The Guyana Co-operative is a union of the former nations of Guyana and Suriname. The GC is located on the northern coast of South America, and is considered culturally Caribbean due to a long history of shared culture between Guyana and the rest of the Anglophone Caribbean, Suriname and the Dutch Caribbean islands, and a shared musical tradition between Guyana and Suriname.
Guyana and Suriname were initially inhabited by the warring Arawak and Carib Amerindian tribes. They were both sighted by the British explorer Sir Walter Raleigh in the 1500's. Raleigh believed that Guyana was the location of the mythical city of El Dorado, and as a result Guyana's most famous rum company still goes by the name "El Dorado Rum." This became, and remains one of the GC's most famous exports. Despite its discovery by Raleigh, the first European settlers were the Dutch.
In the early 1800's, the UK purchased Demerara (home of the world-famous Demerara sugar), Berbice, and Essequibo counties from the Dutch, forming the territory of British Guiana. The remaining Dutch-owned lands to the east became known as Dutch Guiana (and later as Suriname). During the era of Dutch rule, Dutch Guiana received migrations of workers from the Dutch East Indies, thus bringing the Javanese population to what later became Suriname.
The territory of British Guiana was filled with sugar cane plantations that were used to cultivate the region's famous Demerara sugar in order to make rum. The plantations were farmed by African slaves. After the abolition of slavery in the 1830's, British plantation owners began importing indentured servants from India into British Guiana. Eventually, the Indo-Guyanese became the majority, outnumbering the Afro-Guyanese population (the Amerindian population mostly remained isolated in the rain forests in the territory's southern region). Suriname was also home to many indentured servants from India, as well as former slaves from Africa. The two nations shared a musical tradition, and both were part of the general Caribbean culture despite being located on the coast of mainland South America.
British Guiana was moving towards independence after World War II, but was faced with racial tension between the Indo-Guyanese, who held a slight majority, and the Afro-Guyanese. The Indo-Guyanese leader Cheddi Jagan, of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), was initially elected to become the leader of an independent Guyana (the new spelling proposed for the nation), but his ties to the Soviet Union led the Kennedy administration to pressure the British to support his Afro-Guyanese opponent, Linden Forbes Burnham of the People's National Congress (PNC), instead.
In 1966, Guyana became independent from the UK, although it remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Burnham turned out to be a communist as well, but opted not to align with the Soviets, so NATO left him alone. Burnham became a dictator who initiated racist policies towards the Indo-Guyanese, and was utterly despised by them. Racial tensions remained high as Burnham's regime kept feeding into racial divisions.
In 1978, the nation received international attention when 918 American members of the Jim Jones-led Peoples' Temple cult committed mass murder/suicide in their makeshift settlement known as Jonestown. The majority of Guyanese civilians had no idea the group was even in their country (although Burnham's government did).
As of 1983, Burnham's reign was increasingly unpopular, as Indo-Guyanese citizens resented him. Claims of election fraud persisted. And a massive economic crisis had resulted in much of the nation's population emigrating to New York, Toronto, and London. Still, Burnham remained in power. Then, on September 26, 1983, the world changed forever.
Guyana and Suriname were not targeted by any missiles on Doomsday. However, the event did result in a sudden loss of contact with much of the outside world. Local radio stations provided the news that nearby radio stations in nearby Trinidad and Tobago could still be reached, but all contact with the US and UK were lost.
Gradually, reports trickled in from across the Caribbean that indicated that Cuba had been the site of at least two atomic detonations and that a battle between U.S. and Cuban forces at Guantanamo was underway.
Upon realizing that World War III had finally arrived and that there would be massive civil unrest, Burnham quickly declared martial law. However, the impoverished population quickly took to the streets, raiding markets and shops for supplies, as they realized that no more British foods would be imported anytime soon.
Despite the panic once people realized what had occurred, Suriname remained mostly stable. There was some looting in the markets for food and supplies, but Desi Bouterse's military regime quickly mobilized to make sure that there were no major internal disturbances in Suriname, quashing any troublemakers immediately. Paramaribo soon became one of the calmest cities in the region.
