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Port-of-Spain was founded on the site of the Amerindian village of Cumucarapo; they also had another name for it - 'Conquerabia'. The Spaniards referred to it as 'Puerto de los Hispanioles' and in 1560, the Spanish placed troops there. The historian P.G.L. Borde, in The History of the island of Trinidad under the Spanish government that there was a fort and a trading post.
Mangrove swamps that are visible today covered all of today's downtown Port of Spain. The housing in the area at this time consisted of open ajoupas, interspersed between large silk cotton trees and other aged trees. The fort was a mud-walled enclosure with a shack inside, a flagpole, two or three cannons and few Spanish soldiers. The Caribs were transient, travelling to the mainland (now Venezuala) and up the Orinoco River. The French commander Comte D'Estrées visited in 1680, and reported that there was no Port of Spain. In 1690, governor Don Sebastien de Roteta reported in writing to the King of Spain: "Already six houses have been made and others have been started. There is already a church in this place, so that it was unnecessary to build a new."
In 1699, the alcaldes of Trinidad reported to the King of Spain that the natives, "were in the habit of showering scorn and abuse upon the Holy Faith and ridiculed with jests the efforts of the Holy Fathers". Permanent occupation of Port of Spain did occur in 1700.
The last Spanish Governor, Don José Maria Chacón, moved the capital from San José de Oruña (modern St. Joseph) in the late eighteenth century. Following the surrender of Trinidad to the British in 1797, Port of Spain remained the capital. It continued to grow in size and importance, peaking in size in the 1960s at about 100,000 people. Since then it has declined in size as population moved to the suburbs and outlying towns along the East-West Corridor.
While the major shopping area around Frederick Street has declined in competition with malls and the growth of outlying towns, 'uptown' Port-of-Spain (St. Clair and Woodbrook) have seen a boom as large corporations build high-rise headquarters in formerly upscale neighbourhoods.
The heart of the city lies in the downtown area around Independence Square and Frederick Street. Independence Square, which sits at the southern end of the city, consists of two long streets separated by a pedestrian strip. A portion of that strip forms the Brian Lara Promenade, named to honour Lara's breaking of two world records in cricket in 1994.
The city is crowned by Queen's Park Savannah, a former sugar plantation which was sold to the town by the Peschier family. The large open area plays an integral role in Carnival; it serves as the main venue for judging the Parade of the bands. The "Big Yard" as it is called, is also the major venue for the Panorama steelband competition, the King and Queen of Carnival competition, and the Calypso Monarch Finals. It also includes football pitches, hockey fields and a Rugby pitch. "The Hollows" at the northwestern corner of the Savannah is a popular family park and sits just across the road from the Emperor Valley Zoo and the Port-of-Spain Royal Botanic Gardens. The official residence of the President lies within the Botanic Gardens. Along its west side is the Magnificent Seven, a line of seven fancy colonial buildings, including Stollmeyer's Castle, built to resemble a Scottish castle complete with turrets. Port of Spain is also famous for its Carnival held all over the city every year.
From 1958 to 1962, Port-of-Spain was the capital of the West Indies Federation, although the plan was to build the federal capital at Chaguaramas, to the west of the city. Federation Park, a neighbourhood in western Port-of-Spain is a memorial to that time.
Port-of-Spain is a sister city with some of the following cities: