] have been recorded.[92] Other notable invertebrates include the cockroach, leaf-cutter ant and numerous species of mosquitoes, termites, spiders and tarantulas.

Although the list is far from complete, 1,647 species of fungi, including lichens, have been recorded.[98][99][100] The true total number of fungi is likely to be far higher, given the generally accepted estimate that only about 7% of all fungi worldwide have so far been discovered.[101] A first effort to estimate the number of endemic fungi tentatively listed 407 species.[102]

Information about micro-organisms is dispersed and very incomplete. Nearly 200 species of marine algae have been recorded.[92] The true total number of micro-organism species must be much higher.

Thanks to a recently published checklist, plant diversity in Trinidad and Tobago is well documented with about 3,300 species (59 endemic) recorded.[92] Despite significant felling, forests still cover about 40% of the country, and there are about 350 differrnt species of tree.[90] A notable tree is the manchineel which is extremely poisonous to humans, and even just touching its sap can cause severe blistering of the skin; the tree is often covered with warning signs.


The Red House, Trinidad and Tobago's Parliament Buildings

The Red House, Trinidad and Tobago's Parliament Buildings

President's House, Trinidad

President's House, Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago is a republic with a two-party system and a bicameral parliamentary system based on the Westminster System.[15]

The head of state of Trinidad and Tobago is the President, currently Paula Mae Weekes.[15] This largely ceremonial role replaced that of the Governor-General (representing Queen Elizabeth II) upon Trinidad and Tobago's becoming a republic in 1976.[16] The head of government is the Prime Minister, currently Keith Rowley.[15] The President is elected by an Electoral college consisting of the full membership of both houses of Parliament.

The Prime Minister is elected following a general election which takes place every five years. The President is required to appoint the leader of the party who in his or her opinion has the most support of the members of the House of Representatives to this post; this has generally been the leader of the party which won the most seats in the previous election (except in the case of the 2001 General Elections).[16]

Since 1980 Tobago has also had its own elections, separate from the general elections. In these elections, members are elected and serve in the unicameral Tobago House of Assembly.[103][15][16]

Parliament consists of the Senate (31 seats) and the House of Representatives (41 seats, plus the Speaker).[104][15] The members of the Senate are appointed by the president; 16 Government Senators are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, six Opposition Senators are appointed on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and nine Independent Senators are appointed by the President to represent other sectors of civil society. The 41 members of the House of Representatives are elected by the people for a maximum term of five years in a "first past the post" system.

Administrative divisions

Regional corporations and municipalities of Trinidad and Tobago

Regional corporations and municipalities of Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is split into 14 regional corporations and municipalities, consisting of nine regions and five municipalities, which have a limited level of autonomy.[15][16] The various councils are made up of a mixture of elected and appointed members. Elections are held every three years. The country was formerly divided into counties.

Political culture

The two main parties are the People's National Movement (PNM) and the United National Congress (UNC); another recent party was the Congress of the People (COP). Support for these parties appears to fall along ethnic lines, with the PNM consistently obtaining a majority of Afro-Trinidadian vote, and the UNC gaining a majority of Indo-Trinidadian support.


Coast Guard vessel in action

Coast Guard vessel in action

The Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) is the military organisation responsible for the defence of the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.[15] It consists of the Regiment, the Coast Guard, the Air Guard and the Defence Force Reserves. Established in 1962 after Trinidad and Tobago's independence from the United Kingdom, the TTDF is one of the largest military forces in the Anglophone Caribbean.

Its mission statement is to "defend the sovereign good of The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, contribute to the development of the national community and support the State in the fulfillment of its national and international objectives". The Defence Force has been engaged in domestic incidents, such as the 1990 Coup Attempt, and international missions, such as the United Nations Mission in Haiti between 1993 and 1996.

Foreign relations

Trinidad and Tobago maintains close relations with its Caribbean neighbours and major North American and European trading partners. As the most industrialised and second-largest country in the Anglophone Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago has taken a leading role in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and strongly supports CARICOM economic integration efforts. It also is active in the Summit of the Americas process and supports the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas, lobbying other nations for seating the Secretariat in Port of Spain.

As a member of CARICOM, Trinidad and Tobago strongly backed efforts by the United States to bring political stability to Haiti, contributing personnel to the Multinational Force in 1994. After its 1962 independence, Trinidad and Tobago joined the United Nations and Commonwealth of Nations. In 1967 it became the first Commonwealth country to join the Organization of American States (OAS).[105] In 1995 Trinidad played host to the inaugural meeting of the Association of Caribbean States and has become the seat of this 35-member grouping, which seeks to further economic progress and integration among its states. In international forums, Trinidad and Tobago has defined itself as having an independent voting record, but often supports US and EU positions.

