A Former Slice of Holland with Bizarre Ethnic Diversity
Wedged between Guyana and French Guiana and bordering Brazil, Suriname is a cultural melting pot in South America's northeast. Formerly a Dutch colony and the object of England and France's desire as well, Suriname is now inhabited by indigenous tribes related to the original Caribs and Arawaks, Maroons (descendants of escaped African slaves), as well as the descendants of waves of immigrants from all over the world, making it one of the most ethnically diverse countries. Having gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1975, the country slid into chaos and witnessed a military coup in 1980 and then slid into a civil war. While the official language of Suriname is Dutch, Sranan Tongo is the creole tongue, and dialects of Hindi, Javanese, Cantonese, and English are spoken here. The confusion, as you can well imagine, runs deep. In terms of tourism, Suriname has an embarrassment of natural riches in its interior bio-diverse forests and along its coast where the gargantuan Green Turtles drag themselves up onto the shore to deliver their young. Tourists involve themselves in trips to visit indigenous villages, eco-lodges which offer nature spotting tours, and gambling in one of the casinos. Paramaribo, the country's capital, has a delightful old quarter which still retains some original Dutch architecture. Given the country's ethnic mix, it is nearly inevitable that Surinamese food is considered a specialty, so be sure to try dawet, saoto, pom, and petjil!