Lara and Barack Obama

When United States President Barack Obama flew to Trinidad and Tobago for the Apr 17, 2009  Fifth Summit of the Americas, he asked to meet Trinidad’s legendary cricket star, Brian Lara

The meeting took place at the newly renamed “Obama Terrace” at the Trinidad Hilton Hotel, where Lara a few batting strokes.

Lara presented the United States President an autographed cricket bat, which read: "To the President of the United States, Barack Obama, in appreciation of your visit to T&T. Best Wishes."

The President reportedly greeted Lara with: "I always wanted to meet the Michael Jordan of cricket."

The Silk Cotton Tree at Belmont Circular Road 

Many stories have been told about the silk cotton tree at the corner of Belmont Circular road.

 One of them was reportedly told by Charlie Lastigue. Charlie said he was riding his bicycle on his way home one night when he heard the voice of a baby crying. He got off his bicycle and checked. A naked black baby was lying on the grass under the silk cotton tree. He picked up the baby intending to take it to his home on Basilon Street, where he would show it to his wife before taking it to the orphanage or the hospital.

However, as he rode home the baby grew heavier. By the time he got to St Ann’s Church of  Scotland, the baby was so heavy he could hardly continue. Worse, it said in a man’s voice “Look here, you better put me back where you found me.”

Charlie, was by now a scared man. Asking no questions, he returned the way he came. As he rode back, he found the baby growing lighter. When he placed the baby where he found it, a huge bird flew out of the silk cotton tree and into the cemetery in the Savannah.

More about the silk cotton tree in Trinidad

More about the silk cotton tree in the Caribbean

Nelson Island - historic rock

Nelson Island (true name, Neilson Island) is one of  five islands off Trinidad’s north west coast. It was once named Stephenson Island. When it passed into the hands of Dr. Thomas Neilson, it became Neilson Island. Over time people came to call it Nelson Island.

Nelson Island became a quarantine station in 1845 when indentured East Indians were first taken to Trinidad. They were first taken to the Nelson Island, checked for communicable diseases, fed well for their work ahead, then transported to Trinidad to begin their assignments. About 200,000 persons were processed in this way before indentureship ended in 1917. Indian Arrival Day in Trinidad is 3 May 1845, when the Muslim-owned vessel Fatel Rozack landed 225 Indians at Nelson Island.

In the 1930s the island was used as a detention center for prisoners, among them Tubal Uriah Butler. Butler was later removed to Caledonia Island.

During World War II, the Americans built a gun emplacement at the eastern end of the island and a causeway to Rock Island to the west.

Nelson Island became a detention center again in 1970. Among those who were detained there: OWTU president George Weekes, NJAC leader Makandal Daaga, Apoesho Mutope, Winston Suite and Clive Nunez.

There is very little vegetation on Nelson Island, but the “rock” is quite pleasant to live on, once the basic creature comforts are provided.

See also the Barbados equivalent, Pelican Island

The item on Nelson Island above has benefited from comments from Sophie Wight, who was at the time involved in the production of  The Cropper Foundation's video documentary on Nelson Island "Changing Tides, Nelson Island and the Making of Trinidad." The production company is SAVANT. Their website is at

Sophie also added the following:

You are missing one really interesting part of the history, especially because it coincides with Buzz Butler’s NI experience. When he was brought to Nelson for the second time it was already a detention camp. He got the cottage at the side of the island and was not put in with the general population. And who were the detained? The Jews. Seriously. When war started brewing in Germany and Austria in the the late 30s some Jews left before the torture began. Some of them came to Trinidad. Trinidad used to have quite a vibrant Jewish population in fact. Anyway, because we were a British colony everyone with a German or Austrian passport was classed as an ‘enemy alien’ as soon as war was declared. Jewish or not, they were all rounded up and taken to the five islands. Men on Nelson, women on Caledonia. Just a year or two, then they were transferred to a camp on the grounds of what is now Federation Park. Isn’t the history we have lost just amazing. Who would have thought that there was more history to Federation Park even before the Federation! I asked my grandmother and she said that yes, the Jews were kept there and all the prisoners of war too! Because German subs kept getting sunk in our waters and we had WW2 prisoners in Trinidad. My grandmother would volunteer in the kitchen at the camp and helped to feed everyone.


The first United States Congressman from the West Indies

When Mervyn Dymally successfully ran for Congress from South Los Angeles County in 1980, he became the first foreign-born black to serve in the U. S. Congress. Dymally originally came to the United Sates from Trinidad, as a nineteen-year old student to study Journalism at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri. He already had some experience in the field as a reporter for The Vanguard, a weekly published by Oil workers Trade Union in Trinidad.

In 1960, Dymally worked as Field Coordinator for the Kennedy Campaign, then successfully ran for the State Assembly in 1962. In 1966, he became the first African American to serve in the State Senate. In 1974 he made history when he was elected as Lieutenant Governor.  After a distinguished career, he retired from Congress in 1992.