Guyana, however, was about to face the greatest crisis of its history. With the US and UK incapacitated, after Doomsday, Guyana's western neighbor Venezuela saw an opportunity to settle an old score, and invaded Guyana to seize the part of Guyana west of the Essequibo river, Essequibo County. Guyana faced several obstacles in its attempts at countering the invasion. The vast bulk of Guyana's population was located in the eastern counties, and the small Guyanese military struggled to mobilize against the invasion. Further complicating matters was Guyana's poor infrastructure, making it difficult for the Guyanese military (after being belatedly mobilized) to travel into the densely-forested and sparsely-populated western territory.
Another complication was that although Burnham was determined to secure the nation's western territory and fend off the Venezuelan military, he was deeply resented by much of his country's population for his repressive policies. He soon found himself fighting on two fronts at once, as the Indo-Guyanese, resentful of the PNC regime's racist policies towards them, saw their own opportunity, and began widespread riots against him.
Seeing the seriousness of the situation, Burnham's advisors in the PNC's upper echelon pleaded with him to realize the seriousness of the situation, and begged him to enter a power-sharing agreement with Cheddi Jagan, the Indo-Guyanese leader, and his People's Progressive Party. But Burnham refused, his deeply-held racist beliefs still in place even in the midst of national crisis.
Desperate PNC leaders finally took matters into their own hands: they quickly staged a coup, and shot Burnham in his own office. The PNC then quickly declared Vice President Desmond Hoyte the nation's new leader.
As soon as he assumed office, Hoyte addressed the nation by radio and immediately offered a power-sharing deal with Jagan's PPP, on the condition that Jagan call off the riots. Jagan quickly agreed, and he and a PPP delegation entered the State House (the Presidential residence), and Jagan and Hoyte soon appeared on the balcony together, begging the rioters to stand down. Seeing Jagan and the PPP in power convinced most Indo-Guyanese to lay down their arms, while the fact that Hoyte remained in power alongside Jagan convinced most Afro-Guyanese to give the new administration a chance, though Burnham loyalists were still furious at Hoyte for leading the coup that resulted in Burnham's assassination.
The race riots were over, but the war with Venezuela still raged in Essequibo. In a desperate attempt to fend of the invasion, Guyanese authorities sought help from Suriname. Military dictator Desi Bouterse of Suriname, though not formally speaking in charge surely the 'strong man' of the country at the time, sent his military to the east bank of the Essequibo river. Since the Venezuelans were not interested in conquering the east bank and did not bother crossing it, the Surinamese troops met little, if any, resistance. Bouterse exploited the situation by claiming this to be a 'tremendous military victory'. The Surinamese troops facilitated the escape of tens of thousands of Guyanese refugees from the now-conquered western region to travel safely to the eastern regions of Guyana.
With the situation now pacified, citizens in both Guyana and Suriname turned their attention towards mourning the almost-certain deaths of so many of their relatives and friends who had emigrated to the United States, Canada, and the UK (as well as the Netherlands for many Surinamese), and thus had likely perished on Doomsday. In a matter of just a few hours, the Guyanese and Surinamese diasporas had been obliterated that fateful night, and over the next several weeks after the end of the race riots and the Guyana-Venezuela War, many ceremonies were held commemorating the loss.
A local newspaper, Kaieteur News, reported: The last month has seen many ceremonies to mark the passing of our fallen relatives and friends who died abroad during the nuclear war. One of the largest of these was held in Georgetown, jointly led by Christian priests, Hindu pandits, and Muslim imams. Cheddi Jagan and Desmond Hoyte gave scheduled speeches, and then the crowd was surprised by the arrival of Surinamese leader Desi Bouterse, who gave a rousing speech about the need for Guyana and Suriname to stand together in the turbulent times that are now upon us.
Bouterse's speech was a sign of things to come.
Birth of the Guyana Co-operative: Racial reconciliation in Guyana, and the union of Guyana and Suriname
Guyana and Suriname were now close allies, and Guyanese Co-Presidents Desmond Hoyte and Cheddi Jagan invited Bouterse to Georgetown to discuss closer ties between Guyana and Suriname. The talks went well, and the two nations signed a mutual protection agreement. In time, the ties would grow even stronger.
