Saturday, August 26, 2006

One of My Favorite Countries

Quick Rundown of some Surinam facts:

Surinam is about the size of Georgia

The official language is Dutch

Surinam has 487,000 inhabitants

There is no majority ethnic group or religion

Surinam only got its independence from the Netherlands in 1975

Surinam has one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Americas. In fact, New York’s first Jewish community came by way of Surinam, with only a small minority continuing on to New Amsterdam.

So I think Surinam is incredibly cool (oh, I’m so hip I know). Let us start with the little tidbit that Surinam is what the Dutch were traded for Manhattan and what would become New York State after they lost the Second Anglo-Dutch War. Yeah, it was a bum deal, but 1.they didn’t have much of a choice and 2. Surinam with its Sugar crop was worth quite a bit more than New York (sad for us proud New Yorkers, but true).

Then there is the fact that Surinam is incredibly ethnically and culturally diverse. This too has to do with the sugar. First was Surinam’s native population, then came the Europeans, who later brought African slaves, and after the abolition of slavery workers from northern India, Indonesia, and China. As a result, the largest ethnic groups are the Hindustanis (people of Indian descent) who are still only 37% of the population. This diversity is expressed both in terms of religion, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam are all major religions, and Surinam’s languages, including Dutch, English, a Surinamese dialect of Hindi, Javanese, Portuguese, French, A Surinamese Creole and many others.

Each ethnic group maintains its own strong cultural, linguistic, and ethnic identity while peacefully coexisting and creating Surinam’s own unique blend of all of them. And that is why I think Surinam is cool.

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