First colonized by the
Spanish, the islands came under British control in the early 19th
century. The islands' sugar industry was hurt by the emancipation of
the slaves in 1834. Manpower was replaced with the importation of
contract laborers from India
between 1845 and
1917, which boosted sugar production as well as the cocoa industry. The
discovery of oil on Trinidad in 1910 added another important export.
Independence was attained in 1962. The country is one of the most
prosperous in the Caribbean thanks largely to petroleum and natural gas
production and processing. Tourism, mostly in Tobago, is targeted for
expansion and is growing. English
is the official language; Caribbean Hindustani (a dialect of Hindi), French
and Chinese are also spoken.