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A Brief Overview of the Country of Guyana

First Published: 10th of March, 2014 by Patrick Carpen

Last updated: December 26, 2022 at 15:34 pm

Guyana is a beautiful country located in the continent of South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the south, Suriname to the East, Venezuela to the west, and the Atlantic ocean to the north. It is the only country in South America with English as its official language. However, although English is the official language of Guyana, the Creolese dialect is more widely spoken than English in everyday conversations.

The landmass of Guyana spans an area of Guyana is 214970 square kilometers or 83000 square miles. At the time of this writing, (last updated 25th of December, 2022), Guyana’s population stands at approximately 750,000.

The story of Guyana’s “civilization” started when the Europeans came to search for the legendary Golden King named El Dorado. However, indigenous tribes are believed to have lived in Guyana for thousands of years before that. A story was being told of a legendary king who owned a city made of pure gold somewhere in the Amazon rain forest, and the coordinates given on the map pinpointed its location to somewhere around Lake Parime in the highlands of Guyana. The European explorers, to common knowledge, never found the city, but they struck gold in other ways.

Related: The Story of Eldorado

Guyana was colonized by French, Dutch, and British Europeans at different periods. Evidence suggest that the French might have been the first colonizers, followed by the Dutch who finally ceded the territory to the British. The Dutch marked off three separate territories: Berbice, Essequibo, and Demerara. But the success of the Dutch in trading and agriculture sparked jealousy among other Europeans. The French, Dutch and British waged several wars for control of the territories. Finally, in 1814, the Dutch ceded the territories to the British Empire, which, at that time, commanded the world’s most powerful military force, and had colonized much of the known world, even as far as the Middle East.

British explorers discovered that the rich fertile plains of Guyana were suitable for the production of sugar cane. The then Queen of England decided to form one colony, uniting the three former Dutch colonies: Berbice, Essequibo, and Demerara into one “British Guiana.”

To meet the demand for labor forces on the plantations, the plantation owners first brought slaves from Africa. However, with the abolition of slavery, they contracted indentured laborers mostly from India, with a minority also from Portugal and China. Consequently, the population of Guyana is made up of mostly East Indians (about 51%) from India, and Africans from Africa (about 31%). The indigenous peoples, the Amerindians, generally avoided work on the sugar plantations, and they inhabited the mountainous areas and jungles of Guyana – where they still live to this day.

Related: The Jungle Girl.

The People of Guyana

Guyana is made of six races or ethnic groups, estimated as follows:

East Indians – 41 percent

Africans – 31 percent

Amerindians – 10 percent

Portuguese, Chinese, and Europeans – 8 percent

There is also a seventh “mixed race” which is a result of inter-marriages among the six races. The mixed race constitutes about 10 percent of the population of Guyana, but keeps growing at an exponential rate.

A Brief Exposition on the six ethnic groups of Guyana

The Amerindians – The Amerindians are Guyana’s indigenous or “first people.” They are believed to have arrived thousands of years ago. They traveled to Guyana on foot from Asia crossing an ice passage, the Berring Straight, which later melted. The Amerindians might have come in search of food, or due to a nomadic lifestyle. The Amerindian’s primitive and natural lifestyles drew them mostly to the forested areas. They lived in thatched roof mud huts and hunted wild animals and fish for food. When the Europeans came, they attempted to enslave the Amerindians on the plantations. However, their success in this practice was short-lived as the Amerindians, being “natural” survivors did not submit to a life of slavery, but escaped into the forests. Nevertheless, many Amerindians do take up employment in modern society. More and more of them are adapting to civilized society as this article is being written – becoming doctors, teachers, nurses, lawyers, owning businesses, driving cars, and moving away rapidly from their original natural environment.

The Europeans – The Europeans were the next people after the Amerindians to come to Guyana. They included the French, Dutch, and English. The Europeans came in search of the Golden King called El Dorado in a quest for gold and other mineral wealth. The Europeans would later set up trading outposts, plantations, and other businesses in Guyanese territories, and engage the remaining four races: Africans, East Indians, Chinese, and Portuguese as laborers in Guyana.