Meanwhile, in Guyana, Hoyte and Jagan worked to mend the racial tensions that Burnham had exacerbated. During the mid-1980's, the joint PPP-PNC administration began appointing Indo-Guyanese community members to political positions alongside the Afro-Guyanese who were already there from Burnham's time. These new Indo-Guyanese politicians included Donald Ramotar, who joined the National Assembly, Harry Ramcharan, the new mayor of Rose Hall town, and many others. The result was a more racially-balanced government, which served to ease racial tensions.
Meanwhile, Guyana and Suriname began openly discussing the possibility of political union, in order to provided a united front against Venezuela's aggression, as well as because of the strong cultural ties between the two nations. The atmosphere created after the invasion brought the two countries together, paving the way towards the union between them. They saw that by uniting they could guarantee a better and more secure future. On May 26, 1987, Cheddi Jagan, Desmond Hoyte, and Desi Bouterse signed the Declaration of Unification in a public ceremony in Paramaribo. The two nations' militaries were unifed under General Bouterse's command, Jagan was declared President, and Hoyte was declared Prime Minister. Thus, the three leaders formed a sort of triumvirate, in the hopes that this would allow the new nation to remain stable. Political intrigues and tensions remained, but for the triumvirate system, with power jointly invested in a President, Prime Minister, and General, has remained the system of executive power in the Guyana Co-operative, while legislative power is invested in the National Assembly.
A tense but peaceful stalemate between the GC and Venezuela has more or less lasted over the years.
In the early 2000s, the nations of South America began earnestly discussing the creation of the South American Confederation, which became a reality in 2004. During these years, Guyana saw the advantages that the SAC would offer and attempted to join both the preliminary talks and the Confederation itself. However, because of the circumstances of its foundation, Venezuela claimed that the country was not legitimate and blocked every initiative admitting it to the SAC. Still, Brazil, Guyane, and other states maintain friendly relations with the GC.
In the early 2000s the GC's politics centered on a foreign policy debate, with one camp favoring continuing the ongoing effort to develop closer ties with the SAC (even though neither Guyana nor Suriname had ever had close ties with the rest of the continent), the other proposing a radical change by joining the neutral, economically rising neighbour French Guiana. In 2006, the pro-neutrality faction gained the upper hand, pointing out that despite being in South America, Guyana and Suriname had never had strong ties with the rest of the continent, as they were the only English-speaking (Guyana) and Dutch-speaking (Suriname) territories in South America, and formally made an proposal of unification to French Guyana and began to intensely discuss forming a triple state. They added a third star to the flag of the GC to represent the hope of a future union. The move created some turmoil both within the GC and in French Guyana, since the proposed unification would change the power balance in the region. It has put pressure on the GC's South American allies, who would prefer the GC's joining to the Confederation to an enlarged French Guyana.
Ultimately, the GC chose to maintain its strongest ties with the ECF, New Britain, and lately India, while remaining militarily neutral.