Frank Boland, an American, arrived in Trinidad to fly an airplane there. It was to be the first ever air flight in Trinidad. He and his six-foot-long machine had already won fame in South America, where his feats had drawn thunderous applause. Large crowds assembled at Queen’s Park Savannah to see history made that Thursday, January 23, 1913. Governor Sir George Le Hunte shook hands with Boland, wished him luck, and the aviator climbed into the cockpit. Boland started the plane westward along the green then stopped and turned around. The plane now raced back along the green going eastward and took off to loud cheers, but soon crashed to the ground near "The Hollows" after rising about 70 feet. Boland was pitched 35 feet away from the plane and killed instantly. His body was buried at the Lapeyrouse cemetery.


The Trinidad Chevron Tarantula (Psalmopoeus cambridgei), a native of Trinidad and Tobago, is a favorite among people who keep spiders as pets. It is a fairly large-sized spider and has an interesting appearance. It has been described as “light olive-green to fawny-brown,” changing to almost jet black at times. It has distinctive chevron markings on its abdomen (hence its name) and bright orange stripes on the ends of its legs. Admirers react to its fuzzy look  with terms such as “adorable” and “cuddly.” However, it is a genuine tarantula and is considered aggressive.

 Although most people are not affected by the species some people are allergic to its venom or might be sensitive to the urticating hairs it can flick off its abdomen. These hairs are coated with chemicals that itch the skin or inflame membranes. Experts therefore advise that people should not handle this tarantula. The Trinidad Chevron Tarantula may remain motionless for long periods as if pretending to be pet rock. However, when roused it can move with great speed on its long legs.

In its natural habitat the Trinidad Chevron Tarantula lives in silk tubes built in trees or folded leaves. It climbs trees with its broad, flat feet. Curiously, the male has feather-like structures on its feet which act like a parachute if the spider should fall.


The House of Angostura is one of only two firms outside Britain to hold a Royal Warrant. This rare honor allows Angostura to put on its label "By appointment to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II."

The value of Angostura bitters lies in the way it enhances the flavor of the drinks in which it is used. A dash of the bitters is included in many mixed drink recipes today. Trinidadians use it in fruit juice and soup, and even as a topping for ice cream.

 The recipe for Angostura Aromatic Bitters is a secret, maintained through generations of descendants of Dr. Johann Gottlieb Benjamin Siegert. It had its beginning as medicine.  Dr. Siegert, a Prussian surgeon, concocted it as stomach medicine for Simon Bolivar's troops fighting for Venezuelan independence. From the town of Angostura, now Ciudad Bolivar, Siegert's secret was moved across the Gulf of Paria to neighboring Trinidad.

Its headquarters today is the House of Angostura, a factory site in the Port of Spain suburb of Laventille. The people who work there call the mixing area “The CIA” because of the secrets it protects. “The Manufacturers,” the only five people in the world to know the formula, keep that formula in their heads. Four of them are directors of the firm and the other is John Gordon Siegert of London, a descendant of the inventor. They never to travel together. If one of the five should die, the replacement is selected by the remaining four. 

The company has special government permission to import the herbs and spices in sacks labeled "rice" or "corn" to keep the ingredients secret. To intensify the mystery, the company buys a far greater number of botanicals than they actually need. People speculate anyway. There are guesses such as orange peel and tamarind pulp as the main ingredient. Residues are burnt to prevent identification.

All the Angostura bitters supplied worldwide is made in that small factory in Trinidad which comprises a huge, modern alcohol still, large molasses tanks and a cooper’s shed where aging barrels assembled. The complex employs about 230 persons


In Plymouth, Tobago, the inscription on a tombstone erected in the 18th Century is a puzzle to everyone. It records that Betty Stivens was a mother without knowing it, and a wife without letting her husband know it, except by her kind indulgence to him”. 


The Caribbean's most honored calypsonian is The Mighty Sparrow, sometimes called Birdie. He was born Slinger Francisco on July 9, 1935 in Grenada. His father migrated to Trinidad and some months later, in 1937, his mother took him to Trinidad to join his father.

Sparrow began composing his calypsos when he was still very young, and in 1954 gave his first public performance. Two years later, he won the Trinidad Carnival calypso competition with his "Jean and Dinah." That was the first of a constant stream of songs, mostly calypos but also the occasional love ballad, which allowed him to dominate the West Indian music scene ever since.

He is lyricist, composer, singer, comedian and entertainer, becoming the Calypso Monarch eleven times and the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Road March champion eight times. His themes range through the humorous, the satirical, the bawdy and the reflective. His recordings ( over 70 albums) have consistently been in much demand and he added to his popularity by touring extensively.

In 1987, Slinger Francisco (the Mighty Sparrow) was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of the West Indies. In February 2001 he was awarded the Caribbean Community's highest honor - the Order of the Caribbean Community.


Frank Boland, a young man of 36, was going to attempt flying his aircraft at Queen's Park Savannah on Thursday, January 23, 1913. In those very early days of aviation history, he had drawn great applause as he toured South America in a bi-plane he had constructed himself. Boland was confident, the crowds who had paid to see this spectacle were excited, but some were nervous. The Governor, George Le Hunte, seemed nervous. But he walked across from Government House, shook hands with Boland, and wished him luck.