The Africans – The Africans were brought to Guyana to work on the sugar plantations. They were purchased from dominant tribes of Africans in West Africa who captured and bound them, and brought to Guyana on large slave ships which plied the Middle Passage. The Africans didn’t take well to the harsh treatment of slave masters and staged several rebellions which generally resulted in the defeat of the slaves. Finally, a group of British activists managed to abolish slavery around the year 1834, and the Africans scattered into different parts of the country.

The East Indians – After the abolition of slavery, the Europeans looked to other parts of the world to source cheap labor for their sugar plantations. India was one such labor market. The Europeans devised a system called “Indentured Labor” where East Indians were contracted for a five-year period and paid low wages. They were also provided living quarters and benefits to work on the sugar plantations. The system was relatively successful and the East Indians coped with the hard labor of the sugar plantations much better than the Chinese and Portuguese who were tried before them.

The Chinese – The Chinese were also brought to Guyana to work as indentured laborers on the sugar plantations. However, they opted out after a short period of time, not taking a liking to the work. After leaving the plantations, the Chinese set up restaurants across Guyana and sold the much-loved Chinese fried rice, chowmein, and lowmein. Decades later, with the rise of China, the Chinese now own a variety of businesses in every niche from clothing to logging in Guyana.

The Portuguese – The Portuguese, like the Chinese and East Indians, were also brought to Guyana to work as indentured laborers, but they too found the work on the sugar plantations unsuitable and quit other a short time. The Portuguese, like some of the other races, indulged in works and businesses around Guyana.

Racism in Guyana

Racism in Guyana is no different than racism in any other part of the world. It exists. There are some who promote it and others who work to overcome it. The two main political parties in Guyana–PPC/C and APNU/AFC–have both demonstrated some level of racist tendencies.

In many parts of Guyana, racism is almost non-existent, with people of multiple racial backgrounds coexisting in harmony. However, in other places, racial slurs are commonplace.

Some Facts About Guyana:

  1. Guyana lasted 152 years as a British colony – from the start of colonization in 1814 until it gained independence in the year of 1966.
  2. The national flag of Guyana is called the Golden Arrow Head.
  3. The national bird of Guyana is the Canje Pheasant.
  4. The national flower of Guyana is called the Victoria Regia Lily.

National Holidays In Guyana

Guyanese celebrate 14 national holidays. Of these, 9 are religious, and 5 are non-religious. Of the religious holidays, 3 belong to Islam, 2 to Hinduism, and 4 to Christians.

To learn more about the national holidays in Guyana, click here.

Other important days in Guyana which are not holidays

Independence Day – May 26 – Used to remember the day Guyana gained independence from British rule. This happened on May, 26, 1966.

Enmore Martyrs’ Day – June 16 – Used to honor the death of five sugar workers during a protest against unfavorable working conditions and low wages.

Remembrance Day – Second Sunday of November – Used to honor those killed in World War 11.

United Nation’s Day – October 24

Commonwealth Day – Second Sunday in March

World Food Day – October 16

Places Across Guyana 

Guyana has only one city, which is also the capital city of the country. It is called Georgetown.

Towns in Guyana

At the time of this writing, Guyana has nine towns, as follows:

Corriverton

Rose Hall

New Amsterdam

Linden

Anna Regina

Lethem

Mahdia

Mabaruma

Bartica

Lethem – Lethem became a town in the year 2016 – as a promise fulfilled by the then newly elected political party – APNU/AFC. Lethem lies along the southern border with Guyana and Brazil, and neighbors the Brazilian city of Bonfim.

Georgetown (The Capital)

Administrative Regions of Guyana

Guyana is divided into 10 administrative regions as follows:

Region No. 1: Barima – Waini

Region No. 2: Pomeroon – Supenaam

Region No. 3: Essequibo Islands – West Demerara

Region No. 4: Demerara – Mahaica

Region No. 5: Mahaica – Berbice

Region No. 6: East Berbice – Corentyne

Region No. 7: Cuyuni – Mazaruni

Region No. 8: Potaro -Siparuni

Region No. 9: Upper Takutu – Upper Essequibo

Region No. 10: Upper Demerara – Berbice

Learn more about communities, towns, villages, settlements, districts, regions and counties across Guyana.

Rivers in Guyana

Rivers which empty into the Atlantic Ocean:

The Abary River

The Berbice River

The Boerasirie River

The Demerara River

The Essequibo River

The Pomeroon River

The Moruka River

The Waini River

The Mahaica River

The Mahaicony River

Rivers Which Flow Into the Orinoco River:

The Barima River

The Amakura River

Rivers Which Flow Inland:

The Takutu River

The Guyanese Economy

The Guyanese economy, from 1966 to 2022 was stagnant and poor, with the worst pereiods being in the 1960s and 1970s. This was a result of decades of corrupt governments, mismanagement of major industries, and a brain-drain created by job offers in foreign countries which extracts the most educated people. However, in 2015, large reserves of sweet light crude was discovered off the coasts of Guyana bringing with it the promise of great riches.

Prior to oil, Guyana imported about 99% of its products from foreign countries, resulting in a very low GDF per capita. Oil promises to change all that, and Guyana has stuck to its projected path of being the world’s fastest growing economy in 2022. This is projected to get much better in 2023 onwards.

Related: Guyanese Industries

Guyanese are alsowaking up to the realization that boosting the tourism sector would contribute greatly to the uplifting of the economy.

Related: The Kaieteur Waterfalls: A Tourist’s “Must See”.

Related: Guyanese Politics: Burnham’s Produce or Perish Policy

Major Industries of Guyana:

The Sugar Industry: GUYSUCO: Guyana Sugar Corporation

The Guyana Sugar Corporation had for decades been the backbone of the Guyanese economy, but it has recently started failing. It was in fact the sugar industry which sparked Guyana’s journey to a civilized nation. The British first set up the sugar industry to feed international demands for processed sugar. Today, sugar canes are planted in many fields across Guyana, taken to the estate for processing, and sugar exported to foreign markets.

There are several “Sugar Estates” in operation across Guyana, including:

The Skeldon Sugar Estate

The Albion Sugar Estate

The Wales Sugar Estate

The Enmore Sugar Estate

*Some of these estates may be out of operation as of 2022.

Other Industries of Guyana

The Bauxite Industry
The Rice Industry
The Gold Industry
The Timber Industry
The Tourism Industry

Products of Guyana

Sugar

Rice

Bauxite

Gold

Timber

Main Exports of Guyana

Rice

Sugar

Bauxite

Timber

Imports of Guyana

Guyanese import a cornucopia of products from foreign countries. Since Guyana has very few factories, it depends heavily on other industrial countries for many items, such as pens, pencils, razors, paper, notebooks, computers etc. Even some brands of canned orange juices and tomato paste are imported from foreign countries. This heavy, yet critical dependence on foreign goods weakens the country‘s currency significantly. At the time of this writing, (last updated December 2022) the Guyana dollar stands against the US dollar at 210: 1. That is, 210 Guyanese dollars is equal to 1 US dollar.

Waterfalls in Guyana

Kaieteur Falls

Amalia Falls

Moco Moco Falls

Kumu Falls

Tourist Attractions in Guyana

The Rupununi Rodeo (Lethem)

The Kaieteur Water Falls

Resorts in Guyana

Arrowpoint Nature Resort

Website: www.roraimaairways.com

Ashmin’s Fun Park & Resort

Website: www.splashmins.com

Cortours

Tel: 335-0853

Hurakabra River Resort

www.hurakabragy.com

Sloth Inland Resort

Tel: 223-7921

Landmarks in Guyana

St. Andrew’s Kirk in Georgetown

Counties of Guyana

Berbice

Essequibo

Demerara

The Government of Guyana

Guyana is ruled by a democratic government with a President elected every five years. The President may occupy office for a total of two terms or ten years. However, through dictatorial rule, President Burnham had stayed in office longer than he was constitutionally permitted. The last national elections took place in 2020 and the next national elections is expected to take place in 2025.

