While controlled by Spain, Trinidad became French in orientation and dominant language use.Captured by the British in 1797, the island was formally ceded to Britain in 1802.
There was little if any intermarriage and little intermating between the two groups. Colonial discourses on African and Indian ancestral culture depicted Blacks as culturally "naked" and Indians possessing a culture, albeit an inferior one to European culture.
These divisions dictated the course of national identity and nationalist politics. Perhaps for this reason, Blacks have emphasized Western learning and culture and Indians have emphasized the glories of their subcontinental past.
The remainder of the population in 1990 included Mixed, White, and Chinese. Trinidadians delight in their colorful speech and like to emphasize its distinctive use and development as a marker of identity.
Standard and nonstandard English are spoken in Tobago. The public symbols of the nation tend to evoke the themes of multiculturalism, unity in diversity, and tolerance.
Spanish-speaking peon laborers from Venezuela arrived in the nineteenth century to clear forests and work in cocoa cultivation.
Even before the abolition of slavery in 1834 and the end of the apprenticeship system for ex-slaves in 1838, free Africans arrived.Native Amerindians died upon contact with European diseases, were forcibly exported to the mainland to work in mines, and those who survived were subject to Spanish missions and labor schemes.The African slave population was small during Spanish rule.Trinidad (but not Tobago) is ethnically heterogeneous.Trinidadians and Tobagonians of African descent are called "Negro," "Black," or "African." Trinidadians of Indian descent are called "East Indian" (to differentiate them from Amerindians) or "Indian." More recently the terms "Afro-Trinidadian" (or "Afro-Tobagonian") and "Indo-Trinidadian" have gained currency, reflecting heightened ethnic claims to national status.The majority were from the north of India and were drawn from a multiplicity of castes.