By Joel Burgess

Last month, my wife and I had the privilege of traveling to Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost islands in the Caribbean Sea. In fact, the closest point of Trinidad is a mere nine miles from Venezuela. We stayed at the Trinidad and Tobago Urban Ministries (TTUM) compound in St. Helena, a few miles from the Piarco International Airport and 45 minutes east of Port-of-Spain, the capital city. Here are a few facts about this island nation that is slightly smaller than Delaware.


Christopher Columbus, on his third trip to the new world in 1498, discovered the island of Trinidad. Looking back as he passed the island, he saw the three distinct peaks of its northern mountain range and proclaimed the island la Trinidad, Spanish for the Trinity.

First colonized by the Spanish, the islands came under British control in the early 19th century. The British abolished slavery in 1834, which hurt the islands’ sugar industry. Many of the freed slaves did not return to Africa for fear of being recaptured by US slave ships in transit, as the US did not abolish slavery until the early 1860’s. Free labor became cheap labor with the importation of contract laborers or indentured servants from India between 1845 and 1917. For working five years, contract laborers were given property and the promise their families could remain intact, a promising outlook for those looking to escape India’s caste system. The islands became independent of Britain in 1962.

Today, Trinidad boasts a culturally diverse population of 1.3 million: Indian (South Asian) 40%, African 37.5%, mixed 20.5%, other 1.2%, unspecified 0.8%.


Traditionally, the island has supported sugar production as well as the cocoa industry.

Today the economy benefits from a growing trade surplus. The country is one of the most prosperous in the Caribbean, thanks largely to petroleum and natural gas production and processing. Economic growth in 2006 reached 12.6% as prices for oil, petrochemicals, and liquefied natural gas remained high, and foreign direct investment continued to grow to support expanded capacity in the energy sector. Tourism, mostly in Tobago, is targeted for expansion and is growing.

Word of the island: Limin’

To “lime” is to chill. According to the islanders, limin’ was a term used first used to describe the attitude of British soldiers as they lounged around sucking on limes. Limes were a source on vitamin C that prevented scurvy.

Place to Visit: Marracas Bay

A beautiful cove trapped between the Atlantic & the mountains–it’s breathtaking. Don’t forget to try the Shark & Bake (bread) with spicy mango chutney, with locally caught shark.