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“It’s as though the inhabitants of Suriname were all thrown together in one place as the result of some game of chance. The country was created by the Dutch colonizers, who have since largely disappeared and certainly do not play their traditional, culturally dominant role. But what kind of country has a population which is 27% Indian, 18% Creole Black, 15% Maroon black, 15% Javanese, 13% mixed race, 4% Native American, 3% Chinese, and 2% white?

The former Dutch colony, though undoubtedly more tolerant than other South American colonies, was built like them on slavery, and thus on institutionalized racism. Moreover, after the liberation of the slaves, Dutch Javanese, Indian, and Chinese contract workers were brought into the colony, adding more diversity to the already variegated picture of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and animists with their Muslim, Hindu, or Confucian faith. Then the country became independent, and although there have been a few coups and massacres since then, a viable and relatively peaceful country has been created from the incredible ethno-cultural mix known as Suriname.

All my Paramaribo days started in the market, slaloming between Javanese greengrocers, Indian bus drivers, and Maroon amulet vendors. This place, where all the colors and flavors of Southeast Asia, Africa and South America meet, is just as interesting as it sounds: I couldn’t get enough of staring at the unknown vegetables, seeds, spices, fish, and sauces.

In addition to the market, of course, there are many other attractions in Paramaribo. The city center is a UNESCO world heritage site, and not undeservedly: the Dutch heritage of the country can best be felt here. There is a 17th-century brick fortress, Fort Zeelandia, and a bunch of surprisingly elegant wooden buildings, all painted snow-white. Here you will find the largest wooden structure on the American continent, the Catholic Cathedrals of Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as a Confucian and Hindu temple, a synagogue, a mosque, and who knows what other shrines. For three days I was a tourist in this rather small city, and not once was I at all bored: there is plenty to discover here.

There were, of course, some unpleasant moments. For instance, once near the market, I got conned out of twenty Suriname dollars by the old sunglass-dropping trick. The way this worked was that a guy walking in front of me suddenly turned around as if he had remembered something, and dropped the sunglasses as if I had knocked them out of his hand. Then he started loudly complaining that they were broken, even though only the lens had come out, and I would have to pay him a hundred Suriname dollars. I refused to do that, but the man was quite aggressive, so I pulled him into a Chinese business and started to say out loud that I was innocent. Seeing the disapproving glances of the people in the store, the guy with the glasses quickly started to lower the price to fifty, then to thirty. I finally gave him a twenty, which he snatched from my hand, and on leaving he swore at me in a way that sounded pretty heavy, but fortunately, I didn’t understand because he spoke in Suriname Creole.

But it was no big deal – I lost double that amount at roulette the same night. A significant proportion of tourists (also) visit Paramaribo for gambling, so there is a lot of competition between the casinos and they try to attract guests with all sorts of extra services.” (2017)


Practicals

Transport

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Fun

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Suriname - dance - s.p. photo

Suriname - she is not riding on the boom - y.m. photo

Public safety

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Suriname - soldiers

Background

Suriname - national flag

Destination in brief

Suriname is a country in the northern part of South America. Neigbors: Guyana (west), French Guiana (east), Brazil (south). Suriname has a coast along the Atlantic Ocean.

Suriname was a Dutch colony (Dutch Guayana). The country gained independence in 1975.

Population (in 2020): 585,000 -37% East Indians (descended from 19th century contract workers who arrived from India), 31%  Suriname Creoles (mixed descendants of West African slaves and primarily Dutch Europeans), 15% Javanese (descended from contract workers from the Dutch East Indies on Java, Indonesia), 10% Surinamese Maroons (descended from escaped West African slaves)

There are approximately 328,000 Surinamese living in the Netherlands, more than the half of Suriname's population.  

Size: 163,821 km² (63,251.6 mi²) -  Surname is the smallest independent country in South America  (French Guiana is smaller, but not an independent state)

Capital city: Paramaribo

Languages: Dutch is the official language, and an English-based creole language, the Sranan Tongo is the common (bridge) language (lingua franca)

Religions: 52,3 % Christians (Protestant, Anglican, Roman Catholic), 19% Hindus, 14,5% Muslim, 

Form of government: presidential republic

Currency: Suriname dollar (SRD) 

Average net monthly salary (in 2020): 320 USD (in French Guiana: 1350 USD)

Most common surname: Lin

Nowadays

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Suriname - contrast - y.m. photo

Paramaribo - Mosque Keizerstraat and Neveh Shalom Synagoge side by side - m.a. photo

People

The different descendants of those native (Amerindians), white (mostly Dutch and English, Jewish), black, Indonesian , Indian, Chinese, Lebanese people live in harmony (ps this is the order in which they came). Don't get me wrong. There is racism especially between blacks and Indians. Although there are almost no pure negroes, only in the interior. Those are descendants of run away slaves called maroons but some don't like to be called that. Some prefer bush negroes but some also don’t like to be called that.

People are very modern, but on their national holidays and religious occasions they wear the traditional garments of their group.

The exslaves were denied their language, clothes etc so they developed a totally unique language (Surinamese) and garments (koto and anisa). Most people speak it. In fact everyone speaks at least two or more languages.

Suriname - people - y.m. photo

Suriname - women - y.m. photo

Suriname - little boy - y.m. photo

Suriname - girlish smile - y.m. photo

Suriname - locals - y.m. photo

Suriname - locals - y.m. photo

Attractions

Paramaribo

Suriname - Paramaribo - Dutch colonial homes - m.a. photo

Suriname - Paramaribo - Presidential Palace - m.a. photo

Paramaribo - Ministry of Finance building - m.a. photo

Paramaribo - Waterkant (Riverside Boulevard) - m.a. photo

Suriname - Paramaribo - St. Peter&Paul Cathedral-Casilica - largest wooden structure in the Western Hemisphere - m.a. photo

Paramaribo - Arya Dewaker Hindu Temple - m.a. photo

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