Trinidad's East Indian culture came to the island with indentured servants brought to fill a labour shortage created by the emancipation of the African slaves in 1833. Most remained on the land, and they still dominate the agricultural sector, but many have become prominent in business and the professions. East Indians retain many traditions, including the celebration of Hindu and Muslim religious festivals.
Pitch Lake, in southwest Trinidad, is the world's largest natural reservoir of asphalt. The lake has occasionally yielded fossils of prehistoric animals.
Trinidad and Tobago culture is known for its carnival, steel band and calypso music are famous throughout the world. The carnival was first introduced in Trinidad and Tobago.
While the island has an extensive coastline, most beaches are undeveloped and remote, far removed from the capital. The closest of the better beaches, Maracas Bay, is delightful. Encircled by mountains, it has white sand, swaying coconut palms, and crystal-clear waters. On Tobago, sunbathers share space with giant leatherback turtles on the sandy shores of Turtle Beach.
The European influence on the culture of Trinidad and Tobago primarily comes from Spain, France, and Britain. All three countries claimed the islands at various times during the country’s colonial history.
The first inhabitants of these islands were Amerindians from South America who traveled there hundreds of years before Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean. With the arrival of settlers from Europe, foreign diseases greatly reduced the native population, and today few full-blooded descendants remain.
In 1976, political and economic development spurred by the oil industry led to the decision to make Trinidad and Tobago an Independent Republic. The U.S. was the biggest trading partner with the islands in 1977. In 1981 Prime Minister Williams died, and in 1986 another political party, the National Alliance for Reconstruction, was voted into office.
Low quality of life in 1937 caused a sit-down strike, and 1946 brought the first universal suffrage election on Trinidad. The People's National Movement (PNM) led a political conference in 1956 that put forth a new political and social agenda, with goals to diversify and enlarge the economic base as well as fight for reform of island problems. Eric Williams, the leader of the PNM, kept control of the government for the next 20 years.
Cricket stands out as one of the most popular local sports. There are a number of local cricketers on the West Indies Team, including the holder of the world record for the highest individual score in test and first class cricket, Brian Charles Lara. The major cricket ground is the Queen‘s Park Oval in Port of Spain where club, first class and test matches are played.
Trinidad remained in the hands of the Spanish from the 15th Century until the British captured it in 1797 - we then became a British colony in 1802. Tobago, by contrast, was ruled at one time or other by a myriad of European powers, including the Spanish, Dutch, French and British. Tobago, too, was decreed a British colony in 1814, and the Crown enjoined us administratively in 1889. Trinidad and Tobago achieved independence from England in 1962 and became the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1976.