Law enforcement and crime

Trinidad and Tobago has in recent decades suffered from a relatively high crime rate;[106][107] there are currently roughly 500 murders per year.[108][71] The country is a noted transshipment centre for the trafficking of illegal drugs from South America to the rest of the Caribbean and beyond to North America.[109] Some estimates put the size of the 'hidden economy' as high as 20–30% of measured GDP.[110]


Though there have been no terrorism-related incidents in the country since the 1990 Islamic coup attempt, Trinidad and Tobago remains a potential target; for example, in February 2018 a plan to attack the Carnival was foiled by police.[107] It is estimated that roughly 100 citizens of the country have traveled to the Middle East to fight for Islamic State.[106][107] In 2017 the government adopted a counter-terrorism and extremism strategy.[107]

Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service

The country's prison administration is the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service (TTPS), it is under the control of the Commissioner of Prisons Gerard Wilson, located in Port-of-Spain.[111] The prison population rate is 292 people per 100,000. The total prison population, including pre-trial detainees and remand prisoners, is 3,999 prisoners. The population rate of pre-trial detainees and remand prisoners is 174 per 100,000 of the national population (59.7% of the prison population). In 2018, the female prison population rate is 8.5 per 100,000 of the national population (2.9% of the prison population). Prisoners that are minors makes up 1.9% of the prison population and foreigners prisoners make 0.8% of the prison population. The occupancy level of Trinidad and Tobago's prison system is at 81.8% capacity.[111] Trinidad and Tobago has nine prison establishments; Golden Grove Prison, Maximum Security Prison, Port of Spain Prison, Eastern Correctional Rehabilitation Centre, Remand Prison, Tobago Convict Prison, Carrera Convict Island Prison, Women's Prison and Youth Training and Rehabilitation Centre.[112] Trinidad and Tobago also use labor yards as prisons, or means of punishment.[113]


A proportional representation of Trinidad and Tobago's exports

A proportional representation of Trinidad and Tobago's exports

The oil refinery at Pointe-à-Pierre

The oil refinery at Pointe-à-Pierre

Trinidad and Tobago is the most developed nation and one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean and is listed in the top 40 (2010 information) of the 70 high-income countries in the world. Its gross national income per capita of US$20,070[114] (2014 gross national income at Atlas Method) is one of the highest in the Caribbean.[115] In November 2011, the OECD removed Trinidad and Tobago from its list of developing countries.[116] Trinidad's economy is strongly influenced by the petroleum industry. Tourism and manufacturing are also important to the local economy. Tourism is a growing sector, particular on Tobago, although proportionately it is much less important than in many other Caribbean islands. Agricultural products include citrus and cocoa. It also supplies manufactured goods, notably food, beverages, and cement, to the Caribbean region.

Oil and gas

Trinidad and Tobago is the leading Caribbean producer of oil and gas, and its economy is heavily dependent upon these resources.[16] Oil and gas account for about 40% of GDP and 80% of exports, but only 5% of employment.[15] Recent growth has been fuelled by investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG), petrochemicals, and steel. Additional petrochemical, aluminium, and plastics projects are in various stages of planning.

The country is also a regional financial centre, and the economy has a growing trade surplus.[85] The expansion of Atlantic LNG over the past six years created the largest single-sustained phase of economic growth in Trinidad and Tobago. The nation is an exporter of LNG and supplied a total of 13.4 billion m3 in 2017. The largest markets for Trinidad and Tobago's LNG exports are Chile and the United States.[117]

Trinidad and Tobago has transitioned from an oil-based economy to a natural gas based economy. In 2017, natural gas production totalled 18.5 billion m3, a decrease of 0.4% from 2016 with 18.6 billion m3 of production.[117] Oil production has decreased over the past decade from 7.1 million metric tonnes per year in 2007 to 4.4 million metric tonnes per year in 2017.[118] In December 2005, the Atlantic LNG's fourth production module or "train" for liquefied natural gas (LNG) began production. Train four has increased Atlantic LNG's overall output capacity by almost 50% and is the largest LNG train in the world at 5.2 million tons/year of LNG.


