Trinidad Makes Culture Fun
Tourists to the Caribbean are always appreciative of the entertainments they see or participate in and whilst numerous attractions have grown in response to and are specifically staged for visitors needs, many have their spiritual roots in the cultural heritage of the islanders and the history of the island. Unlike most of the Caribbean islands Trinidad’s primary focus is not tourism but the oil and gas industry, so guests of the island do not experience a laid on culture – it’s a way of life.
Trinidad, the most southerly of the Caribbean islands, host a fusion of many cultures that has today produced a spirited and colourful place that extends a hearty welcome to tourists.
Having been a dependency of Spain, France and the British crown, a home to African slaves and also a large Indian (Asia) population, there’s a rich mix that has contributed to how Trinidadians enjoy their lives today.
Every year on the weekend before Lent Trinidad is gripped with Carnival fever that lasts a week. The event might last just a few days but planning takes the whole year. Carnival runs through people’s veins on Trinidad. Costumes are not something stitched hurriedly on the dining table, there are professional businesses that compete to outdo each other with sequins, feathers and colours to the provide the “bands” (parade participants) with the most elaborate dress imaginable. Each band is headed by a King or Queen and there’s a fierce competition to be crowned Carnival King and Carnival Queen.
Carnival is a non-stop round of parties, parades and performances. As well as commemorating events of the islands such as the Canboulay Riots, all the heritage and tradition of Trinidad is on display. Representations of its ethnic diversity, religion, history and popular culture come together in a visual spectacular that takes over the streets. Mardi gras in Trinidad wouldn’t be complete without the music of steel drums and the unmistakable calypso and soca provides the soundtrack to the carnival along with music from absolutely every other genre. All the best music artists take part in prestigious competitions to be crowned Calypso King and Soca Monarch.
This sporting life
As with all West Indian islands, cricket is a major part of life in Trinidad. Indeed, one of the greatest cricketers of all time, Brian Lara, was born in Santa Cruz in northern Trinidad. It is played all over the island, on the beach, dirt roads and set pitches and it’s the dream of many a young Trinidadian male to play at the Queen’s Park Oval, one of the best grounds in the Caribbean that is regularly used in Test Match series.
Soccer is another popular pastime on the island and became even more widely played after Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the World Cup Finals in 2006. Another hero of the people, Dwight Yorke was captain of the Soca Warriors and he was a player of the world’s biggest football club, Manchester United. Soccer fever even exists in the form of a woman’s league.
The people of Trinidad love all sports; Alto Baldon 4 times Olympic medallist is from the island and inspires many a young athlete and as well as there being six golf courses, the island supports lovers of hockey, rugby, tennis, hockey and volleyball. Marathon running is also a beloved activity and the annual Trinidad and Tobago marathon in January attracts athletes from all over.
If there’s one thing that really captures everything Trinidadian it’s calypso, Calypso music may now be a feature of many Caribbean Islands but it originated in Trinidad. The roots are firmly in Africa with the stick fighting and percussion music that the slaves brought to Trinidad with them. When this was banned in 1880 after the Canboulay Riots the response was to replace them with bamboo sticks being beaten together. Again, this was banned and finally the irrepressible urge of the people to make music produced orchestras with frying pans, dustbin lids and oil drums and calypso was born. An offshoot of calypso developed known as Soca. Other music including gospel and Indian chutney music was “calypso-ised” and both Calypso and Soca are now major genres of music not only in Trinidad but worldwide. Music epitomises Carnival on the island with major competitions throughout carnival week. Being crowned Calypso King on Trinidad is an honorific accolade of major prestige.
Jazz is also a huge favourite of the Trinidadians. It is celebrated in all its forms from traditional through to calyjazz, a mix of calypso and jazz, with concerts and events all over the island all year round.
Good enough to eat
The food of Trinidad is a result of the influences of African, Indian, European, Creole, Chinese, Lebanese and Amerindian cuisines. The locals make use of the indigenous fruits and vegetables and also harvest from the sea. Many dishes are often stewed, barbecued or curried with coconut milk, and like elsewhere in the Caribbean and thanks to its African and Indian roots the food of Trinidad is highly spiced and often very hot to taste. All families will have their own version or favourite brand of hot sauce. The national dishes are curried chicken with roti (a flatbread), callaloo, a creamy spicy green vegetable dish, macaroni pie, a baked version of the good old mac & cheese and pelau, a rice dish similar to Indian pilau. Naturally, the foods are all washed down with lashings of rum and ginger beer.
Street foods are atypical of those sold by pavement vendors of Delhi and Beijing with filled rotis, doubles and steamed buns being a big feature. Bake and shark is a popular sandwich and many Trinidadian neighbourhoods have a Pie-Man who sells all sorts of ingredients sealed in pastry parcels.
A rare delicacy of the island is cascadu which is a small fresh water fish. The legend is that any visitor who eats cascade will return to Trinidad to end their days.
Delight in Diversity
Specific nods to specific cultures are visible in certain events and festivals. For example, as the same time the Festival of Holi is being celebrated by 900 odd million people in India, events take place on Trinidad. This is the harvest festival of colours where participants throw coloured powders over each other to celebrate the triumph of good over evil. Sometimes the timing of Easter is close to Holi and as one winds down the other starts meaning Trinidad’s kaleidoscopic effect is even more enhanced.
Trinidad is rich in arts events and in 2011 there’s the 3rd anniversary of the Alternative Comedy Festival; the island lies just off the coast of Venezuela and recognises the influence by hosting a Latin Music Festival; the National Academy of the Performing Arts plays an important part in the cultural life in the capital (Port of Spain) and hosts plays, recitals, concerts and other performance events throughout the year; Easter is an important time and is marked by many fiestas and gatherings in every community on the island with local churches holding a special Missionary Love Feast and marking the event with family days that include goat racing and boating regattas; Christmas has a heavy Spanish influence with the 3 month long competition to find the acts that will perform the traditional music, the Parang.
Independence Day is celebrated with events, parties and fireworks every August 31st.
Affordable Accommodation in Trinidad & Tobago:
Newly constructed luxury high-rise hotel, Hyatt Regency Trinidad, located in the prestigious Port of Spain International Waterfront Development. Walking distance to the city center and central business district, the hotel is the only full service hotel located on the waterfront.