The City of San Fernando is the larger of the two major cities in Trinidad and Tobago, and the second largest municipality. It occupies 18 km² and is located in the southwestern part of the island of Trinidad. It is bounded to the north by the Guaracara River, the south by the Oropouche River, the east by the Sir Solomon Hochoy Highway, and the west by the Gulf of Paria. The population was estimated to be 62,000 as of 2002. The former Borough of San Fernando was elevated to the status of a city on November 18, 1988. The motto of San Fernando is: "Sanitas Fortis" - In a Healthy Environment We Will Find Strength. Many local Trinidadians refer to the city with the shortened name "Sando."
Following the 1783 Cedula of Population, many sugar plantations were established in the Naparima Plains surrounding San Fernando. The town grew as this part of the country came to dominate sugar production. This growth continued throughout the nineteenth century as consolidation in the sugar industry led to the construction of what was then the largest sugar refinery in the world, the Usine, Ste. Madeline factory a few miles east of the town. The development of cacao cultivation and the petroleum industry helped San Fernando grow since the town served as the gateway to these areas.
The growth of the town placed severe strains on the supply of water, especially during the dry season. Complaints by the Burgess of the town resulted in numerous reports by geologists and hydrologists throughout the later nineteenth and early twentieth century, but the problem was not solved until the Navet Dam was constructed in the 1930s.
The nearby oil refinery at Pointe-à-Pierre played an important role in San Fernando's development between World War II and the 1980s. The refinery was constructed by Trinidad Leaseholds Limited during World War II, and constituted one of the largest contributions to the war effort by a private company. The 'oil boom' of the 1970s and 80s led to the growth of the suburbs of San Fernando, especially Marabella (to the north) and Gasparillo (to the east) of the Pointe-à-Pierre refinery. In 1991 the boundaries of the city were extended, bringing the refinery (the largest in the Caribbean) immediately adjacent to the City's northern boundary.
San Fernando is a coastal town, located in western Victoria County. The city is bounded by the Guaracara River to the north, the Solomon Hochoy Highway to the east, the Southern Main Road to the southeast, and the Oropouche River to the south. The city proper is located on the flanks of two hills - San Fernando Hill (more correctly, Naparima Hill) and Alexander Hill. Several mansions on the pinnacle of Alexander Hill house some of the more prominent San Fernando families. The Cipero, Vistabella, Marabella and the Godineau Rivers all enter the sea within the city limits.
The administration of San Fernando is done by San Fernando City Corporation. It is a corporate body, and the staff is instrumental in the exercise of the powers of the Corporation through the Council. Functions of this Corporation are delegated by the Central Government, and the Corporation itself is within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Local Government.
Local government administration started in 1845, when the Town Council was established and the Municipality of San Fernando came into being. Circa 1853, San Fernando was elevated to a Borough; the first Mayor was Dr. Robert Johnstone. From the simple start of a fishing village, San Fernando blossomed financially, and became "the Industrial Capital" of Trinidad and Tobago.
This crest incorporates the City motto, the sea, the hill, a fishing boat, sugar cane stalk, oil tank, house and two discs. The sea and boat represent the beginnings as a fishing village. The sugar cane stalk represents the sugar industry. The oil tank represents productivity and the oil industry. The house represents shelter for all races. The sun-like disks represent Steelpan and Tassa, as well as togetherness.
The City of San Fernando is divided into nine electoral districts, each represented by a Councillor. Three appointed Aldermen sit on the Council, which is chaired by the Mayor, currently Kenneth Ferguson.
San Fernando serves as an important educational centre serving the surrounding areas of south Trinidad and attracting students from as far away as Point Fortin, Rio Claro and Couva. Prominent schools in San Fernando include Naparima College, Naparima Girls' High School, Presentation College, St. Joseph's Convent, San Fernando Government Secondary School, ASJA Boys' College, ASJA Girls' College and Saint Benedict's College.
Harris Promenade, named after Lord Harris (Governor of Trinidad 1845–54), houses City Hall, the Magistrates Court, Supreme Court, Police Station, Anglican, Roman Catholic and Methodist churches and two schools, St. Joseph's Convent, San Fernando and St. Gabriel's Girls R.C. School. There is also a bandstand, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and the famous "last train" engine - the last train that was run in Trinidad. Usually referred to as simply "The Promenade", this area plays an important role in the life of the city. It runs parallel to the main shopping district (High Street), but lacks the busy throngs of people. It also serves as an important judging point for the J'ouvert portion of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. The eastern end of The Promenade is known as Library Corner after the Carnegie Free Library (a gift from Andrew Carnegie) which was opened in 1919. Seven roads meet at Library Corner (including Harris Promenade, High Street, Pointe-à-Pierre Road, La Pique Road, Coffee Street and Mucarapo Street). Although Library Corner was once the transportation hub of San Fernando, this is no longer the case as taxi stands have been moved away from the centre of town in an attempt to relieve congestion. The San Fernando General Hospital is located at the western end of Harris Promenade.
Previous railways are all defunct, but due to serious road traffic congestion, new railways are being proposed in 2008.
Telecommunications are regulated by the Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (TATT). It has been working to de-monopolise the industry, granting several new licences in 2005. Fixed-line telephone service is a monopoly controlled by Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT). Licences have been granted for competition in this area, but start-up is a while away. Wireless telephony is currently controlled by TSTT, but licences have been granted for two private companies, Digicel and Laqtel to offer wireless service in competition with TSTT.
Water and sewerage are under the purview of the Water and Sewerage Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (WASA).