History of Indian Arrival in Trinidad and Tobago
The 143,939 Indians who arrived as indentured immigrants to Trinidad during the period 1845-1917 came from a society that was elaborately organised since ancient times. The period of indentureship was not like African slavery, with commencement and termination dates; instead after 1850, indentured and time-expired Indians co-existed, each contributing to and affecting the other’s lifestyle. Some lifestyles that were brought by the Indians to Trinidad are agriculture, food, religion and education. When the first group of indentured Indian immigrants numbering 213 came to Trinidad in 1845, they entered a cosmopolitan society, which, according to a Secretary of State, ‘was divided into castes as strongly marked as those of Hindustan’. It consisted of people of English, French, Spanish and Portuguese descent, in ‘the basic three-tier structure of 19th century Creole society, stratified according to the color and ethnicity as well as wealth. East Indians faced many challenges in the West Indies.
Although the Indentureship system was not supposed to mirror that of slavery, it did in many ways. The Indians were now faced with a language barrier. Many were converted to Christianity. Living conditions were poor and life was generally difficult. However, this did not stop East Indians from making their mark on the culture of Trinidad. Many held on to their traditions and customs with their families. They persevered, toiled the land and ensured that their children were educated. Today, Indo-Trinidadians are professionals in the fields of Business, Science, Medicine, Law, Culture, Economics, Education and even Politics. Due to the magnificent contributions of all ethnic groups to the development of the society of Trinidad and Tobago, the Government declared, in 1995, that May 30th be Arrival Day, a public holiday to mark the coming of the East Indians, Chinese, Syrians, Portuguese, and other groups to our country.
The occasion was specifically significant to the East Indian Community since it marked the 150th Anniversary of the arrival of the very first group of indentured laborers from India to our shores. Since then, massive celebrations are held throughout the country to celebrate the arrival of East Indians and other groups to our twin-island Republic on this day with cultural programs, parades and other social events. May God bless our ancestors for toiling and paving the way for our lives to be as beautiful as it is today - rich and vibrant cultures fusing to make what we know as, Trinidad and Tobago.