Presidents of Guyana

Dr. Cheddi Jagan

Linden Forbes Samson Burnham

Desmond Hoyte

Dr. Janet Jagan

Bharrat Jagdeo

Donald Ramoutar

David Granger

Dr. Irfaan Ali

Visa Requirements For Foreigners Entering Guyana

Citizens of commonwealth countries may enter Guyana without a visa and stay for a period of six months. Commonwealth citizens are permitted to work in Guyana, as in any other Commonwealth country during this six month period. Brazilians, Americans, and Canadians are granted  90-day tourist visa upon arrival in Guyana.

The Education System in Guyana

The education system in Guyana begins at the Nursery Level where children start the age of 3-4. They are then moved to the Primary Schools at the age of six to seven. The Primary School consists of the following years:

Year One: Prep One

Year Two: Prep Two

Year Three: Standard One

Year Four: Standard Two

Year Five: Standard Three

Year Six: Standard Four

Year Seven: Standard Five

Year Eight: Standard Six

The next level is the secondary school, also called “High School.”

Schools Across Guyana

Nursery

Hampshire Nursery

Rose Hall Nursery

Primary

Belvedere Primary

Rose Hall Primary

Port Mourant Primary

Secondary

Corentyne Comprehensive Secondary

J.C Chandisingh Secondary

New Amsterdam Multilateral Secondary

St. cuthbert’s Secondary

Soesdyke Secondary

Universities and Colleges

University of Guyana

*This list will be expanded later.

National and Other Songs of  Guyana

The National Anthem of Guyana

Words by A. L. Luker

Music by R. C. G. Potter

Dear land of Guyana, of rivers and plains,

Made rich by the sunshine, and lush by the rains,

Set gem-like and fair between mounts and sea-

Your children salute you. dear land of the free.

Guyana The Free

Valerie Rodway

Guyana, Guyana, this fair land of ours

Has broken the bondage of far distant powers,

ON THE BANKS OF THE KAKO RIVER

Words and Music by Walter E Hewick

Steal away, steal away to dreamland

Where the Kako and the Kukui kiss.

My Native Land

  1. A. Cossou

Oh I care not that others rave over fair lands afar,

Where silvern lakes and placid streams mirror the evening star;

I care not though their wealth be great, their scenery be grand,

A POET’S PRAYER

Valerie Rodway

Bless Thou mine yes that they might see

The joy of all Eternity;

The sun by day, the moon by night

HYMN FOR GUYANA’S CHILDREN

Valerie Rodway

With humble hearts and heads bowed down

In thanks for each new day of toil

Song of the Republic

Words by Cleveland W. Hamilton

Music by Frank Daniels

From Pakaraima’s peaks of pow’r

To Courentyne’s lush sands,

ARISE, GUYANA 

Valerie Rodway

When Freedom waved her banner bright

On Ayanganna’s verdant height,

A Nation’s glad triumphant song

Reverb’rant rose full, loud and long;

Guyana, fair Guyana,

A SONG OF HOPE 

R.C.G. Potter

Marching towards the shining future,

Courage high, the past is gone,

Faith o’ercoming fear and doubting,

On to Glory’s sun-burst, On!

THE SONG OF GUYANA’S CHILDREN 

  1. Hawley-Bryant

Born in the land of the mighty Roraima,

Land of great rivers and far stretching sea;

TO SERVE MY COUNTRY

George Noel

Chorus:

Guyana! I want to serve my country!

Guyana! Beautiful, happy and free!