Tourists at Pigeon Point beach, Tobago

Tourists at Pigeon Point beach, Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is far less dependent on tourism than many other Caribbean countries and territories, with the bulk of tourist activity occurring on Tobago.[16] The government has made efforts to boost this sector in recent years.[16]


Historically agricultural production (for example, sugar and coffee) dominated the economy, however this sector has been in steep decline since the 20th century and now forms just 0.4% of the country's GDP, employing 3.1% of the workforce.[15][16] Various fruits and vegetables are grown, such as cucumbers, eggplant, cassava, pumpkin, dasheen (taro) and coconut; fishing is still also commonly practised.[15]

Economic diversification

Trinidad and Tobago, in an effort to undergo economic transformation through diversification,[15] formed InvesTT in 2012 to serve as the country's sole investment promotion agency. This agency is aligned to the Ministry of Trade and Industry and is to be the key agent in growing the country's non-oil and gas sectors significantly and sustainably.[119]

Communications infrastructure

Trinidad and Tobago has a well developed communications sector. The telecommunications and broadcasting sectors generated an estimated TT$5.63 billion (US$0.88 billion) in 2014, which as a percentage of GDP equates to 3.1 percent. This represented a 1.9 percent increase in total revenues generated by this industry compared to last year. Of total telecommunications and broadcasting revenues, mobile voice services accounted for the majority of revenues with TT$2.20 billion (39.2 percent). This was followed by internet services which contributed TT$1.18 billion or 21.1 percent. The next highest revenue earners for the industry were fixed voice services and paid television services whose contributions totalled TT$0.76 billion and TT$0.70 billion respectively (13.4 percent and 12.4 percent). International voice services was next in line, generating TT$0.27 billion (4.7 percent) in revenues. Free-to Air radio and television services contributed TT$0.18 billion and TT$0.13 billion respectively (3.2 percent and 2.4 percent). Finally, other contributors included "other revenues" and "leased line services" with earnings of TT$0.16 billion and TT$0.05 billion respectively, with 2.8 percent and 0.9 percent.[120]

There are several providers for each segment of the telecommunications market. Fixed Lines Telephone service is provided by TSTT and Cable & Wireless Communications operating as FLOW; cellular service is provided by TSTT (operating as bmobile) and Digicel whilst internet service is provided by TSTT, FLOW, Digicel, Green Dot and Lisa Communications.

Creative industries

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has recognised the creative industries as a pathway to economic growth and development. It is one of the newest, most dynamic sectors where creativity, knowledge and intangibles serve as the basic productive resource. In 2015, the Trinidad and Tobago Creative Industries Company Limited (CreativeTT) was established as a state agency under the Ministry of Trade and Industry with a mandate to stimulate and facilitate the business development and export activities of the Creative Industries in Trinidad and Tobago to generate national wealth, and, as such, the company is responsible for the strategic and business development of the three (3) niche areas and sub sectors currently under its purview – Music, Film and Fashion. MusicTT, FilmTT and FashionTT are the subsidiaries established to fulfil this mandate.


An intersection of Churchill–Roosevelt Highway and Uriah Butler Highway, 2009

An intersection of Churchill–Roosevelt Highway and Uriah Butler Highway, 2009

The state-owned Caribbean Airlines is the largest in the region.

The state-owned Caribbean Airlines is the largest in the region.

The transport system in Trinidad and Tobago consists of a dense network of highways and roads across both major islands, ferries connecting Port of Spain with Scarborough and San Fernando, and international airports on both islands.[16] The Uriah Butler Highway, Churchill Roosevelt Highway and the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway links the island of Trinidad together, whereas the Claude Noel Highway is the only major highway in Tobago. Public transportation options on land are public buses, private taxis and minibuses. By sea, the options are inter-island ferries and inter-city water taxis.[121]

The island of Trinidad is served by Piarco International Airport located in Piarco, which opened on 8 January 1931. Elevated at 17.4 metres (57 ft) above sea level it comprises an area of 680 hectares (1,700 acres) and has a runway of 3,200 metres (10,500 ft). The airport consists of two terminals, the North Terminal and the South Terminal. The older South Terminal underwent renovations in 2009 for use as a VIP entrance point during the 5th Summit of the Americas. The North Terminal was completed in 2001, and consists of[122] 14-second-level aircraft gates with jetways for international flights, two ground-level domestic gates and 82 ticket counter positions.

Piarco International Airport was voted the Caribbean's leading airport for customer satisfaction and operational efficiency at the prestigious World Travel Awards (WTA),[123] held in the Turks and Caicos in 2006.[124] In 2008 the passenger throughput at Piarco International Airport was approximately 2.6 million. It is the seventh busiest airport in the Caribbean and the third busiest in the English-speaking Caribbean, after Sangster International Airport and Lynden Pindling International Airport. Caribbean Airlines, the national airline, operates its main hub at the Piarco International Airport and services the Caribbean, the United States, Canada and South America. The airline is wholly owned by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago. After an additional cash injection of US$50 million, the Trinidad and Tobago government acquired the Jamaican airline Air Jamaica on 1 May 2010, with a 6–12-month transition period to follow.[125]

The Island of Tobago is served by the A.N.R. Robinson International Airport in Crown Point.[16] This airport has regular services to North America and Europe. There are regular flights between the two islands, with fares being heavily subsidised by the Government.

