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Trinidad and Tobago


population of Trinidad, African slaves, Arima, Saint Augustine, Anglicans

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The history of Trinidad and Tobago is reflected in the makeup of its population, among the most ethnically diverse in the Caribbean. Blacks of African ancestry and Asians of Indian ancestry each make up about 40 percent of the population. The remainder is mainly of mixed ancestry, although there are also small groups of people of Chinese, European, South American, and Middle Eastern descent. The ethnic diversity of Trinidad and Tobago owes its origins to slavery and its abolition. African slaves were imported in the 18th century to work the plantations. However, following emancipation in 1834 there was a shortage of labor, and the British government encouraged immigration from India, China, and Madeira.

The population (2008 estimate) of Trinidad and Tobago is 1,047,366. The capital and chief city, Port-of-Spain, has 55,000 people (2003 estimate). Other major cities are San Fernando (55,784), an industrial center and transportation hub, and Arima (24,874), both on Trinidad. The population of Trinidad is unevenly distributed. The region of greatest density is the western half of the island, roughly the area between Port-of-Spain in the north and San Fernando in the south. The administrative center and port of Scarborough is the largest town on the less industrialized island of Tobago.

Language and Religion

English is the principal language spoken in Trinidad and Tobago, but as a result of the large population of Indian descent, many people also speak Caribbean Hindustani (also known as Trinidad Bhojpuri). The involvement of Spain in the country’s colonial history has left pockets along the southern coast where Spanish is spoken. Each of the islands has its own English-based Creole, and a French-based Creole is spoken in parts of the north and west of Trinidad.

The history and ethnic complexity of Trinidad and Tobago also is reflected in the religions practiced. About three-fifths of the people are Christians, with Roman Catholics constituting the largest single group (30 percent). Anglicans form another substantial community (12 percent), and Hindus (25 percent) and Muslims (6 percent) make up the major non-Christian bodies.


Education in the country is free, and attendance at school is compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 11. Virtually all children attended primary school, and 82 percent of children of secondary school age were enrolled in 2002–2003. Most schools are maintained or aided by the government. Higher education is provided by teacher-training colleges, technical institutes, and the University of the West Indies, which has faculties in the arts, social sciences, natural sciences, education, agriculture, medicine, and engineering on the Trinidad-Tobago Campus (1960) in Saint Augustine, Trinidad.

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