Under British colonialism there was a clear ethnic division of labor, with Whites as plantation owners, Chinese and Portuguese in trading occupations, Blacks and Coloreds moving into the professions and skilled manual occupations, and East Indians almost completely in agricultural pursuits.
Blacks and East Indians were separated geographically, as many Blacks were urban-based and East Indians were more numerous in the agricultural central and south parts of the island.
Trinidadians of European ancestry are called "White" or "French Creole." There are a number of designations for those of black–white ancestry, including "Mixed," "Colored," "Brown," and "Red" among other terms.
The term Creole, from the Spanish criollo , meaning "of local origin," refers to Blacks, Whites, and mixed individuals who are presumed to share significant elements of a common culture as well as biogenetic properties because most claim these designations do not represent "pure races." The term Creole thus tends to relegate non-Creoles like East Indians to a somewhat foreign status. The term "French Creole" refers to white families of long standing whether their surname is French-derived or not.
The remainder of the population in 1990 included Mixed, White, and Chinese. Trinidadians delight in their colorful speech and like to emphasize its distinctive use and development as a marker of identity.
The vast majority were Hindus, but there was a significant Muslim minority.
The Spanish Cedula de Población of 1783 was designed to convert Trinidad into a plantation colony.