Trinidad was formerly home to a railway network, however this was closed down in 1968.[126] There have been talks to build a new railway on the islands, though nothing yet has come of this.[127]

Science and technology

Regional policy framework

Strategic Plan for 2015–2019

The Strategic Plan for the Caribbean Community 2015–2019 was adopted by Trinidad and Tobago and the other members of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM) in 2014. The first of its kind, this document reflects a desire among countries to embrace a more profound regionalism, in order to reposition the Caribbean in an increasingly volatile global economy. The plan proposes mobilising funding from the public and private sectors to foster research and development (R&D) in the business sector. The plan outlines strategies for nurturing creativity, entrepreneurship, digital literacy and for making optimum use of available resources. It focuses on developing creative, manufacturing and service industries, with a special focus on tourism initially, natural resources and value-added products, agriculture and fisheries, to reduce dependence on food imports and foster sustainable fisheries, and energy efficiency.[128][129]

Energy policy

Trinidad and Tobago is the region's leading exporter of oil and gas but imports of fossil fuels provided over 90% of the energy consumed by its CARICOM neighbours in 2008. This vulnerability led CARICOM to develop an Energy Policy which was approved in 2013. This policy is accompanied by the CARICOM Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS). Under the policy, renewable energy sources are to contribute 20% of the total electricity generation mix in member states by 2017, 28% by 2022 and 47% by 2027.[128]

CO2 emissions

In 2014 Trinidad and Tobago is the third country in the world which emits the most CO2 per capita after Qatar and Curacao according to the World Bank.[130] In average, every single inhabitant released that year 34.2 metric tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. In comparison, the world average was 5.0 tons per capita the same year.

Climate change strategy

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) has produced an implementation plan for 2011–2021 and carried out work to assess and build capacity in climate change mitigation and resilient development strategies. This work has been supported by the region's specialists, who have produced models for climate change and mitigation processes in Caribbean states. They also play a major advisor role to the divisions in ministries responsible for climate change. The growing frequency and intensity of hurricanes is of concern to all Caribbean nations. In 2012, Trinidad and Tobago had a 9% chance each year of being struck by a hurricane, according to estimates by the International Monetary Fund.[128][131]

National policy framework

The two main bodies responsible for science, technology and innovation in Trinidad and Tobago are the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education and the National Commission for Science and Technology.[128]

In 2002, Trinidad and Tobago adopted Vision 2020. Like Jamaica's Vision 2030 (2009) and the Strategic Plan of Barbados for 2005–2025, Trinidad and Tobago's Vision 2020 accords central importance to harnessing science, technology and innovation (STI) to raise living standards and strengthen resilience to environmental shocks like hurricanes.[128]

Research expenditure

Trinidad and Tobago is one of the more affluent members of CARICOM, thanks to its natural resources. Despite this, it spent just 0.05% of GDP on R&D in 2012, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Even when the country was enjoying economic growth of 8% per annum in 2004, it devoted just 0.11% of GDP to R&D. Calculated in thousands of current Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) dollars, research expenditure actually dropped between 2009 and 2012 from 21 309 to 19 232. This corresponds to research expenditure of $PPP 65 per capita in 2009 and $PPP 45 in 2012.[128]

Industrial R&D has declined since 2000, perhaps owing to the drop in research activity in the sugar sector. Whereas industrial R&D accounted for 24% of domestic research expenditure in 2004 and 29.5% in 2005, it had become almost non-existent by 2010.[128]


The number of researchers in Trinidad and Tobago grew from 787 to 914 between 2009 and 2012. This corresponds in a rise from 595 to 683 in the number of researchers (head counts) per million inhabitants.[128]

Scientific output

Scientific output grew between 2007 and 2011, according to Thomson Reuters' Web of Science (Science Citation Index Expanded) before contracting over the period 2012–2014. Trinidad and Tobago produced 109 publications per million population in 2014, behind Grenada (1 430), St Kitts and Nevis (730), Barbados (182) and Dominica (138) but ahead of the Bahamas (86), Belize (47) and Jamaica (42).[128]

Between 2008 and 2014, scientists collaborated most with their peers from the United States (251 papers), United Kingdom (183), Canada (95), India (63) and Jamaica (43), according to the copublication record of Thomson Reuters. In turn, Jamaican scientists considered their counterparts from Trinidad and Tobago to be their fourth-closest collaborators (with 43 joint papers) after those from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.[128]

