What was life like for the Europeans who colonized Trinidad?

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saintfester eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first Europeans to arrive in Trinidad were Spanish conquistadors set on subduing the islands native tribes. Antonio de Sedeno landed a small army on the island in the early 1530's intent on enslaving the Warao and Orinoco. Although the Spanish eventually added part of the island to their empire, they didn't fully take it over militarily. They did build a fort near present day St. Josephs and conceded a part of the island to the more militaristic tribes until diseases and starvation weakened them.


For most of its early history, Trinidad was sparsely populated since Spanish authorities in the new world thought of it as only valuable for the timber. Eventually this changed when several land grants were given by the Spanish kind to foreign Catholics, such as the French, as long as they swore loyalty to the king of Spain. This idea jumpstarted the local economy and eventually led to a diverse European population who ran an agriculture based economy centered around the cultivation of sugar and cocoa.

Most Europeans living on the island enjoyed a high standard of living since most of the labor on the island was done by the large slave population. In 1797 there were more than 10,000 slaves on the island and only about 2,500 Europeans. Most of these made a killing in the cash crop market, but some were retired pirates living off of their plunder or pay from the many wars fought between European powers between the 1600's and the 1800's. Slavery was finally abolished in 1833 by the British, which led to a gradual decrease in the power and prestige of the European aristocracy.