Trinidadians and Tobagonians - Religion and Expressive Culture



Religious Beliefs. The 1980 census counted Catholics (32 percent), Hindus (25 percent), Anglicans (15 percent), Muslims (6 percent), Presbyterians (4 percent), Pentacostals (3 percent), as well as other religious groups. What these figures fail to reveal, however, is the prevalent belief that these (and other) religions all worship the same God in largely valid ways. Most Trinidadians have attended, and to a greater or lesser extent participated in, services outside their own religion. For many in Trinidad, religious differences are understood as stylistically different routes to a shared divinity rather than as incompatible systems of values.

Ceremonies. The world religious traditions present in Trinidad conduct their characteristic ceremonies in globally recognizable ways. With some exceptions, however, there is a modulation of religious piety. For example, although the pre-Lenten Carnival is intensely celebrated, Lent is not a time of dramatic self-denial, and neither is Ramadan.

Arts. The most popularly practiced arts are associated with the annual Carnival. For each Carnival, topical calypsos are composed and performed, and costumes for new masquerade bands—some with as many as 2,500 persons—are designed and crafted. Steelbands, or pan, require meticulous tuning and rehearsal, activities which are aesthetically and socially complex. A number of other important musical forms and traditions—notably tassa drumming—are associated specifically with Indo-Trinidadians, although this ethnic identification is oversimplistic. Peter Minshall, who has designed masquerade bands and worked in other performance genres, has achieved wide renown within Trinidad, as well as among avant-garde elements of the international art world. Novelist and essayist V. S. Naipaul and political theorist C. L. R. James are internationally acclaimed writers. Saint Lucia-born Nobel laureate Derek Walcott has worked in Trinidad for much of his adult life, while maintaining an academic appointment in the United States.

Medicine. Medical care is provided primarily by physicians, dentists, and registered nurses. There is a mixed system of private and public financing of health care.

Death and Afterlife. Christians and Muslims are generally interred in cemeteries, as are some Hindus, although cremation is more common for Hindus. Ideas about the afterlife are highly diverse.

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