although Trinidad & Tobago today constitute one state, the
two islands have a different history. Trinidad is just 20 km
from the mouth of the Orinoco River, was "discovered" by
Columbus in 1498 and was initially subject to Spain. The
island of Tobago had originally lived caribou, but
when the Dutch arrived in it in 1632 it was uninhabited.
Shortly afterwards, Spanish troops landed on Tobago. They
feared that the Dutch from Tobago would launch an
exploration of the Orinoco River course, where they believed
gold was present.
Like the other European colonies in regions, the islands
were subject to numerous invasions and occupations
respectively. Dutch, French and English. Instability was the
rule and Trinidad's slow population growth was a symbol of
this. Three centuries after the arrival of the first
Europeans, the population of 1783 consisted of 126
Europeans, 605 Africans (of whom 310 were slaves) and 2,032
Indians. From 1802 Trinidad became British colony, while
Tobago became it from 1814.
As in almost every other island in the Caribbean, sugar
was the basis of the economy. When slavery was abolished in
1834, Africans were replaced by contract workers from India
and to a lesser extent China. This change is also reflected
in the current ethnic and social composition, where the
people of African origin are predominantly urban workers,
while the Indian population constitutes a large peasantry.
Yet some black workers settled down in the countryside,
developing a social system for mutual aid - called gayap
- similar to other Latin American small communities of
Native American, African or mixed origin.
In 1924, the first movement of autonomy developed, and
the same year the colony administration was reformed to
allow some lower positions to be filled in elections -
albeit with limited voting rights. During the same period,
the formation of trade unions began, which also put forward
the demand for independence. In 1950, the country gained
internal autonomy, and the same year, Peoples National
Movement (PNM) won the election, and its leader, Doctor Eric
Williams, became the country's first prime minister. A post
he held until his death in May 1981. After a brief period of
integration into the West Indian Federation (1958-62), the
country gained its independence in 1962. On August 31, 1976,
a new constitution made it a republic.
Sugar production began to decline from the beginning of
the 20th century and was gradually replaced by oil
production, which in 1940 was the country's most important
economic activity. The sharp rise in oil prices in the
1970's radically changed the economy and society. In
1972-82, revenue from oil increased five-fold and government
spending increased accordingly. Unemployment fell to less
than 10% and imports of goods - especially luxury goods -
doubled. The country received the highest per capita income
in Central and South America. The country became a consumer
society. At the same time, Eric Williams' government
initiated a nationalization of the oil industry, approaching
its pricing policy with OPEC's while encouraging investment
from multinational corporations.