You may have heard the National Motto of Guyana: One People. One Nation. One Destiny. Indeed, we as Guyanese are “one people.” But this one people which we call the “Guyanese People” are really made of of six different “peoples” or races.
So what are the six races or who are the six peoples which make up the Guyanese people?
Let’s list them:
- The Amerindians
- The Europeans
- The Portuguese
- The Chinese
- The East Indians
Now, a little bit of information on these six peoples:
The Amerindians – According to the history books, the Amerindians came from the continent of Asia thousands of years ago in search of food. They came on foot. They were a primitive people who survived by hunting and fishing. The crossed from Asia to North America via an ice passage called “the Bering Straight.” The Ice passage later melted. The Amerindians are said to have wandered about the continent of North America, passed through Central America, and some of them eventually settled in what is now known as Guyana. The Amerindians, therefore, are Guyana’s first people, and therefore are called Guyana’s Indigenous People. As a result of this heritage, Amerindians have certain rights and privileges that come with being the first people in the country.
The Europeans – The Europeans, also known as the White People, or Caucasians, came long after the Amerindians. They came in search of a mythical city of gold called El Dorado. Although they never found such as city, they struck gold in other ways. The Europeans were the most technologically advanced of all other peoples and soon set up sugar plantations in Guyana. The sugar plantations and factories used the sugar cane to make processed sugar for export to other countries and also for local use in the country of Guyana.
The Africans – The Africans were brought to Guyana by the Europeans after they had set up their sugar plantations and factories across Guyana. The Africans were brought as slaves from the continent of Africa. The Europeans went by ship to Africa and paid some of the Africans to capture other tribes of Africans, bind them, and load them into the slave ships. The Africans were transported under brutal conditions to Guyana’s shore by European slave masters.
The Portuguese – Not all Europeans are evil slave masters. At the same time while these Europeans were carrying on the slave trade in Guyana, other Europeans were looking on, and saying “Hey, this isn’t right. This thing has to stop! These good Europeans moved to pass laws which abolished slavery, so that the slaves now became freed men and no more slaves could be brought from Africa. With the abolition of slavery, the Europeans sought new sources of cheap labor forces to work on their plantations. They looked to Portugal for cheap labor and brought indentured laborers from Portugal. However, the Portuguese did not make good plantation workers. Many of them diverted into other forms of livelihood, such as business. Others returned home never to return. The Portuguese proved to not be a good source of labor force for the sugar plantations.
The Chinese – The Chinese were also brought as indentured laborers after the abolition of slavery. But, like the Portuguese, the Chinese did not take a liking to the work on the sugar plantations. Many of them migrated, set up their own Chinese Restaurant Businesses, or returned home. The Chinese, like the Portuguese, also proved to not be a good source of labor for the plantations.
The East Indians – The Europeans next looked to the Indian Subcontinent for sugar workers. This is where their search ended. The country of India is so huge, and has so many people, that it is often dubbed a “subcontinent,” and it seems like you can find anything you are looking for right there. The East Indians came as indentured laborers and proved to be the most physically and mentally capable of all other peoples in coping with the harsh and grueling work of the sugar plantations. There were no shortages of East Indians to work on the sugar plantations, and they agreed to work for very small wages. Few of the East Indians returned home after their first five-year contract, but most stayed in Guyana, started families, got education, and moved on to different areas of work. Consequently, the largest ethnic group in Guyana is the East Indians.
The Seventh Mixed Race – While Guyana may have had its start with six races of people, we cannot ignore the fact that a seventh “mixed race” is emerging, or has already emerged. These people are mixed with two or more races and cannot distinctly identify with any one race, since they are a blend of cultures and races.
While the list above comprise the majority of Guyanese, there may be other ethnic groups which migrated under different circumstances during and after colonial rule in Guyana. Further, some of those ethnic groups listed above, such as the Amerindians, can be subdivided into smaller groups, such as tribes.