The author Oonya Kempadoo in “Tide Running” incorporates culture, gender struggles, and economics of the country where the novel is set in Tobago. The main characters Bella and Cliff play a small role to a much larger role within the novel. Moreover, the colonial history of the island serves as a foundation to the present living of the citizens of Tobago.
The two island republic of Trinidad and Tobago has been one of the most influential of the Anglophone Caribbean nations having attracted a succession of Spanish, English, French, African and Indian peoples and also having developed a Creole culture that particularly through its calypso music has influenced the world. Its population is fairly evenly divided between those of African and Indian descent, speaking English, as well as Hindi, French patois and numerous island dialects. The capital, Port-of-Spain, gives nominal testimony to the first European encounter, that of Christopher Columbus in 1498. He named it the colony Trinidad after the three peaks at its southern tip and the name Tobago probably derives from tobacco. Spain initially took little interests in Trinidad because of its apparent lack of gold or other precious metals. It was not until 1532 that the Spanish first settled and brought along the islands first African slaves. Trinidad remained firmly in Spanish control until 1783. Trinidad became a tug-o-war between many colonial powers. Spain colonized Trinidad in 1532 while Dutch settlers planted sugar on plantations in Tobago in the 1630s. In 1781, France colonized Tobago and further developed its plantation economy. The British captured Trinidad from Spain in 1797 and in 1802 Spain formally ceded the island to Britain.
By 1784, the French were the dominant force on Trinidad. With the influx of British, French, Spanish, African, Carib and Creole influence, Trinidad became a particularly complicated cultural development. Furthermore with emancipation of the slaves of the West Indies in 1834, the sugar and cocoa plantations attracted large numbers of indentured servants who arrived from India beginning in 1838, further diversifying and complicating the islands culture with both Hindu and Muslim influences.
The smaller island of Tobago has its own peculiar history. English settlers attempted their first incursions in 1616, but they were defeated by the Caribs, who were ultimately eliminated by the Spanish and successive European colonizing powers. Tobago became a prize sought by competing Spanish, French, Dutch, and British forces changing hands 22 times before 1814, when the Napoleonic Wars brought it firmly into British possession. In 1869, Trinidad and Tobago were united as one unitary colony.
The British crown saw Trinidad and Tobago as a lucrative sugar-growing colony and as a strategic outpost to challenge Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese hegemony in the southern Caribbean. Merchants and planters quickly established large plantations that produced sugar to be exported to...