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Trinidad (Spanish, "Trinity") is the largest and most populous of the 23 islands which make up the country of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad is the southernmost island in the Caribbean and lies just 11 km (7 miles) off the northeastern coast of Venezuela. Venezuela can be easily seen from south-facing beaches on the Columbus channel. Trinidad has an area of 4,769 km² (1,864 sq. mi.) and is located between 10°3′N 60°55′W and 10°50′N 61°55′W.

[edit] History

Trinidad was originally settled by Amerindians of South American origins. The first European to spot it was Christopher Columbus on his third voyage in 1498. Trinidad remained in Spanish hands until 1797 (when it was ceded to the British), but it was largely settled by the French and their African Slaves. After the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the British Empire 1834 and total emancipation in 1838, several Immigrant Indentured Laborer groups, including Portuguese, Chinese and Indians, were employed to fill the labour void created when the liberated Africans left the plantations. In 1889 it was united with Tobago into a single crown colony. The united entity, Trinidad and Tobago, obtained its independence from the British Empire in 1962 and became a republic in 1976.

[edit] Contemporary Trinidad

See the entry on Trinidad and Tobago for more detailed information.

Today's Trinidad is a colourful and lively island, the result of a fusion of many different cultures and beautiful natural features. It hosts an annual pre-Lenten Carnival. It is the birthplace of Calypso music, the Steelpan musical instrument and Limbo dance. Styles of popular music include calypso, chutney music, soca, reggae and parang.

Indian traditions are an important part of the island's culture. Divali, the annual Hindu festival of lights is celebrated nationally. A week before Divali night there is a week long festival of Indian song, dance and shows called the Divali Nagar which is held at the Divali Nagar site in Chaguanas.

Areas of natural beauty include: a variety of beaches (e.g. Maracas, Las Cuevas, Mayaro and Grande Riviere), swamps (Nariva and Caroni), areas of seasonal tropical forests and the hills of the Northern Range. Trinidad is also the home of such animals as the leopard-like ocelot, the manatee, caimans and the Scarlet Ibis (see List of birds of Trinidad and Tobago), which is the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago and is featured on the coat of arms along with the Rufous-vented Chachalaca or "Cocrico". The Scarlet Ibis represents Trinidad and the Cocrico represents Tobago.

Trinidad is also an industrial island with a diversified economy, based to a large extent on oil and natural gas, industry and agriculture. It is one of the leading gas-based export centres in the world, being the leading exporter of ammonia and methanol and among the top five exporters of liquefied natural gas. This has allowed Trinidad to capitalise on the large mineral reserves within its territories. It has good transport links and infrastructure, although some roads in more rural areas are in disrepair.

The largest religious groups on the island are Roman Catholics and Hindus. There are also substantial Anglican, Presbyterian, Muslim, Methodist, Spiritual Baptist, Orisha and independent fundamentalist/evangelical Christian groups.

The capital of Trinidad is Port of Spain, located in the northwest of the island. The largest municipality is Chaguanas, an important shopping area, and central to the once vibrant sugar industry. The city of San Fernando, the second largest municipality, lies further south.