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Trinidad and Tobago are adjacent islands off the northern coast of South America near present-day Venezuela. Their histories typify the role that colonies and war played in the early modern Atlantic world.

Early Colonization

Both islands were colonized by Indian groups from the continent. Banwari Trace, in southwestern Trinidad, is the oldest pre-Columbian archaeological site in the Caribbean region, dating possibly as early as 5200 BCE. Subsequent waves of migration brought Arawakan peoples and perhaps the Kalinago (or “Caribs”) to both Trinidad and Tobago.

Christopher Columbus claimed both islands for Spain on his third voyage in 1498. Spanish exploitation of abundant pearl fisheries off the coast of nearby Isla Margarita led the Spanish to capture natives from Trinidad and Tobago to work as pearl divers, initiating the decline ...

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