The smallest independent country in South America, wedged in between Guyana
to the west and French Guyana
to the east. Suriname was formerly a Dutch
colony called Dutch Guiana – hence the collective name "the three Guyanas" (Guyana was a British
colony, and French Guyana, as the name implies, is still in the "possession" of France
Since independence in 1975 the country has been through a troubled, and at times very dark recent history. In a military coup dictator Dési Bouterse took power in 1980 and the following years saw brutal massacres, especially at Moiwana in 1986, and a generally repressive regime. Civil-war-like troubles continued well into the 1990s. But in more recent years things have calmed down.
Intriguingly (many would say: outrageously) the country freely elected its former dictator Bouterse as president in 2010. Since he had been on trial in absentia in the Netherlands
(under allegations of not only massacres but also drug trafficking), relations between Suriname and the former colonial power have been severely strained again.
Whether this situation should deter tourists from visiting Suriname is not easy to answer – everyone would have to check their own ethical issues in this regard. For the dark tourist, Suriname is not the richest destination in any case. However, there is a monument to the Moiwana massacres
in the east of the country (Marowijne district) that is well worth taking in when travelling through the region, e.g. en route to French Guyana
The capital city Paramaribo is considered by many to be the most pleasant of the capitals of the three Guyanas and thus makes a good base for exploration … In the city itself, Fort Zeelandia is a dark site in its own right – you can see the bullet holes in a wall where political opponents were executed in December 1982 during the military dictatorship (hence known as the "December murders").
Like its neighbours, Suriname is a cultural melting pot, in this case with heavy influence from Indonesia
(also formerly a Dutch colony, hence), which also accounts for a large Muslim proportion of the population. This mix is also reflected in the intriguing culinary mix – which I once had the fortune of being able to sample while in the Netherlands
. Very much something for chilliheads like me too! I must say that I find the idea of travelling to this part of the world very alluring … one day I will have to go.
Let's make no mistake, though: this is a remote destination with far less tourist infrastructure than other parts of the Americas. It's not exactly uncharted territory (well, some of the interior largely is), but certainly a very exotic destination all the same. Unfortunately, this also means it's
not necessarily a cheap place to travel to …