Suriname: Culture and History
Suriname is located on the north-east coast of South America. There is the Corntyne River in the west of the country that seperates it from Guyana. The Marowijne River on the eastern side of this country seperates from French Guiana. Suriname is one of the former Dutch-owned coutries on or near the South American continent. It is slightly larger than sixty-three thousand square miles and has a capital called Paramaribo. Its other major cities are Nieuw Nickerie and Moengo. The climate in this equatorial region is tropical and as can be expected of any place which is located near the equator. The population consists of less one half-million people and the ethnic groups comprise about 37% East-Indian Hindustani, 31% Creole (a mixture of different rces), Javanese 15%, Blacks 11%, Amerindians consist of about 4% and about 2% Chinese. Dutch is the official language of the Surinamese, but there are other languages spoken such as English, Hindustani, Javanese and Sranan Tongo, which is a Creole language (also known as Surinaams).
The major religion of the Suriname are Hindu, Muslims, roman Catholic, Dutch Reformed, Moravian, Jewish, Bah'I and other christian groups. Many christiangroups also practice traditional African beliefs such as obeah and winti. The majority of the East Indian population are members of the Hindu sect. Education in Suriname is compulsory and it has about a ninety five percent literacy rate.
The majority of the Surinamers live in the narrow northern coastal plains and it has one of the most ethnically varied societies in the world. Each of these ethnic groups preserves their own culture and many institutions, including politicla parties, tend to follow along ethnic lines and political parties. The upper classes of all ethnic groups mix more readily than those of the lower classes, tho tend to remain in their respective grouping.
The natural resources of the country are gold, bauxite, iron ore, other minerals, forests, fish and shrimp. The agricultural area produces things such as rice, bananas, timber, palm oil and citrus fruits. The major export of Suriname is aluminum and its extracts from bauxite. Other exports from Suriname are rice, shrimp, timber, bananas, fruits and vegetables. The country produces the second richest form of bauxite in the world. The main mining bauxite sites in the country are located at Moengo and Paranam and it is estimated that they have another ten to fifteen years' reserves in the ground. They have been other sites located but they are unexplored as of up to this day.
One of the largest artificial lakes in the world can be found in Suriname. It is the result of a dam built by ALCOA to harness electricity to extract bauxite from the earth. This lake is about six hundred square miles and is located on the southern portion of this country.
Suriname is a small country, which is located in the northeast coast of South America. French Guiana with its capital Cayenne lies to the east of Suriname while Guyana lies to its west. This former Dutch colony prior to 1498 consisted of Carib and Arawak Indians. columbus sighted the country in 1498 and claimed it. Spain officially claimed the area in 1593. Spain was interested in gold and neither the Portuguese nor the Spaniards gave much attention to the area. The Dutch settled in the area where the Guyanese and French Guiana rivers converge. Different Europeans such as the British, Dutch, Spanish and the French brought black slaves to the country. The British, French and Dutch carved up that areain French, British and Dutch Guianas. A number of Portuguese Jews came from Brazil to Suriname in 1664. The British established sugar and tobacco plantations on the west bank of the Surinamese River around 1650 and founded the settlement now known as Paramaribo, which is its capital. The Dutch swapped New Amsterdam (New York) for the territory under the British Control in 1667.
The Europeans treated the slaves cruelly and many of them fled to the densely forested areas where they maintained a West African culture and established the five Negro groups, which are in existence today. The names of these black groups are the Suramaccaner, Paramaccaner, Matuwari, Djuka and Quinti. Slavery was abolished in the early nineteenth century. The slaves that fled into the interior formed the Maroon settlements. The result of their flight into the interior along with the abolition of slavery, led to a shortage in the labour force. This in turn, led to a change in the type of crops produced. The traditional crops of sugar, coffee and cocoa were replaced by rice, citrus fruits and bananas. Indentured labourers were brought in from the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), India, China, Lebanon and Portugal mainly to harvest sugar cane and the new crops.
Suriname remained a Dutch colony until 1954 hen it became a self-govering state. It finally gained its independenceon November 25, 1975. Sometimes what is seen in some fledgling democracies, there is the chance of a coup d'etat and there was one, which brought Desai Bouterse to power. His regime was extremely brutal as he sought to murder and eliminate his opponents. The Maroons were led by a former soldier, Ronnie Brunswijk decided to attack economic targets in the country's interior. The army, in response ravaged villages and killed suspected Brunswijk supporters. These attacks forced the Maroons to flee into nearby French Guiana. The government negotiated a peace treaty with Brunswijk in 1989 called the Kourou Accord, but its implementation was blocked by Bouterse and other military leaders. He even went after the Maroons in the country's interior to eliminate them also. He saw himself as a Marxist and tried to establish ties with Cuba and Libya. There was a free election held in 1987 and a multiracial government was formed. Bouterse staged another coup in 1990 and still lingers inthe background as the main opposition leader.
Ronald Venetiaan's coalition government gave the multi-nationals companies lucrative agreements and contracts in spite of his rhetoric. This was done to Suralco, which is a subsidiary of ALCOA, which controls the bauxite industry. He also proposed granting many gold and timber concessions but was unable to attain a majority in the parliament. The vice-chairman, Jules Wigdenbosh of the Bouterse's NDP party was elected as president in 1996 and immediately brought an end to Venentiaan's structural adjustment programs.
There has been instabliity in the government and no one party has been able to stay in office for any number of years to build on a previous government's accomplishments. ronald Venetiaan was brought back for his second tour of duty in August 2000.
Suriname signed an agreement with the Netherlands in which the Suriname will be provided with about $1.5 billion in development assistance grants and loans over a 10 to 15 year period. The Dutch influence has continued to be an important factor in the country's economy. They have used these purse strings to ensure that the Surinames undertake economic reforms and produce specific plans, which are acceptable to the Dutch government on which aid funds could be spent. Suriname has sought to embark on other development projects in the area of production expansion. It has also sought investments by international companies in gold, tropical forest clearing and diamond mining. These explorations have resulted in a great deal of exploitation. The mass cutting down of the trees in the interior, has raised the ire of the people in the interior, Maroons and the indigenous Indians, as well as environmentalists and human right activists, both at home and abroad.