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A visit to Trinidad today would reveal a multicultural melting pot stirred by the descendants of settlers from Europe, Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East. But in 1498, when explorer Christopher Columbus set foot on Trinidad, things were very different.
Arawak and Carib Indians prospered here on the island the Amerindians called Ieri, land of the Humming Bird, until Columbus spotted the island he named for the Holy Trinity. When the Spaniards discovered no precious metals on Trinidad, the Amerindians were enslaved and shipped off to work on other Caribbean settlements.
Nearly a century would pass before Spain established Trinidad's first European community, San Jose de Oruna (St Joseph), which was sacked and burnt by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. Sir Walter Raleigh was also said to have discovered the Pitch Lake, from which he used material to caulk his leaking ship.
Trinidad remained a Spanish possession from the 15th Century and the Cedula of Population in 1783, allowed French planters and their slaves to emigrate from the French colonies to the island. The British would capture Trinidad in 1797 and negotiate an amicable treaty of rule with the Spanish.
In the following years, enslaved Africans were brought in to work on sugar plantations and in 1802, the island became a British colony. After slavery was abolished by Britain, landowners imported thousands of indentured labourers from India, China and the Middle East.