Between 2008 and 2013, Trinidad and Tobago registered 17 patents with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This corresponds to 13% of the 134 patents registered by CARICOM members over this period. The top contributors were the Bahamas (34 patents) and Jamaica (22).[128]

Trinidad and Tobago led CARICOM members for the value of high-tech exports in 2008 (US$36.2 million) but these exports plummeted to US$3.5 million the following year, according to the Comtrade database of the United Nations Statistics Division.[128]

Research institutions

The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute in Trinidad and Tobago facilitates climate change research and provides industrial support for R&D related to food security. It also carries out equipment testing and calibration for major industries.[128]

The Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Port of Spain, University of Trinidad and Tobago, Tobago Institute of Health, and University of the West Indies (St Augustine campus) also conduct R&D.[128]


The population of the country currently stands at 1,215,500 (July 2018 est.).[15] Residents are called Trinidadians or Tobagonians depending on which island they are from; the term Trinbagonian is also used to specify anyone from the country as a whole without reference to a specific island.[15]

Historical populations

Ethnic groups

The ethnic composition of Trinidad and Tobago reflects a history of conquest and immigration.[137] While the earliest inhabitants were of Amerindian heritage, the two dominant groups in the country are now those of South Asian and of African heritage. Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians make up the country's largest ethnic group (approximately 35.4%);[15] they are primarily the descendants of indentured workers from South Asia (British India), brought to replace freed African slaves who refused to continue working on the sugar plantations. Through cultural preservation many residents of Indian descent continue to maintain traditions from their ancestral homeland. Indo-Trinidadians reside primarily on Trinidad; as of the 2011 census only 2.5% of Tobago's population was of Indian descent.[138]

Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians make up the country's second largest ethnic group, with approximately 34.2% of the population identifying as being of African descent.[15] The majority of people of an African background are the descendants of slaves forcibly transported to the islands from as early as the 16th century. This group constitute the majority on Tobago, at 85.2%.[138]

The bulk of the rest of the population are those who identify as being of mixed heritage.[15] There are also small but significant minorities of people of Amerindian, European, Chinese, and Arab descent. Arima on Trinidad is a noted centre of Amerindian culture.[16]


English and English Creoles

English is the country's official language (the local variety of standard English is Trinidadian and Tobagonian English or more properly, Trinidad and Tobago Standard English, abbreviated as "TTSE"), but the main spoken language is either of two English-based creole languages (Trinidadian Creole or Tobagonian Creole), which reflects the Amerindian, European, African, and Asian heritage of the nation. Both creoles contain elements from a variety of African languages; Trinidadian English Creole, however, is also influenced by French and French Creole (Patois).[139] Spanish is estimated to be spoken by around 5% of the population[140] and has been promoted by recent governments since March 2005 as a "first foreign language" due to the country's proximity to Venezuela.[141][142]

Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu)

The Hanuman statue in Carapichaima, a noted centre of Indo-Trinidadian culture; it is the largest statue of the god outside of India

The Hanuman statue in Carapichaima, a noted centre of Indo-Trinidadian culture; it is the largest statue of the god outside of India

A majority of the early Indian immigrants spoke the Bhojpuri and Awadhi dialect of Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu), which later formed into Trinidadian Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu), which became the lingua franca of Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians. From 1935 Indian films began showing to audiences in Trinidad; most of these were in the Standard Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) dialect and this modified Trinidadian Hindustani slightly by adding Standard Hindu and Urdu phrases and vocabulary to Trinidadian Hindustani. Indian films also revitalised Hindustani among Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians.[143] Around the mid to late 1970s the lingua franca of Indo-Trinidaian and Tobagonians switched from Trinidadian Hindustani to a sort of Hindinised version of English. Today Hindustani survives on through Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian musical forms such as, Bhajan, Indian classical music, Indian folk music, Filmi, Pichakaree, Chutney, Chutney soca, and Chutney parang. Presently there are about 26,000 people, which is 5.53% of the Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonian population, who speak Trinidadian Hindustani. Many Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians today speak a type of Hinglish that consist of Trinidadian and Tobagonian English that is heavily laced with Trinidadian Hindustani vocabulary and phrases and many Indo-Trinidadians and Tobagonians can recite phrases or prayers in Hindustani today. There are many places in Trinidad and Tobago that have names of Hindustani origin. Some phrases and vocabulary have even made its way into the mainstream English and English Creole dialect of the country.[144][145][146][147][148]


