The islands were first inhabited by Arawak and Carib people, who settled here from the South American mainland, and whose descendants make up a small minority of the population. Trinidad was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who claimed it for Spain. Under Spanish rule, large numbers of French settlers established cocoa plantations in Trinidad and imported slaves to work them. The British seized the island in 1798, and abolished slavery. To make up for the labor shortage the government encouraged heavy immigration from countries such as Portugal, France, Germany, China, and most importantly India. Trinidad was united with Tobago in the 1880's. Throughout the early 1900's the country welcomed thousands of mostly black immigrants from other Caribbean countries, as well as Venezuela and Colombia. Following World War II, TT was combined with various other British Caribbean countries into the West Indies Federation, but the different countries could not get along and the federation soon collapsed. TT eventually achieved complete independence on August 31, 1962. Throughout the sixties and seventies, the country prospered thanks to large deposits of oil and natural gas, becoming the wealthiest nation in the Caribbean. However, in the late eighties, oil prices dropped significantly, causing a major economic meltdown. Thousands of Trinidadians left the country at this time, in search of better opportunities elsewhere. Throughout the ninties and 2000's the country recovered dramatically and it continues to improve today.
The country has a cosmopolitan society inhabited by many different peoples and cultures who live together in relative peace and harmony.
The two islands have distinct personalities. Trinidad is the larger of the two, and is the location of most of the country's cities and activity. It is also the country's industrial centre, noted for petroleum and natural gas production, which make T&T one of the most prosperous countries in the Caribbean. Tobago is known for tourism, which is its main industry and is a popular tourist destination. Both islands have a share of natural beauty.
Trinidad and Tobago, well within the tropics, both enjoy a generally pleasant maritime tropical climate influenced by the northeast trade winds. In Trinidad the annual mean temperature is 26 Â°C 78.8 Â°F, and the average maximum temperature is 34 Â°C 93.2 Â°F. The humidity is high, particularly during the rainy season, when it averages 85 to 87 %. The island receives an average of 2,110 millimeters 83.1 in of rainfall per year, usually concentrated in the months of June through December, when brief, intense showers frequently occur. Precipitation is highest in the Northern Range, which may receive as much as 3,810 millimeters 150 in. During the dry season, drought plagues the island's central interior. Tobago's climate is similar to Trinidad's but slightly cooler. Its rainy season extends from June to December; the annual rainfall is 2,500 millimeters 98.4 in. The islands lie outside the hurricane belt; despite this, Hurricane Flora damaged Tobago in 1963, and Tropical Storm Alma hit Trinidad in 1974, causing damage before obtaining full strength.
Trinidad is traversed by three distinct mountain ranges. The Northern Range, an outlier of the Andes Mountains of Venezuela, consists of rugged hills that parallel the coast. This range rises into two peaks. The highest, El Cerro del Aripo, is 940 meters 3,084 ft high; the other, El Tucuche, reaches 936 meters. The Central Range extends diagonally across the island and is a low-lying range. The Caroni Plain, extends southward, separating the Northern Range and Central Range. The Southern Range consists of a broken line of hills with a maximum elevation of 305 meters 1,001 ft. There are numerous rivers and streams on the island of Trinidad; the most significant are the Ortoire River, and Caroni River.
Tobago is mountainous and dominated by the Main Ridge, which is 29 kilometers long with elevations up to 640 meters. There are deep, fertile valleys running north and south of the Main Ridge. The southwestern tip of the island has a coral platform. Although Tobago is volcanic in origin, there are no active volcanoes. There are numerous rivers and streams, but flooding and erosion are less severe than in Trinidad.