Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians (or just Afro-Trinbagonians) are people from Trinidad and Tobago who are largely of African descent. Social interpretations of race in Trinidad and Tobago are often used to dictate who is of African descent; for example, a person might appear "white" in appearance but may still be considered "black" based on significant African ancestry. Mulatto-Creole, Zambo, Quadroon, or Octoroon were all racial terms used to measure the amount of African ancestry someone possessed in Trinidad and throughout Latin American and Caribbean history.
Afro-Trinidadians and Tobagonians accounted for 35.4 per cent of the population of Trinidad and Tobago according to the 2011 Census. However, the classification is primarily a superficial description based on phenotypical (physical) description opposed to genotypical (genetic) classification. It is not uncommon for Trinidadians of both Indian and African descent to be considered Afro-Trinidadian solely based on appearance. An additional 22.8 per cent of Trinidadians described themselves as being multiracial, of whom 7.7 per cent were dougla (mixed African and Indian ethnicity).
The islands of Trinidad and Tobago (united in 1888) have a different racial history. The island of Trinidad is mainly multiracial while the population of Tobago is primarily what is considered Afro-Tobagonian, which is synonymous with Afro-Trinidadian, with the exception that the people of Tobago are almost exclusively of direct African ancestry. In an effort to unite the cultural and ethnic divide between the two islands many people choose to be called Trinbagonians as a sign of unity.
|African ethnicities over 500 in Trinidad (1813)|
|Origins of Creoles over 400 in Trinidad (1813)|
The ultimate origin of most African ancestry in the Americas is in West and Central Africa. The most common ethnic groups of the enslaved Africans in Trinidad and Tobago were Igbo, Kongo and Malinke people. All of these groups, among others, were heavily affected by the Atlantic slave trade. The population census of 1813 shows that among African-born slaves the Igbo were the most numerous.
Around half of Afro-Trinidadians were the descendants of emigrants from other islands of the Caribbean, especially Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica and Grenada. Other Afro-Trinidadians trace their ancestry to American slaves recruited to fight for the British in the War of 1812 or from indentured labourers from West Africa.
In 1498 Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Trinidad, where he encountered the indigenous Taino people (Arawakan) and the Kalinagos (Cariban). A while after Columbus's landing, Trinidad became a territory of the Spanish Empire. The Spanish enslaved the Amerindians and over time mixed with them, their offspring creating the Mestizo identity. The Mulattos came about after Spain started transporting enslaved Africans to Trinidad in 1517 via the Atlantic slave trade. By the time the African, Mulattoes and Mestizos started intermixing, the Amerindians had become almost nonexistent.
In 1783 the King of Spain passed the Cedula of Population law, which promised free land to Europeans willing to relocate to Trinidad to work. With this law French settlers and their creole slaves migrated to Trinidad from the French Antilles to work the sugar cane plantations. They too added to the ancestry of Trinidadians, creating the creole identity; Spanish, French, and Patois were the languages spoken.
In 1802 Great Britain took over the island and slavery was eventually abolished in 1834. The abolition of slavery led to an influx of indentured servants from places such as China. While some left, many stayed and married into the Trinidadian populace. In 1911, many more Chinese came after the Chinese Revolution.
In the 1840s, European indentured servants began arriving, including the French, Spanish, West Africans, Creoles, Chinese, Germans, Swiss, Portuguese, British, Italians, Mexicans, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Arabs, Lebanese, African Americans, Other Caribbean islands, Venezuela, and Irish (many of whom also settled in Montserrat, also known for their high number of redheads). Over time, many of these settlers married into the families of the freed slaves.[clarification needed]
On 30 May 1845, the British transported indentured servants from India to Trinidad. This day is known as Indian Arrival Day. The first group of East Indian people also began to mix into the Trinidadian populace. After the use of indentured servants was abolished 1917, a second group of East Indian people steadily migrated to Trinidad from India, referred to as "coolies" (which is a racial slur directed toward the newly arriving Indian people, most of whom kept their Indian customs).[relevant? ]
Between 1968 and 1970 the "Black Power Revolution" gained strength in Trinidad and Tobago. The National Joint Action Committee was formed by a group of undergraduates at the St. Augustine Campus of the University of the West Indies. Influenced by people such as Fidel Castro, Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. The National Joint Action Committee demonstrated to bring about Black Power and a return to African heritage and African culture.
On 6 April 1970 a protester, Basil Davis, was killed by the police. This was followed on 13 April by the resignation of A. N. R. Robinson, Member of Parliament for Tobago East. On 18 April sugar workers went on strike, and there was talk of a general strike. In response to this, Williams proclaimed a State of Emergency on 21 April and arrested 15 Black Power leaders. Responding in turn, a portion of the Trinidad Defence Force, led by Raffique Shah and Rex Lassalle, mutinied and took hostages at the army barracks at Teteron. Through the action of the Coast Guard and negotiations between the Government and the rebels, the mutiny was contained and the mutineers surrendered on 25 April. It was around this time the term Afro-Trinidadian was started to be used.
The massive influx of African slaves to Trinidad and Tobago shores that happened in the 16th and 18th century respectively was important in shaping the cultural space of Trinidad and Tobago. Afro-Trinidadian culture is immanent within and encapsulates all other cultures. Afro-Trinidadian culture is decisive in steelpan culture, Carnival culture, and calypso culture and also helped in many ways to shape.
Most Afro-Trinidadian and Tobagonians are Christian, with the largest group being Roman Catholics, Anglicans and (in Tobago) Methodists. Smaller numbers follow Afro-Caribbean syncretic faiths like the Spiritual Baptist Church and the Rastafari movement. Non-Christians include adherents of Islam, the Orisha faith, the Bahá'í Faith, Hinduism or are followers of Sai Baba.
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