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For Educators

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Fascinating Facts about Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago is a two-island nation in the Caribbean Sea. Trinidad is larger and more urban; Tobago is more mountainous, with dense hardwood forests and long stretches of beach. Though the islands are located only seven miles from South America, most residents descend from African and Indian immigrants.

 

Steel pan was invented in Trinidad. In the early 1930s, people began fashioning instruments from metal objects—car parts, cookie tins, and oil drums—and testing out different musical tones and percussion sounds. Today steel pan players (called pannists) use instruments made from 55-gallon oil drums that are stretched, hammered, and tempered into a standard form.

 

Off the northern coast of Tobago, divers can admire the world’s biggest brain coral, measuring 16 feet across. Coral is made of millions of tiny animals called polyps. As a community, the polyps form different shapes, which can be used to identify the corals. Brain corals grow slowly, creating a grooved surface that looks like a human brain!

 

Underwater, you can also find giant Southern stingrays, purple octopi, leatherback turtles, and Atlantic spotted dolphins. Scarlet ibis, the national bird, often wade along the shore, snacking on the shrimp and shellfish that cause its feathers to turn red.

 

A classic street food near the beach is “bake and shark”—a piece of flatbread (bake) filled with fried pieces of shark. Sunday lunches on the island often include crab and callaloo, or greens, served with coocoo made with cornmeal and okra.

 

An unusual sport here is goat racing. In the months leading up to the annual Buccoo Goat Race, held the Tuesday after Easter, jockeys train their goats to run at faster and faster speeds. Jockeys have to be in great shape, too! They run next to the goats, guiding them with nine-foot leashes. If the goat outruns the jockey, it’s disqualified from the race!

 

Learn the Language

 

The national language here is English, but some words are unique to the islands. Here are a few examples:

 

lime – to hang out with your friends

dingolay – to dance in a joyful way

backchat –sass, rude response

nowherian – a person who does not have a home

pesh – money

padna – friend

 

mhooper

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