Celebrating Trinidad and Tobago on Independence Day
Aug 31, 2020 08:00AM
By Oga Africa
Happy Independence Day to Trinidad and Tobago! On this day, August 31, 1962, the islands known as Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from Great Britain. Join us as we uncover the unique history of this Caribbean country and celebrate its African diasporic culture.
This country, which consists of two major islands and 21 smaller islands, has a rich makeup that combines the influences of Taino, Carib, African and Indian culture. The original name of this region was Ka-ire or I-ere, and the original inhabitants were the Taino or Arawak and Carib or Kalinago people. In 1498, Christopher Columbus landed in the islands, massacring most of the natives and seizing the land for economic gain. He named it Trinidad and Tobago after a local tobacco pipe and three peaks in the region.
In 1617, Spain began to bring enslaved Africans to the islands to work the lush fields. By 1797, the islands were captured by the British. In 1834, a year after slavery was outlawed in the country, the British brought East Indians to the country to work the sugar plantations, amounting for the large percentage of Indian population in the country. Today, the island is about 35% East Indian, 34% African, 22.8% mixed, .6% white and 7% other. Trinidad is larger than Tobago, and Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are the major religions in the country. The capital is Port of Spain.
Nicki Minaj and Trinidad James, renowned rappers, hail from Trinidad.
Calypso, a famous Afro-Caribbean music genre, originated in Trinidad and Tobago, and is marked by lively beats, complete with saxophones, trumpets, guitars, steel drums, words of resistance and more. When enslaved Africans were brought to the island for free labor, they brought with them an oral storytelling tradition of the griot, or a person who tells stories about important happenings, history and culture keeping in the society. They initially used this music to make fun of the slave masters, and then the genre evolved to provide social commentary on the fight for the country’s liberation, racial issues and other struggles. Calypso is usually played at Carnival festivals and often uses African call and response techniques.
The steel pan drum instrument was created after 1888, when the British colonizers banned drumming in the islands and the enslaved used oil drums, frying pans and dustbin lids to drum.
The island has many gas and oil reserves that dominate the economy, which partly accounts for its status as one of the wealthiest Caribbean islands.
Popular foods of Trinidad include Doubles, a street food made of a curried chickpea flatbread sandwich, Pholourie, a fritter made from split peas and spices, Saltfish buljol, a spicy fried fish dish with root vegetables, Buss Up Shut (Meaning a torn up shirt,) a tender roti eaten as a side and more.
Trinidad is also known for its carnival festival, which came to the island with the French. They celebrated it on the island before the beginning of lent. Because the enslaved were not allowed to participate, they created their own version of the celebration, which they called Canboulay.
In 2018, Trinidad’s first female president, Paula Mae Weekes, was elected.
Thanks for celebrating with us! Have you tried the Trinidadian soup from the Trinidadian restaurant ‘Brown Sugar Bakery and Cafe’ on 219 S 52nd Street? Delicious.
What aspect of Trinidadian culture do you love?