Current SituationAfter going through a period of being somewhat unstable the situation in Guyana has calmed. It has historically had a less developed economy than its neighbors, but that has changed in the 2010's. Its politics was once split between a pro-SAC faction and a larger faction favoring neutrality. By the 2010s, most Guyanese favored remaining completely neutral in outside disputes while continuing to maintain stronger ties with the other Caribbean nations (with whom Guyana and Suriname had always had stronger cultural ties anyway). President Bharrat Jagdeo expressed the desire for Guyana to be "the Switzerland of the Americas," a nation that would not seek military involvement in outside disputes and focusing on making itself a local hub for business. That said, Guyana's warmest international ties are with the ECF (due to its shared Caribbean heritage), New Britain, and as of the 2010's a blossoming friendship with UIP India, due to the Indian heritage of a majority of the GC's population. The region was extremely diverse to begin with, and post-doomsday-immigration from the Caribbean has made Guyana the most ethnically diversified country in South America, albeit often with racial tensions. In recent years, the situation has become a little more positive, as trade relations with the Caribbean nations have slowly grown stronger, and the nation has received economic aid packages from New Britain. The GC is now using its vast sugar cane plantations to be the basis of the rebuilt economy, exporting rum and Demerara sugar throughout the Caribbean and to New Britain. However, there is still a long way to go, and political corruption remains an extremely rampant problem. In the 2000's, geologists from the University of the West Indies made a quite literally groundbreaking discovery that could vastly improve the GC's economic trajectory: oil. Vast oil deposits were discovered off the coast of the Guyana Cooperative, and during the 2010's the Guyanese government began to work with companies from (and the governments of) the ECF and New Britain, as well as the UIP, to extract the oil. Eventually, the companies were able to begin tapping into some of the oil deposits, officially beginning the GC's new venture into the petroleum industry. The process has taken a great deal of time to jumpstart, but there is a very strong amount of popular support for oil exploration, as many Guyanese have become more optimistic about the GC's economy ever since the process began. Economists at the University of Guyana in Georgetown have predicted that oil exports are likely to become a major component of Guyana's economy in the near future, and may be the economic tonic the GC has long been looking for. This has also allowed Guyana to forge stronger bonds with the countries that have helped it tap the oil and have become its biggest customers.
Current leadership: Fourth Triumvirate (President David Granger, Prime Minister Moses Veerasammy Nagamootoo, and High General Desi Bouterse).
Politics in the GC are full of intrigue, and corruption remains a rampant problem.
Legislative power is invested in the National Assembly.
Since Guyana and Suriname merged in the mid 1980's, executive power was invested in a triumvirate of political officials in order to maintain some semblance of balance: A High General, who is invested with military power, a President, and a Prime Minister.
The First Triumvirate, formed on May 26, 1987, consisted of President Cheddi Jagan, Prime Minister Desmond Hoyte, and High General Desi Bouterse. The First Triumvirate came to an end on March 6, 1997 when President Jagan died of heart failure.
After the death of Cheddi Jagan, who remained extremely popular until his death, Hoyte, Bouterse, and the National Assembly offered the Presidency to Jagan's widow, the Jewish-American-born Janet Jagan, nee Rosenberg, to the Presidency until the next election could be held. Janet Jagan accepted the offer, and the Second Triumvirate was formed.
After Janet Jagan stepped down, along with Desmond Hoyte (due to his poor health) in the late 1990's, the next election swept in Bharrat Jagdeo as President and Sam Hinds as Prime Minister. Together, President Jagdeo, Prime Minister Hinds, and (as always) High General Bouterse formed the Third Triumvirate, which consisted of President Bharrat Jagdeo, Prime Minister Sam Hinds, High General Desi Bouterse. After the opposition party won the May 2015 general election, David Granger replaced Jagdeo as President, and Moses Veerasammy Nagamootoo replaced Hinds as Prime Minister.
High General Bouterse has remained a constant force in GC politics, and has been present in all four Triumvirates.
The culture of the Guyana Co-operative is based largely on the culture of the Caribbean. Although Guyana and Suriname had been located on the continent of South America, their presence on the Caribbean coast and extremely strong cultural ties to the islands led to a general shared culture.
Chutney music (the Indo-Caribbean ethnic majority in the region had named it after the Indian condiment in order to signify its "spiciness") had originated in Trinidad with singer Sundar Popo, but an enormous number of chutney artists were Guyanese, and the genre also had some early roots in Suriname with the music of artist Ramdeo Chaitoe. Chaitoe's music still remains very popular in the GC and in the ECF (particularly in Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica). One of the most popular artists from the Guyana Co-operative is chutney performer Terry Gajraj of Fyrish town, famous for his anthem "Guyana Baboo". Many other chutney artists popular in the GC hail from Trinidad & Tobago in the ECF. Perhaps the biggest of these singers is Rikki Jai, famous for his song "Mor-Tor", a perpetual favorite at weddings both in the GC and the ECF. Soca music is also extremely popular, as is calypso music.
There is also a strong tradition of faith-based music in all the various religious groups. Many chutney music singers get their start singing in their Hindu temple, singing bhajans (Hindu religious songs).
