Both Trinidad and Tobago were originally settled by Amerindians of South American origin. Trinidad was first settled by pre-agricultural Archaic people at least 7,000 years ago, making it the earliest-settled part of the Caribbean. Ceramic-using agriculturalists settled Trinidad around 250 BCE and then moved further up the Lesser Antillean chain. At the time of European contact Trinidad was occupied by various Arawakan-speaking groups including the Nepoya and Suppoya, and Cariban-speaking groups such as the Yao, while Tobago was occupied by the Island Caribs and Galibi. The Amerindian name for Trinidad was Kairi or Iere which is usually translated as The Land of the Hummingbird, although others have reported that it simply meant island. Christopher Columbus encountered the island of Trinidad on July 31, 1498 and named it after the Holy Trinity. Columbus reported seeing Tobago, which he named Bella Forma, but did not land on the island. The name Tobago is probably derived from tobacco, although the English pronunciation is to-bay-go, rhyming with plumbago and sago.
Antonio de Sedeño first settled Trinidad in the 1530s as a means of controlling the Orinoco and subduing the Warao (Whitehead, 1997). Cacique Wannawanare (Guanaguanare) granted the St Joseph area to Domingo de Vera e Ibargüen in 1592 and then withdrew to another part of the island (Boomert, 2000). San José de Oruña (St Joseph) was established by Antonio de Berrío on this land. Walter Raleigh arrived in Trinedado on March 22 1595, casting anchor at Curiapan/Punta de Gallos and described the pitch lake (Piche or Tierra de Brea) and the Annaperima hill. This hill was known to the Warao as the home of the sea god Na’barima (Whitehead, 1997; 131). Raleigh soon attacked San José and captured and interrogated de Berrío obtaining much information from him and from the cacique Topiawari (Whitehead, 1997). In the 1700s, Trinidad belonged as an island province to the viceroyalty of New Spain along with modern Mexico and Central America (Besson, 2000). The Dutch and the Courlanders had established themselves in Tobago in the 16th and 17th centuries and produced tobacco and cotton. However Trinidad in this period was still mostly forest, populated by a few Spaniards with their handful of slaves and a few thousand Amerindians (Besson, 2000). Spanish colonisation in Trinidad remained tenuous. In 1762, after three hundred years of Spanish rule San José de Oruña and Puerto de España (Port of Spain) were hamlets rather than towns. Because Trinidad was considered underpopulated, Roume de St. Laurent, a Frenchman living in Grenada, was able to obtain a Cédula de Población from the Spanish King Charles III on the 4th November, 1783. This Cédula de Población was more generous than the first of 1776 and granted free lands to Roman Catholic foreign settlers and their slaves in Trinidad willing to swear allegiance to the Spanish king. The land grant was thirty two acres for each man, woman and child and half of that for each slave brought. As a result, Scots, Irish, German, Italian and English families arrived. The Protestants among them profited from Governor Don José Maria Chacon's generous interpretation of the law. The French Revolution (1789) also had an impact on Trinidad's culture since it resulted in the emigration of Martiniquan planters and their slaves to Trinidad who established an agriculture-based economy (sugar and cocoa) for the island (Besson, 2000).
Port of Spain was founded near the site of the Amerindian fishing village of Cumucurapo ("place of the silk cotton trees"), located in the area today known as Mucurapo, west of the city centre. The name Conquerabia is also recorded for an Amerindian settlement in this area; this may have been a separate village, another name for Cumucurapo, or the result of miscomprehension by early Spanish settlers, who established a port here: Puerto de los Hispanioles, later Puerto de España. In 1560, a Spanish garrison was posted near the foot of the Laventille Hills, which today form the city's eastern boundary.
The part of today's downtown Port of Spain closest to the sea was once an area of tidal mudflats covered by mangroves. The first Spanish buildings here, in the 16th and 17th centuries, were open mud-plastered ajoupas, interspersed between large silk cotton trees and other trees. The fort was a mud-walled enclosure with a shack inside, a flagpole, two or three cannon, and few Spanish soldiers. The Caribs were transient, travelling to the mainland (now Venezuela) and up the Orinoco River. The French naval commander Comte D'Estrées visited in 1680, and reported that there was no Port of Spain. But in 1690, Spanish governor Don Sebastien de Roteta reported in writing to the King of Spain: "Already six houses have been made and others have been started. There is already a church in this place, so that it was unnecessary to build a new."
In 1699, the alcalde of Trinidad reported to the King that the natives "were in the habit of showering scorn and abuse upon the Holy Faith and ridiculed with jests the efforts of the Holy Fathers".
By 1757, the old capital, San José de Oruña (modern Saint Joseph), about seven miles (11 km) inland, had fallen into disrepair, and Governor Don Pedro de la Moneda transferred his seat to Port of Spain, which thus became Trinidad's de facto capital. The last Spanish Governor of Trinidad, Don José Maria Chacón, devoted much of his time to developing the new capital. He compelled the island's Cabildo (governing council) to move to Port of Spain, and he limited its powers to the municipality. The 1783 Cedula of Population, which encouraged the settlement of French Catholics in the island, led to a rapid increase in the town's population and its geographical extension westwards.
From the small cluster of buildings at the foot of the Laventille Hills, eleven streets were laid out west to the area bounded by the St. Ann's River, thus establishing the grid pattern which has survived in downtown Port of Spain to the present day. Along the sea shore was the Plaza del Marina (Marine Square), a parade ground. By 1786, the town had a population of about 3,000.
Realising that the St. Ann's River, prone to flooding, was impeding the expansion of the town, Chacón had its course diverted in 1787 so that it ran to the east of the city, along the foot of the Laventille Hills. (During the rainy season the river still had a tendency to overflow its banks, flooding parts of the city; over the decades its channel would be widened and paved. During the dry season the water level drops to a trickle; hence its nickname, the East Dry River.) Port of Spain was now able to continue spreading northwards and westwards, encroaching on the surrounding sugar-cane plantations.
In 1797, Trinidad was invaded by a British force under General Sir Ralph Abercromby. The British landed west of Port of Spain, at what is still called Invaders Bay, and marched towards the town. Realising his military resources were inadequate to defend the colony and wishing to avoid unnecessary destruction, Governor Chacón capitulated and was able to negotiate generous terms with Abercromby. Port of Spain remained the capital; the new British colonial government renamed most of the streets after British royalty or military figures, but allowed Chacón Street (which followed the old course of the St. Ann's River) to retain its name, in tribute to the former governor.
Gabriel Moreno greets you at the docks with missions related to Blackbeard and the fate of his brother. Further down in the town you'll find Beatriz Barrosa who needs a helping hand - or better, a helping blade.