came to Trinidad and Tobago from many different places, and in
a wide variety of circumstances. From the African slave to the
petit noblesse of France, the indentured Indian to the
British civil servant, they have blended together to form a true
melting pot of a society. These pages will look at the different
major groups that immigrated to and emigrated from Trinidad and
Tobago, with an eye towards understanding the why, when, and how
of their coming and going.
under which our ancestors came into and left Trinidad and Tobago
are many, but the reasons can usually be stated in one word: economics.
Whether it was the slave that was forcibly brought to the island,
or the individual seeking opportunities in the United States during
one of the many downturns, it all revolved around economics.
When Columbus arrived in 1498, he found several tribes of
Amerindian peoples inhabiting the island. The two largest groups
were the Arawaks and the Caribs. The Arawaks lived in the southern
part of the island, and were largely agrarian. The Caribs, on
the other hand, lived in the northern part, and were very warlike.
They made periodic raids on their neighbors to the south in Trinidad,
as well as some of the other islands. It is believed that they
had migrated from the Amazon region of South America.
were eventually subdued and gathered into "missions" to be civilized
and taught religion by Spanish priests. They eventually died out
due to disease and forced servitude. A small group of people in
Trinidad claim descent from the original Carib natives.
The Spanish made several attempts to settle the island, but it
wasn't until the establishment of the town of San Josef de Oruna
(present day St. Joseph) in 1592 that this goal became a reality.
Due to a lack of commitment and resources, however, Trinidad was
really a backwater outpost until the Cedula of Population was
issued in 1783 and the subsequent influx of settlers. Although
these immigrants were primarily French, some Irish, English and
German people arrived during this period as well. With this economic
growth came an increase in the slave trade, and the African population
swelled significantly at this time.
Labor Shortages (1834-1917)
With the emancipation of the slaves in 1834, Trinidad planters
faced a severe shortage of labor. Group after group of immigrants
were brought in to fill this need. The major groups were:
The discovery of oil in Trinidad resulted in an economic boom.
Many workers were needed to perform the work, and experienced
oil men came from all over the world. Unexperienced labor came
primarily from local sources, as well as other West Indian islands.
Other immigrants included Corsican, Lebanese
and Syrian merchants, and members of
various religious orders.
from Trinidad & Tobago
See the History
of Trinidad Emigration site