Monday, 26 February 2018

The people of Suriname 

Words and photos by Brett Goulston  

Our guide is Tony. He is a lovely young man from Paramaribo who has an amazing story to tell. His heritage is like many others from the country in that he comes from a multitude of backgrounds. I ask him where his parents and grandparents were from and I received the most amazing answer (which I needed him to repeat several times… 

“My grandmother on my mother's side was part Chinese and part Amerindian. My grandfather was part Indian and part Creole. On my father’s side, my grandmother was Creole and Amerindian and my grandfather was a Dutch Jew”.  

The ethnic make up of Suriname is evident in every direction you look. It’s best described as a cultural cocktail. There are the indigenous Amerindians, “Hindustanis” (the name given to the Hindus from India), a large Dutch population, Javanese, Jews from Europe, Portuguese and Africans who are descendants of slave labour. It’s a wonderfully exotic cultural mix and noticably unlike most places I have visited.  

Suriname was colonised by the Spanish, Portuguese, British and Dutch from the 1600’s and became independent in 1975. The main language is Dutch but most also speak Surinamese which is a combination of Dutch and a local language. There’s a story which suggests the Dutch and British fought over the region many times and in the end, the Dutch swapped Manhattan Island for what is now Suriname. Not sure how true a tale it is but it is widely accepted.

The villagers living along the river nearer to the capital are mainly descendants of African slaves who fled from their captors in the mid 1800’s when slave labour was abolished. Their ancestors were brought to the region during the 17th and 18th centuries by the Dutch, English and Spanish colonialists of the time. There are also villages populated by indigenous Amerindians who have lived here for centuries.  

To meet this wonderful mix of people and experience their diverse and colourful culture, join Blue Dot Travel on our small group tour to Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana. Click here for more information.

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