Trinidad and Tobago, Republic of
- Helen Myers
Country consisting of an archipelago situated off the coast of South America. The two main islands of the republic are the most southerly of the Caribbean islands, lying 12 km off the Venezuelan coast. Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Britain in 1962 and remains a member of the British Commonwealth. Trinidad's so-called plural society (pop. 1,340,000, 2000 estimate) has two main racial groups: African (43%) and East Indian (40%); minorities include Europeans, Chinese, Venezuelans, Syrians and Lebanese. The indigenous Amerindian population (Arawak) died tragically from European-born viruses during the period of Spanish dominance (1498–1797). Tobago was not settled before the arrival of Columbus (1498). During British rule, slaves from West Africa (until emancipation in 1838) and then East Indian indentured labourers (1845–1917) were conscribed to work on the islands' sugar-cane plantations. These immigrants contributed their languages, religions and musics to the modern cultural mosaic. While English is the official language, French patois (Creole) and Bhojpuri (a Hindi dialect) are still popular in song and colloquial speech, particularly in rural areas. The statistics for religion are as follows: Roman Catholic (32%), Protestant (29%), Hindu (25%) and Muslim (6%). The mixed ethnic composition, the multiplicity of religions and the contrasting cultural backgrounds of the islands' peoples have drawn generations of anthropologists and ethnomusicologists to study these popular tropical tourist resort islands....