The Chinese language first came to Trinidad and Tobago in 1806, when the British had brought Chinese labourers in order to determine if they were fit to use as labourers after the abolition of slavery. About 2,645 Chinese immigrants arrived in Trinidad as indentured labour between 1853 and 1866. A majority of the people who immigrated in the 19th century were from southern China and spoke the Hakka and Yue dialects of Chinese. In the 20th century after the years of indentureship up to the present-day more Chinese people have immigrated to Trinidad and Tobago for business and they speak the dialects of the indenturees along with other Chinese dialects, such as Mandarin and Min.[145][149]

Indigenous languages

The indigenous languages were Yao on Trinidad and Karina on Tobago, both Cariban, and Shebaya on Trinidad, which was Arawakan.[145]


The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Port of Spain

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Port of Spain

According to the 2011 census,[3] Roman Catholics were the largest single religious group in Trinidad and Tobago with 21.60% of the total population. Hindus were the second largest group with 18.15%, while the Pentecostal/Evangelical/Full Gospel denominations were the third largest group with 12.02% of the population. The remaining population is made of various Christian denominations (Spiritual Shouter Baptists (5.67%), Anglicans (5.67%), Seventh-day Adventists (4.09%), Presbyterians or Congregationalists (2.49%), Jehovah's Witnesses (1.47%), other Baptists (1.21%), Methodists (0.65%) and the Moravian Church (0.27%)). Respondents who did not state a religious affiliation represented 11.1% of the population, with 2.18% declaring themselves Irreligious.

The Muslim populations numbers 4.97%, and is noted for their annual Hosay celebration. There has also been a Jewish community on the islands for many centuries, however their numbers have never been large, with a 2007 estimating putting the Jewish population at 55 individuals.[150][151]

African-derived or Afrocentric religions are also practised, notably Trinidad Orisha believers (0.9%) and Rastafarians (0.27%).[3] Various aspects of traditional obeah beliefs are still commonly practised on the islands.[49]

Two African syncretic faiths, the Shouter or Spiritual Baptists and the Orisha faith (formerly called Shangos, a less than complimentary term) are among the fastest growing religious groups. Similarly, there is a noticeable increase in numbers of Evangelical Protestant and Fundamentalist churches usually lumped as "Pentecostal" by most Trinidadians, although this designation is often inaccurate. Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Bahá'í, and Buddhism are practised by a minority of Indo-Trinidadian and Tobagonians. Several eastern religions such as Buddhism and Chinese folk religions such as Taoism and Confucianism are followed by Chinese Trinidadian and Tobagonian.

Urban centres


University of the West Indies, St. Augustine

University of the West Indies, St. Augustine

Children generally start pre-school at two and a half years but this is not mandatory. They are however, expected to have basic reading and writing skills when they commence primary school. Students proceed to a primary school at the age of five years. Seven years are spent in primary school. The seven classes of primary school consists of First Year and Second Year, followed by Standard One through Standard Five. During the final year of primary school, students prepare for and sit the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) which determines the secondary school the child will attend.

Students attend secondary school for a minimum of five years, leading to the CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) examinations, which is the equivalent of the British GCSE O levels. Children with satisfactory grades may opt to continue high school for a further two-year period, leading to the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), the equivalent of GCE A levels. Both CSEC and CAPE examinations are held by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC). Public Primary and Secondary education is free for all, although private and religious schooling is available for a fee.

Tertiary education for tuition costs are provided for via GATE (The Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses), up to the level of the bachelor's degree, at the University of the West Indies (UWI), the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), the University of the Southern Caribbean (USC), the College of Science, Technology and Applied Arts of Trinidad and Tobago (COSTAATT) and certain other local accredited institutions. Government also currently subsidises some Masters programmes. Both the Government and the private sector also provide financial assistance in the form of academic scholarships to gifted or needy students for study at local, regional or international universities.


While women account for only 49% of the population, they constitute nearly 55% of the workforce in the country.[156]


Masqueraders during Carnival celebrations

Masqueraders during Carnival celebrations

Trinidad and Tobago has a diverse culture mixing African, Indian and European influences, reflecting the various communities who have migrated to the islands over the centuries. The island is particularly renowned for its annual Carnival celebrations.[16] Festivals rooted in the various religions practised on the islands are also popular, such as Christmas, Hosay, Divali and Phagwah.


Trinidad and Tobago claims two Nobel Prize-winning authors, V. S. Naipaul and St Lucian-born Derek Walcott (who also founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop). Other notable authors include Samuel Selvon, Shiva Naipaul and Earl Lovelace.

Art and design

Trinidadian designer Peter Minshall is renowned not only for his Carnival costumes but also for his role in opening ceremonies of the Barcelona Olympics, the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the 1996 Summer Olympics, and the 2002 Winter Olympics, for which he won an Emmy Award.[157]


Steelpan was invented in Trinidad.

Steelpan was invented in Trinidad.

Trinidad and Tobago is the birthplace of calypso music and the steelpan.[158][159][160] Trinidad is also the birthplace of soca music, chutney music, chutney-soca, parang, rapso, pichakaree and chutney parang.


Geoffrey Holder (brother of Boscoe Holder) and Heather Headley are two Trinidad-born artists who have won Tony Awards for theatre. Holder also has a distinguished film career, and Headley has won a Grammy Award as well.

Trinidad and Tobago is also smallest country to have two Miss Universe titleholders and the first black woman ever to win: Janelle Commissiong in 1977, followed by Wendy Fitzwilliam in 1998; the country has also had one Miss World titleholder, Giselle LaRonde.


Olympic sports

Hasely Crawford won the first Olympic gold medal for Trinidad and Tobago in the men's 100-metre dash in the 1976 Summer Olympics. Nine different athletes from Trinidad and Tobago have won twelve medals at the Olympics, beginning with a silver medal in weightlifting, won by Rodney Wilkes in 1948,[161] and most recently, a gold medal by Keshorn Walcott in the men's javelin throw in 2012. Ato Boldon has won the most Olympic and World Championship medals for Trinidad and Tobago in athletics, with eight in total – four from the Olympics and four from the World Championships. Boldon was the sole world champion Trinidad and Tobago has produced until Jehue Gordon in Moscow 2013. Ato won the 1997 200 m sprint World Championship in Athens. Swimmer George Bovell III won a bronze medal in the men's 200 m IM in 2004. At the 2017 World Championship in London, the Men 4x400 relay team captured the title, thus the country now celebrates three world championships titles. The team consisted of Jarrin Solomon, Jareem Richards, Machel Cedenio and Lalonde Gordon with Renny Quow who ran in the heats.

Also in 2012 Lalonde Gordon competed in the XXX Summer Olympics where he won a Bronze Medal in the 400 metres (1,300 feet), being surpassed by Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic and Kirani James of Grenada. Keshorn Walcott (as stated above) came first in javelin and earned a gold medal, making him the second Trinidadian in the country's history to receive one. This also makes him the first Western athlete in 40 years to receive a gold medal in the javelin sport, and the first athlete from Trinidad and Tobago to win a gold medal in a field event in the Olympics. Sprinter Richard Thompson is also from Trinidad and Tobago. He came second place to Usain Bolt in the Beijing Olympics in the 100 metres (330 feet) with a time of 9.89s.

In 2018 The Court of Arbitration for Sport made its final decision on the failed doping sample from the Jamaican team in the 4 x 100 relay in the 2008 Olympic Games. The team from Trinidad and Tobago will be awarded the Gold medal, because of the second rank during the relay run.[162]


Brian Lara batting for the West Indies against India

Brian Lara batting for the West Indies against India

Cricket is a popular sport of Trinidad and Tobago, often deemed the national sport, and there is intense inter-island rivalry with its Caribbean neighbours. Trinidad and Tobago is represented at Test cricket, One Day International as well as Twenty20 cricket level as a member of the West Indies team. The national team plays at the first-class level in regional competitions such as the Regional Four Day Competition and Regional Super50. Meanwhile, the Trinbago Knight Riders play in the Caribbean Premier League.

The Queen's Park Oval located in Port of Spain is the largest cricket ground in the West Indies, having hosted 60 Test matches as of January 2018. Trinidad and Tobago along with other islands from the Caribbean co-hosted the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

Brian Lara, world record holder for the most runs scored both in a Test and in a First Class innings and other records, was born in a small town of Santa Cruz and is often referred to as the Prince of Port of Spain or simply the Prince. This legendary West Indian batsman is widely regarded (along with Sir Donald Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar) as one of the best batsmen ever to have played the game, and is one of the most famous sporting icons in the country.


Association football is also a popular sport in Trinidad and Tobago. The men's national football team qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup for the first time by beating Bahrain in Manama on 16 November 2005, making them the second smallest country ever (in terms of population) to qualify, after Iceland. The team, coached by Dutchman Leo Beenhakker, and led by Tobagonian-born captain Dwight Yorke, drew their first group game – against Sweden in Dortmund, 0–0, but lost the second game to England on late goals, 0–2. They were eliminated after losing 2–0 to Paraguay in the last game of the Group stage. Prior to the 2006 World Cup qualification, Trinidad and Tobago came close in a controversial qualification campaign for the 1974 FIFA World Cup. Following the match, the referee of their critical game against Haiti was awarded a lifetime ban for his actions.[163] Trinidad and Tobago again fell just short of qualifying for the World Cup in 1990, needing only a draw at home against the United States but losing 1–0.[164] They play their home matches at the Hasely Crawford Stadium. Trinidad and Tobago hosted the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Championship, and hosted the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup.

