In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Trinidad & Tobago, a twin island nation, located just off the northern coast of the South American mainland, around 11 kilometres or 7 miles from Venezuela. It is the southernmost of the West Indies island group, and today is home to around 1.3 million people.
Trinidad, the southernmost and larger of the two islands, has a landmass of around 4,760 km2 (1,840 sq miles), comprising 93% of the country’s territory. Tobago, around 40km or 25 miles to the northeast, is around 300 km2 (120 sq mi) in total. The islands enjoy a warm, tropical climate, and only have two seasons – a dry season for the first five months of the year, and a wet season for the remaining seven. Occupied by Amerindian tribes up to 1498, the islands were then discovered by Christopher Columbus and later became a Spanish colony. Sovereignty over the islands was disputed throughout the 19th century, before the two were unified as one British colony in 1888. Independent since 1962, the country has benefited greatly from the discovery of oil in 1857, and is today one of the richest and most ethnically diverse countries in the region. Trinidad and Tobago is also famous for its extravagant carnival celebrations, and is known as the birthplace of limbo dancing.
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Some further reading:
- Arie Boomert’s book on the indigenous people of these islands can be found here.
- “An Introduction to the History of Trinidad and Tobago” by Bridget Brereton
- “A Vision for the Indigenous People of Trinidad and Tobago” video
- The Collared Peccary, which was obviously delicious to early peoples, can be researched on Wikipedia here.
- As discussed in this episode, the native name for Trinidad was Caeri or Iere. You can find more on the native traditions here.
- The Caribbean History Archives blog has a wealth of information on Trinidad and Tobago, and has a whole post on Jean-Baptise Philippe’s civil rights campaign on behalf of these islands.
- MinorityRights.org also has extensive information on the current-day minority groups of Trinidad and Tobago.
- “How Tobago Got its Name”
- “A History of Tobago” from MyTobago.info
- “1876 Labour Riot in Tobago” – an article from the National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago’s blog about the “Belmanna Riots”
- British National Archives information about Trinidad and Tobago in World War 1
- Documentary about the country’s participation in World War 2
- “A White Guy’s Guide to Canival” from blog The Constant Rambler
- Arriana Talma’s article about slang you should know before going to these islands
- VICE’s interview with Abu Bakr, the leader of the 1990 attempted coup makes for an interesting watch
- CNN Special on the 1990 coup, with footage broadcast from the national television studios
Music that might interest listeners:
- “A Celebration of Parang” Documentary by A Tree Without Roots Music, inlcuding “Bienvenido” by The Guerrero Sisters of Lopinot
- Trinidad All Stars – Steel pan band
- Yuke Yume Indigenous People music performance
- Documentary about making a Tobago tambarin drum
- Compilation of Tobago folk songs and dances
- Calypso “Power” sung by David Bureau
- Calypso “Black Power” by Mighty Fluke about the 1970 protests
- Carnival Theme 2015, Soca song “Ola” by Olatunji
- There is also soca produced by Indian-descended artists, such as Ravi: “D Key”
- “O Maninga” by Jiahao Dong is an example of “chutney soca”
- History of steelband music