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The islands were first inhabited by Arawak and Carib people, who settled here from the South American mainland, and whose descendants make up a small minority of the population. Trinidad was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who claimed it for Spain.The Spaniards brought their diseases but the Arawaks and Caribs were not used to their diseases so some soon died out. Under Spanish rule, large numbers of French settlers established cocoa plantations in Trinidad and imported slaves to work them. The British seized the island in 1798, and abolished slavery. To make up for the labor shortage the government encouraged heavy immigration from countries such as Portugal, France, Germany, China, and most importantly India. Trinidad was united with Tobago in the 1880's. Throughout the early 1900's the country welcomed thousands of mostly black immigrants from other Caribbean countries, as well as Venezuela and Colombia. Following World War II, TT was combined with various other British Caribbean countries into the West Indies Federation, but the different countries could not get along and the federation soon collapsed. TT eventually achieved complete independence on August 31, 1962. Throughout the sixties and seventies, the country prospered thanks to large deposits of oil and natural gas, becoming the wealthiest nation in the Caribbean. However, in the late eighties, oil prices dropped significantly, causing a major economic meltdown. Thousands of Trinidadians left the country at this time, in search of better opportunities elsewhere. Throughout the ninties and 2000's the country recovered dramatically and it continues to improve today.
The country has a cosmopolitan society inhabited by many different peoples and cultures who live together in relative peace and harmony.