The Indo-Caribbean population in Guyana has also always had a huge fandom of Bollywood music (music from India's Hindi-language film industry; even though most Indo-Guyanese don't speak much Hindi, there's a strong local love for the genre). After Doomsday, records and cassette tapes of pre-Doomsday Bollywood music remained in heavy use and circulation about the Guyanese and Surinamese populations. In the 2010s, as international trade has become more common and India itself has largely restabilized due to the UIP government, Guyanese citizens have eagerly been importing newer music and movies from the reborn Bollywood scene.
Pre-DD, Guyana was the only English-speaking country in South America, while Suriname had been the only Dutch-speaking country on the continent. It should be noted that the local variants of English and Dutch are rather different from the English spoken by British or Americans, or the Dutch spoken by Netherlands citizens.
Guyanese Creole English. It sounds similar to other Caribbean forms of English, though the language is peppered with many surviving Hindi and West African words, and the grammatical structure is somewhat different. There are also many local words and phrases that originated specifically within Guyana. A glossary of common Guyanese English words and phrases can be found here.
The Suriname variant of Dutch isn't too radically different from mainland Dutch. However, there are many phrases and loanwords adopted from other Surinamese languages, such as Saramaccan and Javanese. The Surinamese population also speaks Sranan Tongo, which is an English-based Creole. Because Sranan Tongo is shared by communities speaking Dutch, Indigenous languages, Javanese, Sarnami Hindustani, Saramaccan, and varieties of Chinese, it has become a sort of lingua franca between many different groups within Suriname. In previous decades, the Dutch-based education system had tried to somewhat suppress Sranan Tongo, but Desi Bouterse helped maintain its popularity during the 1980's, and often made speeches in Sranan Tongo. The establishment gradually grew to accept it in schools and other public venues.
In the decades since the union of Guyana and Suriname into the Guyana Cooperative, schoolchildren in the English-speaking Guyanese portion of the GC now have a required school class to learn Dutch as a second language, while schoolchildren in the Dutch-speaking Surinamese portion of the GC have a required school class to learn English as a second language.
SportsWhen it comes to sports, cricket is by far the most popular sport in the Guyana Co-operative, and the GC has produced world-class players such as Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Popular foods include roti, dhal, and curry due to the heavy Indo-Caribbean population, which is descended from indentured servants brought by the British from India. Other local dishes include pepperpot, Surinamese bakmi, chow mein (there is a small but culinarily influential Chinese population in the area), black eyed cake, cheese rolls, red cake known as red roll or salara, black cake (rum-filled cake popular at weddings), puri, cookup rice (rice with a mixture of other foods in it), cassava, and local fish such as hassa.The cuisine of the Guyana Cooperative reflects the diverse ethnic mixture of Indians, Chinese, Africans, Amerindians, and others. Each ethnic group played a role a in shaping the shared cuisine. The Chinese population, while small, has been very influential on Guyanese food traditions, and the Guyanese variety of chow mein is considered a staple dish at Guyanese family gatherings and special events, no matter which ethnicity the host is.
The ethnic and religious mix in the Guyana Cooperative has led to a variety of holidays and festivals being very near and dear to the local population. National holidays include:
- Diwali - the Hindu festival of lights, celebrated by local Hindus as the start of the liturgical New Year.
- Phagwah (pronounced PAHG-wuh): the local name for the Hindu holiday of Holi
- Easter: traditionally marked by flying kites and baking hot cross buns
- Eid-al-Adha: celebrated by the Muslim population
- Indian Arrival Day (marks the arrival of East Indian indentured servants to the region). The two halves of the country mark it on separate days: May 5 in the original Guyanese territories, and June 5 in the Surinamese region of the country.
- Emancipation Day: celebrates the freedom of the African former slaves by their descendants
- Javanese Arrival Day
- Chinese Arrival Day
- Amerindian Day
- Old Year's Day (Dec. 31) and New Year's Day (Jan. 1).
- Mashramani (often affectionately abbreviated as "Mash"): celebrated on Feb. 23, to mark Guyana's pre-DD Republic Day. Typically celebrated as Guyana's local version of the pan-Caribbean tradition of Carnival.
