Guyana is a small country nestled in the northeast corner of South America. Its name means “the land of many waters” and holds some special characteristics that should be shared with the rest of the world. It is a rich land in every sense of the word. Even though its borders are nestled with Brazil, it is considered a part of the Caribbean, for its culture has a similarity with the northern islands and many other places. Their culture reflects the influence of African, Indian, Amerindian, Chinese, British, Dutch, Portuguese, Caribbean, and American culture. It may be more accurate to speak of African, Indian, and Amerindian Guyanese cultures than lumping it all together. Their population consists of 51% East Indians, 43% Afro-Guyanese, 4% Amerindians, and the remaining 2% made up of Americans, Chinese, and Europeans. The official language today is English, though a few local dialects can still be heard.
Guyana started with two groups of indigenous nomadic people, who eventually spread to the rest of South America. First the Arawak Indians came to the land and called it Guiana. Joined later by the Carib Indians the Arawak were eventually killed and drove out for reasons unknown. One could guess the Carib were more territorial, certainly they were more warlike. European settlement began in 1615. The Dutch and British both established sugar crops and built their settlements along the coast, where today 90% of the population lives. The majority of the country is blessed by its vast tropical rainforests and savanna teeming with wildlife. Sugar became Guyana’s main export. Other exports came along including rice, rum, gold, diamonds, bauxite (the main ingredient in aluminum), alumna, timber, and shrimp. By 1796 the Dutch had to loosen their grip on the land, as the British expertly took over their settlements by use of force or treaties. The main cities today in Guyana are Georgetown (the capitol), Berbice, Bartica, (all of which lie around the main rivers), and Linden, which is a bauxite town, located in the interior. These cities were developed by the Dutch and later came under the control of the British. Trade was established with the Great Britain and the Dutch traded with the inhabitants and had sugar plantations worked on by African slaves. In 1834 slavery was abolished and plantation owners looked to indentured workers, about 250,000 in fact and most from India. Others came from Portugal and China.
Guyana claimed its independence from Great Britain in 1966. Just four years later it became a cooperative republic. Instead of celebrating its independence, Guyana celebrates the forming of their government every year on February 23rd. The celebration is called Mash, short for Mashramani and involves spectacular costume competitions, float parades, masquerade bands, and dancing in the streets to the accompaniment of steel drum music and calypsos. There are two main parties within the republic. The African People’s National Congress (PNC) and the Indian People’s Progressive Party (PPP). Both are respective towards one another today but in times before these political parties had been particularly cutthroat. This is due to the class differences both within and outside of the different ethnic groups. Afro-Guyanese populate urban centers, while Indo-Guyanese reside in the rural areas. There are working classes, middle classes and the elite in both ethnic groups. Currently a member of the PPP is President and has held that position since 1999. Election time is just around the corner for Guyana this year so things may change. Hopefully whoever takes the presidency will decide to preserve Guyana’s wildlife despite transnational companies and their European associates exerting intense pressure to let the Guyanese government grant concessions to mining and logging its natural resources. If Guyana preserved their beautiful surroundings they would make a popular spot for eco-tourism.
Guyana is a place of many races and as such...
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