Suriname Celebrated 37 Years of Independence on November 25, 2012

The country gained full independence from the Netherlands on November 25, 1975 and now celebrates this achievement every year.

The Republic of Suriname is a mainland (South American) country that is established as part of the Caribbean including membership in the CARICOM. It is located on the northern coast of South America, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the North, Guyana to the West, French Guiana to the East and Brazil to the South.

 

Since then, the independence celebrations have mainly been held in the Paramaribo Presidential Palace, a grand colonial era building fronted by the Independence Square. The Palace is open during the day for visitors, and the president addresses Suriname with a speech. Police officers, soldiers and other uniformed groups parade in front of the palace. The parades are followed by the presidential reception which is open to guests. On the streets, colourful flags are raised on public buildings and houses.

History

Originally, Amerindians inhabited the country up to the 15th century. Settlers came from England, The Netherlands and Germany among others. African slaves, indentured labourers from India, Indonesia and China were brought to Suriname during the 18th century. Struggle for possession by the French, British and Dutch ended with control by the Netherlands in 1815.

Up to the 17th century, Suriname changed hands between the British and was mainly occupied by plantation colonies. Disputes between these colonisers ended in an agreement in 1966. The Dutch kept the plantation colony of Suriname, and the English were left with New Amsterdam, now known as New York City.

The Dutch planters had hundreds of slaves that did all the work in the plantations of coffee, cocoa, sugar cane, and cotton. Slavery was however abolished in 1863; however, the slaves were given a mandatory 10 years of work on the plantations in exchange for minimal pay. The Dutch government in the following decades aided Suriname and its economy, receiving much of the population of Suriname that wanted to leave the country.

Geography

Suriname has the distinction of being the smallest independent country in South America. The country is divided into two main geographic regions; the northern, lowland coastal area is largely farm lands. The southern part consists of tropical rainforest and savanna along the border with Brazil covering almost 80% of Suriname's land surface.  At 1,286 metres above sea level, Julianatop is the highest mountain in the country.

Paramaribo is Suriname's national capital and largest city. About half of the country's total population claim Paramaribo as their place of residence. The Surinamese call their capital by the nickname Par'bo.

                              Image Credit: http://www.fredhoogervorst.com

Politics and Government

Suriname is a republic. In fact, it is a constitutional democracy. It consists of a legislature, judiciary and National Assembly chosen by a popular vote. The government lasts for a five year term.

Suriname has a president elected for a five year term as head of government; the president appoints a 16-minister cabinet. A vice president is also elected.

The judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court that supervises the magistrate courts. Members are appointed for life by the president.

Though the political and economic struggles have recently begun to increase, the Surinamese people still love and adore their beloved country. If you plan to take a visit to Suriname during their time of independence, remember their popular saying, “We Love Su!”

Economy

Suriname was ranked the 124th safest investment destination in the world in the March 2011 Euromoney Country Risk rankings.

The country's major exports products are gold, bauxite, sugar cane, rice, cacao, coffee, rum, and tropical woods,cement and paint.

Rice, shrimp, timber, bananas, fruits and vegetables are also exported to a lesser extent.

Blue Wing Airlines has its head office on the grounds of Zorg en Hoop Airport in Paramaribo.

Suriname's economy is relatively strong. It had been significantly strengthened by early Dutch financial assistance. Natural resources such as Bauxite (aluminium ore) mining continues to be a strong revenue source while ecotourism continues to provide new economic opportunities. Today, the discovery and exploitation of oil and gold has added substantially to Suriname's economic independence. Moreover, agriculture and agro processing are gaining economic traction.

Ethnicity

Suriname comprises an eclectic demographic of citizens with strong Asian and African influences. The population is composed of the contribution of people from the Netherlands, Africa, India, China and Indonesia, as well as indigenous Amerindians peoples who lived in the area, before the arrival of European settlers. About 90% of people established in Suriname have ancestors who come from other countries and regions.

Languages

Since the Dutch colionisers established themselves as the mother country, the country’s official language is Dutch. It is the only Dutch-speaking country in South America. Surinamese Hindi or Sarnami, a dialect of Bhojpuri, is the third-most used language, spoken by the descendants of South Asian contract workers from then British India. 

Religion

As most Caribbean islands, the predominant religion in the country is Christianity. Various denominations exist, including Protestantism, Roman Catholicism and Moravian Church being the oldest and largest. There are also Indians and Muslims.

Education

Like most other Caribbean islands, education in Suriname is compulsory until the age of 12. From elementary school to high school, there are 13 grades. The elementary school has six grades, middle school four grades and high school three grades. The country’s literacy rate is relatively admirable and is interestingly high among males. The country’s main university in the country is the Anton de Kom University of Suriname.

                                       Image Credit: http://www.oas.org

Food

Suriname's cuisine is a blending of cultures because immigrants from all parts of the word brought with them their ethnic food customs. Cuisine in Suriname is born out of local traditions borrowing methods and recipes from Dutch, Indian, West African, Indonesian, Chinese, Lebanese, and Jewish kitchens. In Suriname the regional dishes include a lot of corn, Pork, beans, and local soft ripened cheeses.

Surinamese traditional recipes include meat, fish and vegetables and are prepared in a variety of ways: fried, grilled, roasted, barbecued, and stewed and as a filling for various dishes. Seafood plays a major part of Surinamese cuisine and can be served cooked or uncooked and is very tasty served with potatoes and chili. African influences on Suriname cuisine are obvious through diverse type of dishes such as Bacalhau and Feijao. With such a variety of cultures and influences the only truly national dish is chicken and rice.  

Culture and Festivals

Suriname is regarded as the place of many festivals. People here celebrate a lot many festivals. It is because here in Suriname there are people of different religions. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, they all celebrate their religious festivals with vigor and zeal. Besides these religious festivals, there are some other kinds of festivals that which are totally peculiar to the nation. People of Suriname celebrate the arrival days of the Indians, Chinese and Javanese. These festivals, even though they are do not fall into their religious festivals, they celebrate them too with equal zeal and enthusiasm.

Christians celebrate Christmas. Hindus celebrate Diwali and Phagwa or Holi, and Muslims celebrate Ramzan and Bakrid. Apart from these religious festivals, festivals like New Year Day and Labor Day are also celebrated by all the people. The republic day for Suriname falls on the 28th of November and Labor Day, which fall on the 1st of May, are also two of their many major festivals.

Independence Day is celebrated on November 25th, and, the people of Suriname do not leave any stone unturned to show their festive moods. Jolly festivities take place and the people gather at the independence square.

Keti Koti refers to the termination of the enslavement of Africans and is celebrated on 1 July as a national holiday in Suriname. Keti Koti refers to the fact that ‘the chains have been broken.’

                     http://www.stabroeknews.com/images/2008/08/20080819ketikoti

A standard feature of the 1st of July celebration is a parade of kotomisi on Independence Square. A kotomisi is a woman (misi) wearing the national creole costume (koto), a voluminous form of dress designed by enslaved women to hide their figures from the attention of lustful white planters. This dress has become the virtual symbol of the free Surinamese woman and, thus, is associated with the end of enslavement.

Major events in Paramaribo include celebrations in the Palm Gardens and the Kotomisi parade in Independence Square.

By Norvan Martin 

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