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Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Independent Caribbean Nation, member of the Commonwealth
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
The islands of Trinidad and Tobago form an independent republic in the West Indies. Trinidad lies near the northeastern coast of Venezuela, from which it is separated by the shallow Gulf of Paria. Geologically it is more like the adjacent mainland of South America than like other islands of the Caribbean. Tobago lies 32 (20 miles) northeast of Trinidad and is largely mountainous.
With an area of 5,130 square kilometers (1,980 square miles), Trinidad is the fifth largest island of the West Indies. Three low mountain ranges cross the island from west to east. Highest is the heavily forested Northern Range, rising to 940 meters (3,085 feet) at Mount Aripo. Farther south is the Central Range, and another range parallels the southern coast.
Between the mountains are fertile rolling plains and forested hills. Swamps along the eastern and western coasts serve as refuges for birds such as egrets, herons, pink spoonbills, and scarlet ibises. Tobago, only 300 square kilometers (116 square miles) in area, has a maximum elevation of 580 meters (1,890 feet) in the Main Range and very limited areas of level land. Nearby Little Tobago Island is a sanctuary for birds of paradise.
The climate of Trinidad and Tobago is warm and humid, but the easterly trade winds temper the heat. The average annual temperature at Port-of-Spain, on the western side of Trinidad, is 25° C (77° F). Rainfall is abundant throughout most of the island and occurs mainly from June to December. It exceeds 250 centimeters (100 inches) per year on the windward slopes of the Northern Range and in the highest parts of the Central Range. Lying only about 11 degrees north of the equator, Trinidad and Tobago are spared the destruction from hurricanes experienced by many other islands of the Caribbean.
The economy of Trinidad and Tobago is dominated by petroleum. Production peaked in 1978 and has since declined. Fortunately, large quantities of natural gas have been discovered, largely through offshore drilling, and will supply the nation's energy requirements for many years. Asphalt is produced from the famous Pitch Lake in southwestern Trinidad and is exported as a material for paving roads.
The petroleum refineries of southwestern Trinidad are among the largest in the world, and a government-owned steel mill using natural gas for fuel opened in 1980. Other industries include chemicals, fertilizers, food products, electronics, rum distilling, paper products, textiles, and automobile assembly. The leading agricultural crop is sugarcane, but cacao (which is used to make chocolate), citrus fruits, bananas, coffee, and rice are also raised. The Trinidad branch of the University of the West Indies conducts research related to the economy through its faculties of agriculture and engineering.
Development plans since 1958 have included new roads, expanded production of electricity, and an increase in the variety of industry. To accommodate increasing tourism, luxury hotels have been constructed in Port-of-Spain, the capital and largest city of the republic. Piarco International Airport, 27 kilometers (17 miles) east of the city, is a major terminal for air travel between North and South America. Trinidad is the headquarters for British West Indies Airways and is served by numerous other airlines. Tobago, known as Robinson Crusoe Island, is said to be the setting of Daniel Defoe's famous story. It depends heavily on small-scale farming and international tourism. Scarborough is its major town.
Almost half of the nation's population of about 1,200,000 is black, and 40 percent is East Indian. The remainder is of mixed ancestry, including Europeans and Chinese. Settlement is concentrated mainly in western Trinidad, especially in and around Port-of-Spain. Most of the population receives some formal education, and literacy exceeds 95 percent - one of the highest rates in the Caribbean region. The official language is English; the predominant religion is Roman Catholicism. Calypso music, steel bands, and the limbo are distinctive features of the nation's culture. Several Trinidadians are prominent in the literature of the West Indies.
Welome to Trinidad and Tobago
Government and History
Under the constitution of 1976 Trinidad and Tobago is governed as a parliamentary republic with an elected president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. Its House of Representatives has 36 elected members, including two for Tobago, and its Senate has 31 appointees. Legislation passed in 1980 gave Tobago considerable autonomy, and it maintains a separate 15-member House of Assembly. In 1987 Tobago was granted full internal self-government. For local government, Trinidad is divided into the capital city, three boroughs, and six counties.
Christopher Columbus reached Trinidad in 1498 during his third voyage to the New World. The name of the island is derived from three low mountain peaks he sighted along its southeastern coast. Trinidad's original Arawakan Indian people were sent into slavery in Spanish possessions before the island was successfully colonized in 1592. The economy developed slowly under Spanish and French settlers. The island was seized by a British force in 1737, and in 1802 it was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Amiens.
Tobago (originally Tobaco) changed hands many times during the colonial period but was finally awarded to Britain by the Treaty of Vienna in 1814.
Cacao was introduced to Trinidad in 1525 and soon replaced tobacco as the leading commercial crop. After 1845 sugarcane cultivation, using laborers from the East Indies, expanded rapidly. The first large-scale sugar mill was built in 1871 near San Fernando, still the center of Trinidad's sugar production. The political link between Tobago and Trinidad, forged mainly because of a collapse of the Tobago sugar industry, dates from 1889. The United States constructed air bases on Trinidad during World War II to protect approaches to the Panama Canal. In 1956 Trinidad and Tobago joined the British West Indies Federation as parts of a new nation. The federation was dissolved in 1962, and Trinidad and Tobago became an independent nation within the Commonwealth. The islands were declared a republic in 1976. In 1990 a Black Muslim sect, which opposed government austerity measures, failed in an attempt to overthrow the regime.
Trinidad Island West Indies island, part of republic of Trinidad and Tobago; 4,827 sq km (1,864 sq mi); pop. 892,317.
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Tobago (or Robinson Crusoe Island, or Tobaco), island in West Indies, part of republic of Trinidad and Tobago; 300 sq km (116 sq mi); pop. 39,280.
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