The TT Pro League is the country's primary football competition and is the top level of the Trinidad and Tobago football league system. The Pro League serves as a league for professional football clubs in Trinidad and Tobago. The league began in 1999 as part of a need for a professional league to strengthen the country's national team and improve the development of domestic players. The first season took place in the same year beginning with eight teams.


Basketball is commonly played in Trinidad and Tobago in colleges, universities and throughout various urban basketball courts. Its national team is one of the most successful teams in the Caribbean. At the Caribbean Basketball Championship it won four straight gold medals from 1986 to 1990.

Other sports

Netball has long been a popular sport in Trinidad and Tobago, although it has declined in popularity in recent years. At the Netball World Championships they co-won the event in 1979, were runners up in 1987, and second runners up in 1983.

Rugby is played in Trinidad and Tobago and continues to be a popular sport, and horse racing is regularly followed in the country.

There is also the Trinidad and Tobago national baseball team which is controlled by the Baseball/Softball Association of Trinidad and Tobago, and represents the nation in international competitions. The team is a provisional member of the Pan American Baseball Confederation.

There are a number of 9 and 18-hole golf courses on Trinidad and Tobago. The most established is the St Andrews Golf Club, Maraval in Trinidad (commonly referred to as Moka), and there is a newer course at Trincity, near Piarco Airport called Millennium Lakes. There are 18-hole courses at Chaguramas and Point-a-Pierre and 9-hole courses at Couva and St Madeline. Tobago has two 18-hole courses. The older of the two is at Mount Irvine, with the Magdalena Hotel & Golf Club (formerly Tobago Plantations) being built more recently.

Although a minor sport, bodybuilding is of growing interest in Trinidad and Tobago. Heavyweight female bodybuilder Kashma Maharaj is of Trinidadian descent.

Dragonboat is also another water-sport that has been rapidly growing over the years. Introduced in 2006 the fraternity made consistent strides in having more members apart of the TTDBF(Trindad and Tobago Dragonboat Federation) as well as performing on an international level such as the 10th IDBF World Nations Dragon Boat Championships in Tampa, Florida in the US in 2011.

Claude Noel is a former world champion in professional boxing. He was born in Tobago.

National symbols


The flag of Trinidad and Tobago

The flag of Trinidad and Tobago

The flag was chosen by the Independence committee in 1962. Red, black and white symbolise the warmth of the people, the richness of the earth and water respectively.[165][166]

Coat of arms

The coat of arms of Trinidad and Tobago

The coat of arms of Trinidad and Tobago

The coat of arms was designed by the Independence committee, and features the scarlet ibis (native to Trinidad), the cocrico (native to Tobago) and hummingbird. The shield bears three ships, representing both the Trinity, and the three ships that Columbus sailed.[165]

Orders and decorations

There are five categories and thirteen classes of national awards:[167]

  • The Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (formerly The Trinity Cross Medal of the Order of the Trinity) in Gold only.

  • The Chaconia Medal, in Gold, Silver and Bronze.

  • The Hummingbird Medal, in Gold, Silver and Bronze.

  • The Public Service Medal of Merit, in Gold, Silver and Bronze.

  • The Medal for the Development of Women, in Gold, Silver and Bronze.

National anthem and national songs

The national anthem of the twin-island state is "Forged From The Love of Liberty".[168][169]

Other national songs include "God Bless Our Nation"[170] and "Our Nation's Dawning".[171]

National flower

The Chaconia (Warszewiczia coccinea) is the national flower of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Chaconia (Warszewiczia coccinea) is the national flower of Trinidad and Tobago.

The national flower of Trinidad and Tobago is the chaconia flower. It was chosen as the national flower because it is an indigenous flower that has witnessed the history of Trinidad and Tobago. It was also chosen as the national flower because of its red colour that resembles the red of the national flag and coat of arms and because it blooms around the Independence Day of Trinidad and Tobago.[172]

National birds

The national birds of Trinidad and Tobago are the scarlet ibis and the cocrico. The scarlet ibis is kept safe by the government by living in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary which was set up by the government for the protection of these birds. The Cocrico is more indigenous to the island of Tobago and are more likely to be seen in the forest.[173] The hummingbird is considered another symbol of Trinidad and Tobago due to its significance to the indigenous peoples, however, it is not a national bird.[174]

See also

  • Index of Trinidad and Tobago-related articles

  • List of Trinidad and Tobago–related topics

  • Outline of Trinidad and Tobago


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