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 The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a nation in the southern Caribbean Sea, situated 11 km (7 miles) off the coast of Venezuela. It is an archipelagic state[1] consisting of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and 21 smaller islands. The larger and more populated island is Trinidad, while Tobago is smaller (303 square kilometres; about 6% of the total area) and less populous (50,000 people; 4% of the total population). Citizens are officially called Trinidadians or Tobagonians or Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, but are informally referred to as Trinis or Trinbagonians.

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Unlike most of the English-speaking Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago is a primarily industrialised country whose economy is based on petroleum and petrochemicals. People of Indian and African descent make up almost 80% of the population, while the remainder are mostly mixed race with small European, Chinese and Syrian-Lebanese minorities. Trinidad and Tobago is famous for its pre-Lenten Carnival and as the birthplace of steelpan and limbo.

The capital city Port-of-Spain is currently a leading candidate to serve as the headquarters of the Permanent Secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA-ALCA).

Both Trinidad and Tobago were originally settled by Amerindians of South American origin. Trinidad was first settled by pre-agricultural Archaic people at least 7000 years, making it the earliest-settled part of the Caribbean. Ceramic-using agriculturalists settled Trinidad around 250 BCE and then moved up the Lesser Antillean chain. At the time of European contact Trinidad was occupied by various Arawakan- and Cariban-speaking tribes including the Nepoya, Suppoya and Yao, while Tobago was occupied by the Island Caribs and Galibi. The aboriginal name for Trinidad was Kairi or Iere which is usually translated as The Land of the Hummingbird, although others have reported that it simply meant island. Christopher Columbus encountered the island of Trinidad on July 31, 1498 and named it after the Holy Trinity. Columbus reported seeing Tobago, which he named Bella Forma, but did not land on the island. The name Tobago is probably derived from tobacco.

The Spanish established a presence on Trinidad, while Tobago changed hands between British, French, Dutch and Courlanders. Britain consolidated its hold on both islands during the Napoleonic Wars, and they were combined into the colony of Trinidad and Tobago in 1889. As a result of these colonial struggles Amerindian, Spanish, and French and English place names are all common in the country. African slaves and Indian, Chinese, Portuguese and free African indentured labourers were imported to supply labour in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Immigration from Barbados and the Lesser Antilles, Venezuela and Syria and Lebanon also impacted on the ethnic make-up of the country.

Although originally a sugar colony, cacao dominated the economy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. After the collapse of the cacao crop (due to disease and the Great Depression) petroleum increasingly came to dominate the economy. The Depression and the rise of the oil economy led to changes in the social structure.

The presence of American military bases in Chaguaramas and Cumuto in Trinidad during World War II profoundly changed the character of society. In the post-war period, the wave of decolonisation that swept the British Empire led to the formation of the West Indies Federation in 1958 as a vehicle for independence. Chaguaramas was the proposed site for the federal capital. The Federation dissolved after the withdrawal of Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago elected for independence in 1962.

In 1976 the country severed its links with the British monarchy and became a republic within the Commonwealth.

Petroleum, petrochemicals and natural gas continue to be the backbone of the economy. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy of Tobago, although it has declined in the environment after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most prosperous nations in the Caribbean, although less so than it was during the "oil boom" between 1973 and 1983.


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