Getting to Know Little Brother – Guyana

It is part of the Caribbean yet it is part of South America. It was a Dutch colony and it was later a British colony. It has only 2 percent arable land yet 80 percent is covered in forest. This is definitely one for the little brother file. Guyana is the third-smallest independent state on the mainland of South America after Uruguay and Suriname

The end of slavery grew urban settlements which former slaves were drawn to. The introduction of servants from India to work on the sugar plantations resulted in a cultural divide that still persists today creating political tensions. Interestingly something similar happened with Fiji literally on the other side of the world when Indian  people came to Fiji as contract laborers. In much the same way they were brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century to work the sugarcane fields. Guyana received its independence in 1966.

The Hoatzin (or stink bird) is the national symbol of Guyana.

The Hoatzin (or stink bird) is the national symbol of Guyana.

Guyana’s emigration rate is among the highest in the world more than half of its citizens residing abroad. Because of this it has the lowest growth rate of all the little brothers so far and of these only Nauru has a lower net migration than Guyana’s -9.67 percent. On a good day Guyana is 214,969 square kilometres in area however Venezuela and Suriname disagree on the position of their borders so it pays not to believe every atlas you read. There are candy striped ‘reclamation zones’ to the east and to the west of each of Guyana’s flanks although the UN recognizes Guyana’s claim.

Its most valuable natural resources are gold and diamonds in terms of monetary value but it is probably the substantial tract of rainforest that Guyana holds that is just as valuable. Guyana has one of the largest unspoiled rainforests in South America, with some areas inaccessible and rarely visited by humans. The nation has very high biodiversity levels with 1,168 vertebrate species, 814 bird species and boasts a rich variety of fauna of other comparably sized nations in the world. The Hoatzin is a particularly unusual and eye catching bird which is also the national symbol of Guyana. Other exports include sugar and a former Dutch colonial province named Demerara lends its name to a particularly popular variety.

Their National sport is cricket and in 2007 they hosted a number of matches in the capital Georgetown. Clive Lloyd and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are the biggest homegrown cricketing names. In the world of entertainment, singer Leona Lewis has Guyanese heritage although she found fame via Britain.

It’s probably easy to think that this forest covered land has shied away from global politics and international affairs but there are one or two notable events that have grabbed the world’s attention. There was the Jonestown Massacre, a tragedy the likes of which had not been seen before when 918 people committed mass suicide under the wayward guidance of cult leader Jim Jones. Jones was also responsible for the death of congressman Leo Ryan Jr on that day in 1978. The only US congressman to be assassinated in the line of duty.

But it’s not all tragedy and with the abundance of natural resources that Guyana has it is a land of promise in a world where natural resources are not so easy to come by. Guyana has recently applied for UNESCO world heritage status for some of their natural wonders and while it hasn’t come to pass yet locations such as Kaieteur National Park and its stunning waterfalls are putting it in pole position.

National Motto : One People, One Nation, One Destiny

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