Trinidad and Tobago, officially the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, is a twin-island nation located at the northern tip of the South American continent, just 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) off the northeast coast of Venezuela and 130 kilometres (81 miles) south of Grenada. It borders the Caribbean Sea to the north and shares maritime borders with other nations, including Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast and Venezuela to the south and west.
The island of Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 until the surrender of the Spanish governor, Don José María Chacón, to the arrival of a British fleet of 18 warships on 18 February 1797. During the same period, the island of Tobago changed hands more frequently than any other Caribbean island between Spanish, British, French and Dutch colonisers. Trinidad and Tobago (which remained separate until 1889) were ceded to Britain in 1802 by the Treaty of Amiens. The country of Trinidad and Tobago gained independence in 1962 and became a republic in 1976.
Trinidad and Tobago is the third richest country in the Americas in terms of GDP per capita (PPP), after the USA and Canada. It is also recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Unlike most English-speaking countries in the Caribbean, the country’s economy is predominantly industrial, with a focus on oil and petrochemicals. The country’s wealth is due to its large reserves and exploitation of oil and natural gas.
Trinidad and Tobago is known for its carnival and is home to steelpan, limbo and the following styles of music: Calypso, Soca, Parang, Chutney, Chutney Soca, Chut-kai-pang, Cariso, Extempo, Kaiso, Parang Soca, Pichakaree and Rapso.
Trinidad and Tobago are islands located between 10° 2′ and 11° 12′ north latitude and 60° 30′ and 61° 56′ west longitude. At its closest point, Trinidad is only 11 kilometres from Venezuelan territory. With an area of 5,128 km2, the country consists of the two main islands of Trinidad and Tobago and numerous smaller landforms, including Chacachacare, Monos, Huevos, Gaspar Grande (or Gasparee), Little Tobago and St. Giles Island.
Trinidad has an area of 4,768 km2 (93.0% of the country’s total area), an average length of 80 km (50 mi) and an average width of 59 km (37 mi). Tobago has an area of about 300 km2 (120 sq mi), or 5.8% of the country’s land area. It is 41 km long and 12 km wide at its widest point.
Trinidad and Tobago are located on the continental shelf of South America and are therefore geologically fully counted as part of South America.
The relief of the islands is a mixture of mountains and plains. The highest point of the country is in the northern mountain range, at El Cerro del Aripo, 940 metres above sea level.
Since most of the population lives on the island of Trinidad, this is also where most of the larger cities are located. There are four major municipalities in Trinidad: Port of Spain, the capital, San Fernando, Arima and Chaguanas. The main city in Tobago is Scarborough. Trinidad has a variety of soil types, most of which are fine sands and heavy clays. The alluvial valleys of the Northern Range and the soils of the East-West Corridor are the most fertile.
The ethnic composition of Trinidad and Tobago reflects a history of conquest and immigration. While the original inhabitants were of American origin, since the twentieth century the two dominant groups in the country have been those of South Asian and African origin. Indo-Trinidadians are the largest ethnic group in the country (about 37.6 per cent). They are mainly descendants of indentured labourers who came from India to replace freed African slaves who refused to continue working on the sugar plantations. By preserving the culture, some residents of Indian origin maintain the traditions of their ancestral land.
Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians are the second largest ethnic group in the country, with about 36.3% of the population identifying themselves as of African descent. People of African descent were brought to the island as slaves as early as the 16th century. 24.4 % of the population described themselves as ‘mixed’ ethnicity in the 2011 census. There are small but significant minorities of people of European, Chinese and Levantine (Syrian/Lebanese) origin.
Many different religions are practised in Trinidad and Tobago. According to the 2011 census, Roman Catholics were the largest religious group in Trinidad and Tobago with 21.60% of the total population. Hindus were the second largest group at 18.15%, while Pentecostals/Evangelicals/Full Gospel denominations were the third largest group at 12.02% of the population. Significantly, respondents who indicated no religious affiliation made up 11.1% of the population. The rest of the population was made up of Baptists (5.67%), Anglicans (5.67%), Muslims (4.97%), Seventh Day Adventists (4.09%), Presbyterians or Congregationalists (2.49%), irreligious (2.18%), Jehovah’s Witnesses (1.47%), other Baptists (1.21%), Trinidad Orisha believers (0.9%), Methodists (0.65%), Rastafari (0.27%) and the Moravian Church (0.27%).
Two African syncretic denominations, the Shouter or Spiritual Baptists and the Orisha faith (formerly known as Shangos, an unflattering term) are among the fastest growing religious groups. Similarly, there has been a marked increase in the number of evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant churches, commonly referred to by most Trinidadians as “Pentecostal”, although this designation is often inaccurate. A small Jewish community exists in the islands, and various Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism are followed by the Chinese community. There is also a small Baha’i community.
Trinidad and Tobago is one of the richest and most developed nations in the Caribbean and is among the top 40 (as of 2010) of the 70 highest-income countries in the world. Its GNI per capita of US$20,070 (Atlas GNI 2014) is one of the highest in the Caribbean. In November 2011, the OECD removed Trinidad and Tobago from its list of developing countries. Trinidad’s economy is heavily influenced by the oil industry. Tourism and manufacturing are also important to the local economy. Tourism is a growing sector, although it is not as important proportionally as in many other Caribbean islands. Agricultural products include citrus fruits and cocoa.
Recent growth has been driven by investments in liquefied natural gas (LNG), petrochemicals and steel. Other projects in petrochemicals, aluminium and plastics are in various stages of planning. Trinidad and Tobago is the largest oil and gas producer in the Caribbean and its economy is highly dependent on these resources, but it also supplies manufactured goods, including food, beverages and cement, to the Caribbean region.
Oil and gas account for about 40% of GDP and 80% of exports, but only 5% of employment. The country is also a regional financial centre and the economy has a growing trade surplus. The expansion of Atlantic LNG over the past six years has created the largest single period of sustained economic growth in Trinidad and Tobago. It has become the largest exporter of LNG to the US and now supplies about 70% of US LNG imports.
Trinidad and Tobago has transitioned from an oil-based economy to a natural gas-based economy. In 2007, natural gas production averaged 4 billion cubic feet per day (110 000 m3/d), compared to 3.2×106 cubic feet per day (91 000 m3/d) in 2005. In December 2005, Atlantic LNG’s fourth liquefied natural gas (LNG) production module or “Train” began production. Train 4 increased Atlantic LNG’s total production capacity by almost 50 per cent and is the largest LNG train in the world, producing 5.2 million tonnes of LNG per year.
In an effort to transform the economy through diversification, Trinidad and Tobago established InvesTT in 2012 to serve as the country’s sole investment promotion agency. The agency is attached to the Ministry of Trade and Industry and is intended to be the key agent for meaningful and sustainable growth in the country’s non-oil and gas sector.
Trinidad and Tobago’s infrastructure is good by regional standards. Trinidad’s international airport was expanded in 2001. The country has an extensive network of paved roads and several good four- and six-lane highways, including a controlled-access motorway. The Ministry of Public Works estimates that the average Trinidadian spends about four hours a day in traffic. Emergency services are reliable, but delays can occur in rural areas. Private hospitals are available and reliable. Public services are fairly reliable in urban areas. However, some areas, especially rural districts, still suffer from water shortages.