TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
|Port of Spain cityscape in Trinidad|
Britain gained control of the islands in 1797 and brought in thousands of African slaves to work on sugar, cotton, and indigo plantations. Today, descendants of those slaves make up most of Tobago's population. When Britain abolished slavery in 1830, landowners brought in indentured workers from India, China, and the Middle East. Their descendants give the islands a multi-ethnic appeal. According to a guide, “We are mixing it up,” and he said that Trinis celebrate their religions together and are inclusive rather than divisive.
Because the islands existed separately for centuries, they each have a distinct personality. Britain joined them together in the late 19th century, and the two islands gained independence in 1962 and became a republic in 1976.
The official language is English, and half of the annual visitors are from the U.S. People come here for the culture. Driving is on the left--except when it isn’t--so defensive driving is essential on both islands. “We drive like how we dance--dangerously,” an islander told me. There are no all-inclusive resorts.
Known as the “cultural capital of the Caribbean,” bustling Trinidad measures 65 miles long by 50 miles wide. It is the birthplace of the limbo, the calypso, and singer Harry Belafonte--as well as of the steel pan drum, the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century. It was ranked the happiest nation in the Caribbean by the United Nations’ World Happiness Report in 2013 and 2015. And though the island is lively and developed, the tourism infrastructure is not well-developed. You will find only one souvenir store downtown and no crafts market. U.S. service men stationed here during WW II--there were more than 200,000 of them--cut some of the roads that provide access to a mountain range and secluded beaches along the north coast.
Tiny Tobago is only 30 miles long by10 miles wide and mostly undeveloped. Crown Point is the tourist hub, although Scarborough is the main town and where the cruise ships arrive. This lush island features hidden beaches, great diving, and quaint villages. It is home to the largest brain coral in the Western Hemisphere, and its Main Ridge Rainforest is the oldest protected reserve in the Western hemisphere.
FACES OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
|Ricardo, a guide with Island Experiences in Trinidad|
|owners of Coloz restaurant in Port of Spain, Trinidad|
|server at HAKKA restaurant in Port of Spain, Trinidad|
|pan player and song writer Kwesi Paul at Dan-Demonium pan yard in Port of Spain, Trinidad|
|guide Monica helps serve drinks at Blue Crab Restaurant in Scarborough, Tobaygo|
Things to do in Trinidad.
Things to do in Tobago.
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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers