Trinidadian

Indo-Trinidadian

Indo-Trinidadian people or Indo-Trinidadians is a generalized term used to describe Trinidadian people whom appear to have and/or are the descendants of either East Indian indentured servants, or migrants and immigrants from the Indian subcontinent who are citizens or nationals of Trinidad and Tobago.

Contrary to the assumption of the term Indo-Trinidadians, it is somewhat inaccurate considering the racial/ethnic diversity of the group. There were two major migrations of East Indian people. Following the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833, indentured servants were transported to Trinidad from India on May 30, 1845 (Indian Arrival Day).

The first group of East Indian indentured servants quickly integrated into the Trinidadian populous. This is believed to have happened because the conditions of slaves and indentured servants were almost identical, this created a similar social/economical class. This first group mixed into the Trinidadian populous which was already comprised of a mixture of people: Amerindians, West Africa, Spaniards, French, Creoles, Chinese, Germans, Swiss, Portuguese, Scottish, British, Irish, Italian, Mexican, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Arab, Lebanese, African American, Other Caribbean islands, and Venezuela. This first group combined their Indian culture with the pre-existing Creole/Hispanic/African/European culture. Some of the most notable cultural influences are: Roti, the use of curry,Paratha (also called "buss-up-shots") and numerous other Indian foods, as well as musical influences and language influences.

The second group arrived after the abolishment of indentured servitude in 1917. Most that arrived were skilled workers, Doctors, Businessmen, and other professions. This "new" group of East Indians maintained their original culture with the exception of some that became assimilated (douglas). The term Indo-Trinidadian is primarily applied toward this group as a show of Indian pride and distinction. Like many Indo-Caribbeans, many have roots from from all over the Indian subcontinent, as the present-day states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh were all part of the British Raj. Indo-Trinidadians are a plurality of the population of Trinidad and Tobago (40.3%). An additional 18.4% of the population describe themselves as being of mixed race; many of them are also of Indian descent.Many indian customs have been lost such as arranged marriages which are very rare in Trinidad. Indo-Trinidadians also dress in western fashions and participate in carnival and other non Indian festivals.

Indo-Trinidadian as a term seems to acknowledge the just demands of the descendants of indentured plantation laborers brought over from India under a colonial system This local term was overlooked and substituted with ethnic categories by the best-known texts of Caribbean history, and especially by anthropologists and other foreign social scientists. People of Indian descent who emphasized their Trinidad roots and contributions began writing letters to newspapers in the 1880s already, suggesting alternate terms such as "Indo-Trinidadian."Most Indo-Trinidadians however have no knowledge of India having being separated from the continent for so many generations. Most Indo-Trinidadians also only speak the local creole english.

Indo-Trinidadians has now become interchangeable with Indians or East Indians. Settlers brought over by Britain from colonial India were called "Coolies", an insulting term.

History

The first Indians arrived in Trinidad on May 30, 1845 (see Indian Arrival Day). The immigration of indentured Indians continued until 1917 when it was banned by the government of India. Most of these immigrants came from places in the United Provinces where Bhojpuri is spoken. A significant minority came from Madras Presidency or present day Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh where Tamil and Telugu were spoken. A few are even known to have originated from what was once the North-West Frontier Province of undivided India (now a part of Pakistan), where the dominant language is Pashto.

Culture/Religion

Some Indo-Trinidadians can trace their ancestry to indentured labourers who immigrated to Guyana, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Grenada, or other islands in the Caribbean. A few are descendants of later immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, predominantly doctors and Gujarati businessmen.

A majority of Indo-Trinidadians are Hindu; the large minorities are Muslim or belong to one of several Christian denominations. The Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago is predominantly Indo-Trinidadian. Three national holidays, Indian Arrival Day, Divali and Eid-ul-Fitr are primarily celebrated by Indo-Trinidadians. The Opposition United National Congress draws most of its support from the Indo-Trinidadian community, and the new party: The Congress of the People

A major Hindu organisation in Trinidad is the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha led by Satnarayan Maharaj. The major Muslim organisation is the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA) led by Yacoob Ali. Although these organisations were once seen to speak for the vast majority of Hindus and Muslims in Trinidad, their membership has gradually eroded but they still remain the largest organized voice for the respective Indian communities.

Trinidadians that consider themselves Indo-Trinidadians have retained their distinctive culture unlike the original East Indian people that arrived eariler as indentured servants, but also function in a multi-racial milieu. The Bhojpuri-Hindi, Urdu, Telugu and Tamil languages of their ancestors have largely been lost, although a number of these words have entered the Trinidadian vernacular. Bollywood movies, Indian music and Indian cooking have entered the mainstream culture of Trinidad and Tobago. Chutney music rivals calypso and soca music during the Carnival season. Divali and Eid ul-Fitr are national holidays, and Hosay (Ashura) Phagwah is widely celebrated.

It was mainly the second wave of Indo-Trinidadians that maintained their original culture and did not assimilate into the pre-existing Trinidadian culture. In large part due to groups like "Divine Life Society of Chaguanas" whom encouraged people to celebrate "Indian Emigration Day" opposed to Indian Arrival Day (thus including newly arrived Indians). Also groups like the Indian Revival and Reform Association (IRRA). They were concerned about racism against Indians and were interested in developing ideas, writing pamphlets to bring about an Indian revival and renewed pride in Indian heritage and Indian culture.

Notable Indo-Trinidadians

Trinidadians who are descended from the indigenous people of the region are known as Caribs or Amerindians.

See also

References

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