Boland went to his plane and got into the cockpit amid loud cheers. He directed the plane eastward along the green, then going westward he caused it to lift off ("a dramatic spectacle" said the Port-of-Spain Gazette of those first few seconds). Just before it reached the north-western edge of the Savannah, the plane dipped and crashed to the ground, pitching the mangled body of Boland about 35 feet away from the wreckage. Two doctors who rushed to the scene were unable to save him. He probably died instantly. The body was taken to the Colonial Hospital and the next day to Rosary Church for the funeral. Frank Boland was buried at the Lapeyrousse Cemetery. 


Claude Noel was born at Roxborough, Tobago in 1948. At school, he was constantly fighting with other boys. He was advised to contact J.M. Douglas for boxing lessons. He did, and he was on his way up. After a number of fights in the ring, he challenged the Lightweight Champion of Trinidad and Tobago, Fitzroy Guiseppi. When he was allowed an opportunity to fight Guiseppi in 1976 he surprised almost everyone by defeating him. The next year was not good for Noel. He was stopped in the ring twice by Guyana's Lennox Blackmore. In 1978 he started moving up again. On September 12, 1981 he defeated Rudolfo Gonzalez (El Gato) to become the lightweight champion of the world and the first world champion Trinidad and Tobago ever had.


The Asa Wright Nature Center, located in Trinidad's northern highlands, is highly regarded by naturalists interested in tropical flora and fauna, especially birds. Dozens of species of colorful birds may be observed from the veranda of the main house. The Center’s trails lead through tropical forest. Specially prized are the opportunity to visit the world’s most accessible colony of oil birds, located in Dunston Cave, and to see thousands of scarlet ibis return to their mangrove roosts at sunset.


"Picong" in Trinidad is ridicule or the poking of fun at someone's real or supposed shortcomings. It is an element in calypso, where it is used to tease or ridicule popular figures. In live performances it may even be directed at members of the audience. Picong is also evident political party meetings. 


"I was born here, and here I stay, with the people of Trinidad and Tobago, who educated me free of charge for nine years at Queen's Royal College and for five years at Oxford, who have made me whatever I am, and who have been or might be at any time the victims of the very pressure which I have been fighting against ... I am going to let down my bucket where I am, right here with you in the British West Indies."

[From a public lecture at Woodford Square on June 21, 1955]


Lord Invader, the Trinidadian calypsonian, composed and sang "Rum and Coca Cola," a commentary on the relations between US servicemen at Chaguaramas and Trinidad citizens. It was to become popular all over the world because the American female singing group, the Andrews Sisters popularized it. It was also true that it was plagiarized. Lord Invader sued, but it took seven years after his 1947 court victory before he received any money from the defendants.  Meanwhile, during the war years, the world came to know the catchy refrain:

Drinkin' rum and Coca Cola

Go down Point Cumana

Both mother and daughter

Workin' for the Yankee dollar 

Point Cumana was the main meeting place of the US servicemen and the locals. The servicemen learnt to drink rum in the rumshops and they struck up relationships with the Trinidadian girls, who were pleased to be positioned to earn the "yankee dollar."


The Eric Williams Memorial Collection which includes copies of the former Prime Minister's books in seven languages, as well as Williams' artifacts such as his well-known hearing aid and pipe, was inaugurated in July 1999 by Trinidad Prime Minister Basdeo Panday and former United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell. In November 2000, UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations, added the Collection to its World Heritage Registry.


What does the acronym BWIA stand for?

Better Walk If Able

But Will It Arrive?

Beware Williams Investigating All-you


What does the acronym LIAT stand for?

Leave Island Any Time


An upscale mainly residential neighborhood in northwestern Port of Spain that includes modern high-priced mansions occupied by senior staff of foreign embassies and oil companies.

Federation Park was built to house delegates to the Federal Parliament of the West Indies Federation, the capital of the Federation being located in Trinidad and Tobago. The streets were named for the various territories which made up the Federation. After the collapse of the Federation in 1962, these houses were used to house senior civil servants and professionals in the Trinidad government service. They were later sold to private individuals and concerns.


Pat Castagne grew up in Trinidad after being born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1916 to Trinidadian parents. A pianist, he had his own band, but came to public notice in the 1950s for his hosting of the pre-Carnival "Dimanche Gras" shows. His national anthem entry was chosen as the winning one in a competition in 1962, the year of his country's independence. A lover of music in general, Pat wrote"Kiss Me For Christmas," probably his best-known song after the National Anthem. Another song, "Goodnight", was for years Radio Trinidad's sign-off tune. He also wrote "Happy New Year", "Happy Birthday Mom", "My Easter Bunny", and "An Orchid For You". Pat also wrote  "Ice Man" (1960) for calypsonian Melody and "Nimble like Kimble" for the Merrymen of Barbados. He even wrote a Mass called 'Missa.'  Pat served as a diplomat assigned to the Trinidad & Tobago Embassy in England. While there, he promoted West Indian talent on a weekly BBC radio show. He was awarded the Trinidad & Tobago Chaconia Gold Medal  (for Public Service and Music) and also became an MBE (Member of the British Empire). Pat Castagne died on May 5, 2000, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.