We arrived in Trinidad on the 20th of July and apart from six weeks spent in England and a week in Venezuela, we can say our stay has actually been about two months, certainly longer than anywhere else. Time enough to get to know the island and it's people. Trinidad and Tobago are South Easterly islands of the Antilles, situated between ten and eleven degrees North, sixty to almost sixty-two degrees West. At the closest point Trinidad is just six point eight miles off the Venezuelan coast. Covering an area of one thousand, nine hundred and eighty square miles, Roughly fifty miles in length and thirty seven miles wide. Trinidad’s off islands include Tobago, Chacachacare – (cha-car-she-car-ee), Monos, Huevos, Gaspar Grande or Gasparee, Little Tobago and St Giles Island.
The terrain of the islands is a mixture of mountains and plains. The highest point is found on the Northern Range at El Cerro del Aripo – three thousand feet above sea level. The climate is tropical with two distinct seasons, wet, second half of the year and dry. Winds mostly blow from the northeast, dominated by the northeast trade winds. It is seen as a hurricane bolt hole for cruisers – the closet to pass was Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, Ivan caused a huge amount of damage to yachts on Grenada.
First colonized by the Spanish, the islands came under British control in the early 19th century. The islands' sugar industry was hurt by the emancipation of the slaves in 1834. Manpower was replaced with the importation of contract labourers from India between 1845 and 1917, which boosted sugar production as well as the cocoa industry. The discovery of oil on Trinidad in 1910 added another important export. Independence was attained on the 31st of August 1962. The country is one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean thanks largely to petroleum and natural gas production and processing. Tourism, mostly in Tobago, is targeted for expansion and is growing.
Population: 1,356,608 (July 2007 estimated)
0-14 years: 19.5%
15-64 years: 71.6%
+65 years: 8.9%
Median age: 31.8
In the younger age groups there are more males than females, the reverse is true in the over 65’s. The median age is affected by the frequent drug related deaths amongst young adults.
The interesting thing about the people here – most of them speak with a Welsh accent, including “boyo” and “huere” for here. It took us ages to find out the reason – allegedly a Welsh Regiment was stationed on the island long enough to have an influence amongst both the blacks and whites, not so much with the Asian people. The major groups of people are the Indo-Trinidadians and the Afro-Trinidadians accounting for 45 and 35%, mixed race, European, Chinese and Syrian-Lebanese make up the rest.
majority of the population are descendents of the Colonial slave labourers who
were brought in during the last few years of the Spanish occupation era, and the
beginning of the English. Slave numbers were limited compared to other islands
because at the time the population was so small. The population transformed from
a thousand in 1773 to eighteen thousand, six hundred and twenty seven by 1797.
The Census of 1777 recorded two thousand, seven hundred and sixty three people
which included about two thousand Arawaks. When slavery was abolished in 1834,
Indian indentured workers were brought in to tend the
sugar cane, with the promise of land or a repatriation after six
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Government type: parliamentary democracy.
Capital City: Port-of-Spain.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $21.12 billion (2006 estimated).
Disputes - international: in April 2006, the Permanent Court of Arbitration issued a decision that delimited a maritime boundary with Trinidad and Tobago and compelled Barbados to enter a fishing agreement that limited Barbadian fishermen's catches of flying fish in Trinidad and Tobago's exclusive economic zone; in 2005, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago agreed to compulsory international arbitration under UNCLOS challenging whether the northern limit of Trinidad and Tobago's and Venezuela's maritime boundary extends into Barbadian waters; Guyana has also expressed its intention to include itself in the arbitration as the Trinidad and Tobago-Venezuela maritime boundary may extend into its waters as well.
The National Flower is the Chaconia – Warszewiczia Coccinea.
Illicit drugs: transshipment point for South American drugs destined for the US and Europe; producer of cannabis.
Sadly, the papers most days carry the sad stories of gun / drug related deaths, this year so far 451, with a population of around one and a half million, this figure is a higher death rate than South America including Mexico.
The Ministry of Works, estimates that an average Trinidadian spend four hours in traffic per day, certainly we experienced that when the fifty minute drive from the airport to Beez Neez, took nearly two and a half hours. Emergency services are reliable, but may suffer delays in rural districts. Medical Care at public hospitals is modern, with high investment in equipment, but suffers from emigration of personnel. Private hospitals are available and of a good standard. Many cruisers (US) use the clinics for medical needs and are covered by their health insurance. Utilities are fairly sound in the cities. Some areas, however, especially rural districts, still suffer from water shortages. The government is addressing this problem with the construction of additional desalinization plants.
The Coastguard put on a display during a visit by Prince Charles. His mum is due here at the end of the week for a Heads of State meeting - worse traffic jams than ever.
Human Rights has been a little slow to evolve here in Trinidad. Homosexual acts are still illegal and under Article 8 (18/1) of the Immigration Act, non-citizen homosexuals are not allowed to enter the country.
On the 11th of March 2005, the Government was orderred by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to pay US$ 50,000 for "moral damages" to a prisoner who had received fifteen strokes of the Cat o' Nine Tails, plus expenses for his medical and psychological care. In the not too distant past attempts to hang prisoners have been blocked by the Privy Council, with sentences commuted to life imprisonment, I certainly read of the Trinidad Nine who were hanged in 1999 - when a man in the street was asked if he approved - he was upset to have even been asked, indeed 80% of the population supports such a punishment.
When Heads of State visit, the homeless are gathered off the street and put "in the south" to make the place look 'tidy', then they paint the kerbs nice and white.
President Obama visited shortly after he was elected.
The biggest cultural event on Trinidad is the world famous carnival. Maybe one day we will visit to see the thousands who parade the same route as we did on the Emancipation Parade. Trinidad is the birthplace of Calypso Music and the steelpan band. The diverse religious and cultural background make for wide and varied festivities and ceremonies throughout the year. Soca music as well as seasonal Parang, Chutney music , Rapso (mixture of Caribbean and Indian) and the world wide know Limbo Dance. Trinidad has claim to two Nobel Prize Winning Authors - V.S. Naipaul and St Lucian born Derek Walcott. Edmundo Ros, King of Latin American Music was born in Port of Spain. Designer of Carnival Costumes, Peter Marshall is also renowned for winning an Emmy Award for his role in the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics and working on many other Olympic projects.
Sport, obviously no guesses that cricket is high on the list. Brian Lara, simply known as Prince is widely seen as one of the greatest batsmen the game has ever seen. The first Olympic Medal was silver won by Rodney Wilkes for weightlifting in 1948, since then twelve more Olympic medals by nine different athletes, most recent was a silver for Richard Thompson for the men's 100m in 2008.
Trinidad qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup by beating Bahrain in Manama on the 16th of November 2005, making them the smallest ever country in terms of population to qualify. The country has a national Baseball team and Netball is also well supported, Rugby continues to be popular and Horse Racing is regularly followed.
When we hide out next season we will pop in for a short week for anti-fouling and spend the rest of the time exploring Tobago, Guyana and maybe even Brazil.
ALL IN ALL READY TO LEAVE BUT WE HAVE MADE THE MOST OF OUR TIME AND THOROUGHLY ENJOYED OURSELVES AS TOURISTS.