Between San Fernando and Port-of-Spain lie the towns of Chaguanas, Waterloo, and Couva, the demographic center of the country’s East Indian population.
When the British finally got around to abolishing slavery, the sugar plantations decided to import Chinese and East Indian indentured servants instead. The Chinese soon stopped coming, because their government insisted on free return passage for its nationals. Only 1500 arrived, mostly from Guangdong. They now form an influential but small community of about 15,000 — a fellow named Dereck Chin built the island’s first multiplex, and as already-mentioned the NGC is led by one Frank Look Kin. The white population — mostly Syrian Christian, with a few Portuguese and the strangely-named French Creoles, who are neither French nor Creole — is about the same size.
The Indians, though, arrived in massive numbers. By the time all was said and done, 150,000 of them had made a one-way trip to Trinidad. Their descendents make up 40.3% of the population, as against a Afro-Trinidadian share of 39.5%.
Racial divisions shape Trinidadian politics. The Afro-Trinidadian party is the People’s National Movement, founded by Eric Williams in 1956. The main Indo-Trinidadian party currently is the United National Congress, founded in 1988 amid splits in then-ruling National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR). I think it’s a brilliant name, enough to hint at its ethnic base without ruling out the possibility of gaining support across the racial divide.
That said, the racial divide isn’t as stark as it could be. 21% of the population is mixed, up from 18% in 1990 and 15% in 1980. Unlike the Guyana formerly known as British, communal violence is unheard of in Trinidad. You see Hindu flags outside houses in mostly African suburbs—did you know that Hindus mark various family and religious events by flying colored flags? I didn’t—and you can spot Afro-Trinidadians liming in most Indo-Trinidadian neighborhoods.
It helps that most Indo-Trinidadian links to India have faded away. Nobody knows what village their ancestors came from—hell, they don’t even know the state. The Bhojpuri language is pretty close to dead, and spoken accents in English don’t appreciably vary between racial groups. (I’ll admit it: it’s kinda cool when you hear a white guy or a Chinese fellow bust out in pure Trini.)
Last year I found myself watching the Ukraine-Tunisia World Cup match in a run-down little bar in the town of Waterloo. Most of the people in the place were Indo-Trinidadian, and the (Indo-Trinidadian) female propietor had hung a Union Jack over the counter. When I asked her about it, she said, misunderstanding my question, "Oh, that’s the English flag. Meh daughter and grandchildren live there, and we get a lot of English visitors out this way."
Alerted, I began to spot "English" and Canadian paraphenalia in the area: bumper stickers, posters, ads for cheap flights. But links to India? Nobody even seemed to know that Mittal was an Indian company. One fellow sensibly-enough guessed it to be German.
Migration has brought Trinidad many things, but special ties to one of the 21st-century’s emerging superpowers doesn’t seem to be one of them.