Why Trinidad?
Why Trinidad?
Excerpts from Jo-Anne S. Ferreira's "The Portuguese of Trinidad"
Published in "The Book of Trinidad," Edited by Gérard A. Besson and Bridget Brereton, 1992, by Paria Publishing Ltd., Port-of-Spain (PP. 263-268)
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Graciously submitted by Tian Uddenberg.
From Jo-Anne Ferreira's chapter in The Book of Trinidad:

"In the early nineteenth century, Madeira found itself in great economic and social upheaval. The Madeiran wine industry, the anchor of the island's economy, began to experience a decline. Natural disasters led to famine, neglected vineyards and widespread unemployment. These factors as well as overcrowding led to a reduced standard of living and for many, emigration was a matter of survival. The troubled situation was further intensified by religious tension that arose due to the emergence of a group of recent Presbyterian converts in traditionally Catholic Madeira.

Two waves of Madeirans, therefore, came to Trinidad in 1846 and onwards for very different reasons. In a sense, both groups were refugees- one made up of mainly rural folk fleeing severe economic disaster, and the other comprising largely educated urban dwellers fleeing violent religious persecution.

In the 1830's, Madeirans had already begun to emigrate in droves to Demerara (or British Guiana) and planters and estate labourers alike found this venture successful and mutually beneficial. When Trinidadian cocoa planters requested urgent help from the Governor for their estates, the governments of England and Portugal agreed to allow Madeiran immigration to Trinidad as they recognized the relative success of the British Guianese experiment (despite an initially high mortality rate) and the probability that Madeiran peasants, who were used to viniculture and sugar cane cultivation, would prove to be suitable for the cocoa plantations.

Sugar planters, however, privately chartered the Senator, the first barque with 219 Madeiran immigrant labourers. They arrived in Trinidad on 9th of May 1846, eleven years after the arrival of the Faial Portuguese, and were put to work on the more rigorous but better paying sugar estates, contrary to original government stipulations."

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