- Also since the creation of the GC, a new holiday called Unification Day is now celebrated every year on May 26.
ReligionChristianity is the largest religion in the Guyana Co-operative (the denominations include Pentacostal, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and others).
Hinduism is the second largest religion in the Guyana Co-operative, due to the presence of Indo-Caribbeans in both Guyana and Suriname, descended from indentured laborers from India.
Islam is the third largest religion, also due to the presence of Indo-Caribbeans.
The various Amerindian tribes in the interior of the country also practice their own local traditions as well.
A typical town in the GC is dotted with Christian churches, Hindu mandirs, and Muslim masjids.
The major religions of Guyana, despite being international, also have some local cultural traditions in their practice in Guyana. For instance, Guyanese Hindus often use Sunday morning as a special time for prayer, similar to Christians. This is because during the days when the Indo-Guyanese were under indenture to the British, the British plantation owners would give them Sunday off, as was typical in England. Thus, it became the most convenient time to host prayer services, and the tradition stuck even after the British left.
Another local twist is that Guyanese Muslims often refer to their priests (known as Imams in most of the world) as Meijis. The terms Meiji and Imam are often used interchangeably by Guyanese Muslims.
Guyanese Christians also have a unique local tradition of celebrating Easter by flying kites, to the point where Easter kite-flying is a major cultural event in Guyana that residents look forward to every year. The process of kite-making for Easter is also considered something of an event in itself for Guyanese Christians, and families often relish getting creative with their designs (while also taking care to make sure the final product is built well enough to fly properly).
DemographicsEast Indian/Indo-Caribbean: 43.5%
After the Falkland Islands joined the United American Republic, many of the British residents there moved to the Guyana Co-operative, as it was one of the closest former British territories in the area. This small but significant influx of British refugees has resulted in the foundation of "Little England" neighborhoods in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Rose Hall, and Port Mourant.
It should also be noted that the Indo-Guyanese population often refers to themselves as Coolies (re-appropriating the nickname from the British the same way that Americans had re-appropriated the nickname Yankees).
The Co-operative's flag combines elements from the old flags of Guyana and Suriname. The three stars represent the hope of uniting all three Guyanas.
The Guyana Co-operative is a member of the League of Nations. It is recognized by Brazil, French Guyane, and most other South American nations, but not by Venezuela or by the SAC as a whole. Guyana has committed itself to becoming, in the words of former President Bharrat Jagdeo, "the Switzerland of the Americas." In other words, committed to staying out of outside military conflicts, while building itself up as a place for trade.
The Guyana Co-operative was recently granted observer status in the Commonwealth of British Nations.
The Guyana Co-operative has extremely strong diplomatic ties with the East Caribbean Federation, as Guyana had shared a common Anglophone-Caribbean culture with the nations that formed the ECF, especially Trinidad & Tobago. Early on, the GC and the ECF signed a free trade agreement, as their economies and cultures were already extremely intertwined before Doomsday and continued to be afterwards.
The GC has also pursued strong diplomatic ties with New Britain. NB has sent economic aid packages, and in return the Guyana Co-operative has sent its signature exports of Demerara sugar and rum to New Britain. As Guyana's oil market has emerged in the late 2010's and early 2020's, New Britain has been one of the largest customers of Guyanese oil.
The Surinamese population in the GC also tends to be very interested in pursuing a trade relationship and stronger diplomatic relations with the Netherlands Antilles.
In the 2010's, as more distant international trade became more common, the cultural links between India and the Indo-Guyanese population has led to a warm and friendly relationship between the GC and the UIP governments. This relationship has manifested in the form of Guyanese citizens eagerly importing movies, music, foodstuffs, and other finished products from India, while the UIP in turn has granted loans and technical expertise to help the GC make infrastructural and economic improvements, including helping to build the new oil industry. India, in turn, has begun importing oil from Guyana. As the 2020's dawn, Guyana is increasingly looking to both New Britain and UIP India as benefactors, though the GC itself remains committed to strict neutrality in any military conflicts.