Sadly, many Trinibagonians today are unaware of how much this country owes to its rich history of sugar cane plantation. Much of our development, culture and wide mix of races has its roots planted deep in the sugar cane fields of Sweet TnT!
With the discovery of TnT by Christopher Columbus in 1498, it was not until 1777 that French planter Philippe Rose Roume de Saint-Laurent saw the huge economic potential for the twin islands. Still under Spanish rule, the introduction of the Cedula of Population on November 20th 1783 saw a huge influx of French immigrants along with their slaves and culture. The decree granted the colonists land and other inducements, which saw an immediate impact in the rise in population from 1400 in 1777, to over 15000 by the end of 1789.
The year 1797 saw a switch of rulership from the hands of the Spaniards to those of the British. Now a thriving Cane Industry, more slaves were needed to work the extensive sugar fields. This need was filled by slaves from Africa. As was the pattern at this time, slaves worked under deplorable conditions but not only managed to survive but ensured that much of their heritage was passed on from one generation to another.
Video of Sugar Cane Plantation in Trinidad, 1950.
Thankfully, slavery was fully abolished in Trinidad and Tobago on the 1st of August 1838. Again there was a dire need for sugar cane workers. This time the call was answered from as far as China, West Africa, Portugal (Madeira Island) as well as India.
Now you can understand why on any road in Trinidad you’ll find a good Chinese, Creole, Indian and Spanish restaurant!
(To be continued . . . a sweet a history comes to a bitter end)