Most people would struggle to place Suriname on a map. In fact, I’d wager most people would point to somewhere in Africa. Suriname is South America’s smallest country. I never planned on popping in Paramaribo, but the chance go truly go off the beaten path lured me in. As a former Dutch colony, you’ll see places like Onafhankelijkheidsplein on street signs and maps [that really just means public square], but as a Caribbean country you’ll hear languages like English, Creole, Dutch Indonesian, and Chinese. This little gem, formerly Dutch Guiana, sits in the upper corner of South America, between Venezuela and Brazil. More specifically between its colonial brethren, Guyana and French Guiana. The mix of culture, food, language and architecture makes for a very interesting city. It reflects influences from Dutch colonization, Indonesian workers, West African former slaves, Indian workers, Chinese laborers and many more. The mix of races, religions and languages doesn’t work for many cultures, but Paramaribo does a remarkable job of making it work.
Parbo, as it’s called, pulls together influences from many different cultures, and it somehow seems so effortless. Locals switch back and forth between 2 and 3 languages. Mosques sit next to temples, synagogues and churches, streets are lined with Indian, Creole, Chinese and Javanese food. A McDonalds or fried chicken shop rounds things out. As a tiny historical fact, Suriname gained notoriety as being the area that the Dutch traded for in exchange for the UK acquiring some land in North America. Ever hear of New Amsterdam? No, how about New York?]
Adm. Crijnssen renamed the fort once again, and Fort Zeelandia remained Dutch until 1975 [ because #historynerd].
But Suriname has a dark side too. It’s relatively unknown to foreigners because most foreigners couldn’t even find Suriname on a map. It’s ‘president’, a dictator really, is also wanted for murder [for his role in the Bloody December of 1982] and by Europol for importing over 1000 pound of cocaine into the Netherlands back in 1999. But you wouldn’t know this unless you researched the country ahead of time. The Number 1 Google search for Suriname is ‘Where is Suriname?’, so it’s a safe bet would-be tourists don’t know about the king-pin cocaine drug lord/murdered turned president [dictator]. But Paramaribo feels safe; there is no heavy military presence so one would not expect its leader to be a criminal…
But I digress…
The area used to be home to a lot of sugar plantations/mills, but when the Dutch pulled out, the sugar industry dried up too.
The Arya Dewaker Temple. and a message written in Sanskrit—probably something religious.