The indigenous people of the Caribbean were a nomadic group, meaning they migrated from one place to another in search for food. When the herds moved, the people moved after them because they were dependent on the animals for food. They migrated from Asia via the Bering Straight (Iced bridge over the ocean) over into North America and then into the Caribbean. The Amerindians were divided into Tainos and Kalinagos. The Tainos which was seen as the peaceful tribe they settled in Bahamas, Trinidad, Puerto Rico Hispaniola, Cuba and Jamaica. Whereas the Kalinagos which were the war like tribe settled in the north-western part of Trinidad, the Lesser Antilles and the Eastern part of Puerto Rico.
In the 15th century, Trinidad saw the first European contact through the voyages of Christopher Columbus representing Spain. Sailing on the Pacific Ocean with his fleet of 3 ships; the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria he re-discovered Trinidad in 1498. This was the beginning of colonization in Trinidad. The colonization of Trinidad however was anything but rapid or effective. It was nearly a century later that permanent settlement of Spaniards was established. In 1592 Domin de Vera, acting in the name of Antonio de Berrio, governor of Trinidad, formally founded the city of San Josef de Oruna (St. Joseph). Spain governed Trinidad from 1498-1797
The French instead of conquering Trinidad they were encouraged to migrate to the island. This was declared under the Cedula of Population in 1783. The Spanish government had fully accepted the principle of foreign immigration to Trinidad. It recognized that French planters, with their slaves, capital and expertise in the cultivation of tropical staples would have to be attracted if the island was to be developed as a plantation colony. The principal incentive that the cedula offered was a free grant of land to every settler who came to Trinidad with their slaves. This also had introduced the first set of enslaved Africans to the island.
The island of Trinidad which was governed under the Spanish and mostly occupied by the French, was soon to be taken over by the British in 1797. For the British, capturing the island would be crucial to Britain’s war strategy in the Caribbean. After a couple years of conflict between the Spanish and the British the then Governor Don Jose Maria Chacon surrendered the island to Britain. On the 17th February 1797 Britain was now in full control of Trinidad. Therefore the Spanish was forced to sign the Article of Capitulation which stipulated the complete takeover and control of Trinidad and its existing scheme under the British.
The Sugar Revolution in the West Indies and the great demand for sugar in Europe, there was a need for cheap and free labour. So they began to source this type of labour from Africa, mor specifically West Africa. The first group of enslaved Africans came to Trinidad through the French under the Cedulla of Population, but after the British take over there was a influx of enslaved Africans in Trinidad on the plantations. In 1797 there was a population total of 17,643 of which 10,009 were enslaved Africans.
The East Indians
After the system of emancipation was abolished, there was still the need for labour on the sugar plantations. Therefore in 1845, the British government put forward an immigration scheme that encouraged the immigration of East Indians as indentured labourers to the Island. In May 1845 the first immigrant ship, the Fatal Razack arrived from Calcutta with 225 immigrants, and a total of 5,392 Indians came in the first three years of Indian Immigration. The period of indentureship ended in 1917.
There were also immigration workers from China that came to Trinidad to work on the plantations. But their numbers were much smaller than that of the East Indians. This was due to the drawbacks of hesitant people wanting to come to Trinidad and there was the mere fact that to pay their passage was high. However despite all the problems faced, about 2500 Chinese immigrants were brought in Trinidad between 1853 and 1866 where the importation of Chinese labour ended.
With the abolition of enslavement the British Government introduced an indentured labour scheme which saw different culture embarking on the island. The Portuguese immigrants to Trinidad were the first to come to the West Indies and were drawn from the Portuguese Atlantic provinces of the Azores, Madeira and the Cape Verde Islands during the nineteenth century. There was also a group of Portuguese in the island as early as 1630 and Sephardim (Portuguese and Spanish Jews) were in Trinidad in the eighteenth century and some may have been numbered among the nineteenth century immigrants. By far the largest group of Portuguese, however, hailed from the Madeira Islands, a small archipelago situated off the west coast of Morocco. Madeirans or Madeirenses, who originally came to work on the cocoa and sugar estates under the scheme of indentureship, constituted the main body of ancestors of Trinidad's small Portuguese community.