Where is Suriname? That was the question I asked myself when I saw the posting for the Peace Corps Response position there. I thought I knew a lot about geography, but the globe has changed more than once since I took it long ago in high school, and I did not manage to keep up with ALL of the changes.
Suriname, officially the Republic of Suriname, used to be called Dutch Guyana.It is the smallest country in South America (it is
slightly larger than the state of Georgia), and is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. Of the approximately 560,000 people who live there, most of whom live on the country’s north coast, where the capital,Paramaribo, is located.
Suriname was first explored by the Spaniards in the 16th century and then settled by the English in the mid-17th century. It became a Dutch colony in 1667, and was governed it as the colony of Suriname until 1954. Independence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975.
Suriname is very ethnically diverse. The population includes: Hindustani (also known locally as “East Indians”; their ancestors emigrated from northern India in the latter part of the 19th century) 37%; Creole (mixed white and black) 31%; Javanese 15%; “Maroons” (their African ancestors were brought to the country in the 17th and 18th centuries as slaves and escaped to the interior) 10%; Amerindian 2%; Chinese 2%; white 1%; and other 2%.
More than 20 languages are spoken in Suriname. Dutch is still the official language, and English is widely-spoken. Click here to read more about Surinamese languages.
Suriname’s government is a constitutional democracy, and their civil law was system influenced by Dutch civil law. Their economy is dominated by the mining industry, with exports of alumina, gold, and oil accounting for about 85% of exports and 25% of government revenues. Other main export products include rice, bananas, and shrimp.
For more information on Suriname, see the following sources: