The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island nation located in the Caribbean Sea. The diversity of its people reflects the numerous nations which have shaped it. The majority of the population is of African or Indian descent, while others have Chinese, British, Spanish or Portuguese heritage. The national language is English, but there’s also Trinidadian Creole, which draws from some of the same elements present in St. Lucian Creole and Jamaican Patois. For example, Jamaicans and Trinidadians would both say “de, dat, dem and dis,” for “the, that, them and this.”

Life in Trinidad and Tobago notes “Trinidad’s Creole is harmonic and melodic to the ear; it has even been voted as one of the sexiest accents in the world. Trinidadians’ speech is an amalgamation of African, East Indian, French, French Creole, British, Asian, and Amerindian linguistic elements. This explains its appealing twang.”

How did Trinidad get its name? According to Smithsonian Magazine, Columbus “named it for the Holy Trinity” upon arrival in 1498. At that time, the island’s inhabitants were the Arawaks; also found in Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, among other Caribbean islands. Columbus’ arrival paved the way for Spanish invasion. San Jose de Oruma was Spain’s first settlement in Trinidad, until “the British invaded and destroyed it in 1595.” However, Spain managed to maintain control of Trinidad for quite a long time, until the British wrested it from them in 1797.

The European superpowers wrestled for power over Tobago as well, even though it was much smaller. Smithsonian notes that “control of this small parcel of land shifted more than 30 times, with Spain, England, France and even Latvia vying for it. ” Once again, Britain vanquished the competition and claimed Tobago for itself in 1814.

Trinidad and Tobago won independence from Britain on August 31, 1962. The British Union Jack was taken down and replaced with the flag as we know it today. It has a red background with a diagonal white and black stripe.

With the worst of the pandemic in the past, independence festivities are sure to be special this year. Visit Trinidad states that this special occasion “is celebrated with military-style processions through the streets of Port-of-Spain. Cheering spectators gather in the national colors to see the parade, creating a carnival-like atmosphere.”

Loop News reports “following the official ceremony at Queen’s Park Savannah, the parade will turn south on Frederick Street and West onto Park Street. From there, the parade continues onto Tragarete Road, goes to Roxy Roundabout and then onto the Western Main Road onto Long Circular Road.”

In 1976, Trinidad and Tobago became a republic. There is a separate celebration commemorating this on September 24, which was when the first parliament convened with a new constitution.

Trinidad’s influence extends beyond its borders. After World War II, Britain experienced a labor shortage, and courted Caribbean people to come across the Atlantic. The first of the Windrush Generation arrived in 1948 with more to follow all the way through to the 1970s. Most of these immigrants hailed from Trinidad and Jamaica, and without their labor, Britain would have struggled to revive its post-war economy.

We recently highlighted two famous Trinidadians who made their homes in Britain. Claudia Jones founded the Notting Hill Carnival in 1959, in response to racial tensions. The first carnival held at St. Pancras Hall in London was a far cry from what it is today. But it wouldn’t have existed at all without Jones.

Frank Crichlow founded The Mangrove in London in 1968. It attracted the cream of the crop, including Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix. In addition to being a great restaurant, it was also a site for activism. When British police caught wind of this, they tried to shut down the restaurant; claiming it was a den for sex work and drug use. Neither of these were true, and Crichlow and his supporters found themselves at the Old Bailey, accused of inciting violence. All were acquitted in December 1971.

Crichlow and his colleagues, or “The Mangrove Nine,” helped advance the rights of Black Caribbean people living in Britain, and by extension, Black people in general. The Guardian writes, “of equal importance to his involvement with civil rights was his connection with cultural ventures, and he was a central figure in the development of the Notting Hill Carnival.”

The U.S. is home to many entertainers of Trinidadian or Tobagonian descent. Winston Duke who played M’Baku in Black Panther, Nicki Minaj, Jackée Harry and Nia Long are just a few.

Happy Independence Day, Trinidad and Tobago!