Guyana! Let’s co-operate with our Government

RIVER SONG 

Hugh Sam

White sailed schooners dreaming up the river,

White winged seagulls curving in their pride,

Blunt nosed timber barges threaded like a bracelet

WAY DOWN DEMERARA 

R.C.G.Potter

When your ship has passed the islands and the blue sea turns to brown,

And the leadsman calls ‘Five Fathoms’ when he casts the lead-line down,

And you see a long flat coastland and a smokeless wooden town,

THE BERBICE FERRY 

Sr. Rose Magdalene

We’re riding on a ferry boat across the Berbice River

The water’s calm and gently flowing

‘LET US COOPERATE’ 

  1. R. A. Pilgrim

Let us co-operate for Guyana

Let us co-operate for our land,

Let us resolve to fight together

N.A. (New Amsterdam, Berbice)

Anonymous

There’s a small town

By a river,

Where the ferry plies all day;

SALUTE TO GUYANA 

W.R.A. Pilgrim

We hail thee, Guyana, our country, our home,

From coast to the hinterland your wonders abound.

TWILIGHT 

Cecile E. Burgan-Nobrega

I dance upon the brink of day,

And try to keep the night away,

THE GOLDEN ARROWHEAD 

Sr. Rose Magdalene

There are many flags in many lands

right across the world they’re spread.

TO THE HIBISCUS

Horace Taitt

Fair Hibiscus, long you linger

In the gardens of the poor,

Bringing joy and cheer and brightness

BLUE-SAKI 

Jodina

Blue-Saki blue as the sky above, preening in yon lofty trees;

Blue-Saki blue is a pretty bird all dressed up in her party blue.

Chirpy chirpy chirpy chirp

CHILDREN OF GUYANA

Sr. Rose Magdalene

We are children of Guyana

And we love our native land.

BEAUTIFUL GUYANA 

Hilton Hemerding

There’s a land just off the Atlantic,

Land of jungles, waterfalls and sweet scenery,

Where poor people farm the lands and hunt the waters,

TREAT ALL GUYANESE EQUAL 

George Noel

Ah see mi mother an’ father working in harmony,

Building our new Guyana fo all deh children to see.

CITIZEN JOHN 

Jodina

Citizen John is a positive man;

When he gets out he looks around with discerning eyes;

Citizen John he never pretends he didn’t see

ME CAWFEE IN DE MARNIN’

P.M de Weever

Some people likes de chocklet,

Some people likes de tea,

O Beautiful Guyana

Valerie Rodway

O beautiful Guyana

O my lovely native land

More dear to me than all the world

My Guyana, Eldorado

My Guyana, Eldorado

Best of all the world to me

In my heart where’er I wander

Memory enshrineth thee;

THE MANGO SELLERS

Sr. Rose Magdalene

Early in the morning, before the break of day

See the market women going on their way

Baskets filled with mangoes, ripe, juicy and sweet

IN AN AEROPLANE

Sr. Rose Magdalene

Flying high above the clouds in an aeroplane

Looking down on fields of rice and sugarcane

MY KITCHEN GARDEN

Sr. Rose Magdalene

Working in my kitchen garden early in the morning

Digging in my backyard since the break of day,

OUT OF SCHOOL

Sr. Rose Magdalene

Refrain:

Oh! what do we do when we’re out of school

We’re out of school, we ‘re out of school

Oh! what do we do when we’re out of school

Well tell you what we do.

  1. We’re digging gardens busily

We’re digging them as anyone can see

We’re digging gardens busily

All by the light of day.

Refrain…

  1. We’re planting seedlings happily

We’re planting them as anyone can see

We’re planting seedlings happily

All by the light of day.

Refrain…

  1. We water plants so joyfully

We water them as anyone can see

We water plants so joyfully

All by the light of day.

Refrain…

  1. We pull the weeds out frequently

We pull them out as anyone can see

We pull the weeds out frequently

All by the light of day.

Refrain…

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