The Lebanese and Syrians
In the early 1900’s, Maronite Christians in the British colony of greater Syria began to leave their homeland in greater numbers. Greater Syria was what now comprises Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The reasons for this exodus included the religious pressures of a primarily Moslem society, and the difficulties caused by an ever increasing population. Many of these people sought to emigrate to the New World to find their fortune. A few ended up in Trinidad, both by happenstance and on purpose.
At the turn of the century, the economy of Trinidad was booming due to strong cocoa and sugar markets, and work was available. Many Syrians made a living as traveling peddlers, with an eye to running their own business one day. As word spread back home about the opportunities available, more men from the original immigrant’s villages made the journey. In time, they were able to bring their families, and Trinidad became their permanent home.
A second wave of immigrants came between the First and Second World Wars. The Ottoman Empire had been dissolved, and greater Syria split into several countries. Lebanon, which had a large Christian population, was the origin of many in this group.
Some of the families in Trinidad that came from the greater Syria region include Abraham, Aboud, Habib, Hadeed, Matouk, and Sabga. The spellings of many Syrian and Lebanese names in Trinidad were actually created by British immigration officers trying to translate Arab names.
(The information on this page was obtained primarily from The Book of Trinidad, edited by Gérard A. Besson, and Bridget M. Brereton. Port-of-Spain: Paria Publishing Company Ltd., 1991.)