The day after Steve and I sailed from Tobago to Trinidad we were joined by a great family of three who were Greg, Susan, and 14-year-old daughter Bridgit. One of the first places we visited was the Military & Aerospace Museum in Chaguaramas, which offers a great insight into Trinidad history.
Trinidad was spotted by Columbus on his third voyage and the island was colonized by Spain, which makes sense since it only eight miles from South America at one point. Even though Spain colonized Trinidad the population was quite sparse in 1777 (1400 people), but jumped to over 15000 in 12 years with an influx of French settlers. In 1797 British forces anchored off the town of Chaguaramas and Spain surrendered the island making it part of the British empire with a French speaking population and Spanish laws.
After slavery was abolished in 1833 throughout the British Empire, Trinidad needed labor for the plantations so an indentureship program was established bring people from India to work the plantations for 5 years after which they were given money, land, and full citizenship. This program was slightly better than outright slavery, but it brought over 147,000 Indians to Trinidad between 1845 and 1917 and today they represent one of the three major groups on the island. One thing I found interesting is that they are called East Indians, but not because they are from the east side of India. Instead it is to differentiate them from descendants of former slaves of the Caribbean which are called West Indians (remember Columbus thought he found India and when it was proven wrong the area was called West India).
During World War 2 America set up a huge naval base in Chaguaramas that eventually became the largest US base outside American soil. Today this formal military base forms the main reason cruisers sail to Trinidad. The amazing boat yards and storage facilities. If you go out the gate of any of these boat yards and turn right you can walk to the Military & Aerospace Museum in Chaguaramas within a mile. As you enter you will walk along two walls that have military inspired murals until you are in a yard with tanks, helicopters, planes, guns, and a commercial airliner you are allowed to go into (I do not know why but that plane was the highlight for me). Inside they have set up displays explaining the Pre-Columbian population, the pirates, Spanish military, British, WW2 involvement, independence, and so much more.
Thank goodness the late Gaylord Kelshall set up the Military & Aerospace Museum in Chaguaramas on December 7, 1991, because it really is a great place to start exploring Trinidad as it gives you an in depth look at their history from a military perspective.