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South America


A map of SurinameA map of Suriname Suriname is South America’s smallest independent country. Once named Dutch Guiana, it was governed from the Netherlands until 1975. In the north, a swampy plain, a rice-growing region, borders the coast. The capital city of Paramaribo lies close to the mouth of the River Suriname where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Further inland, the land is drier and farmers grow palms, bananas and sugar cane. The rest of Suriname, around 80% consists of almost uninhabited uplands covered by rainforest. Suriname has a tropical climate with hot, wet weather all year round.

A map of SurinameA map of Suriname

Signs in Dutch in ParamariboSigns in Dutch in Paramaribo


Most Surinamers live in and around the city of Paramaribo in the north. Around one third of the population are “East Indian”: their ancestors came to Suriname from northern India in the 19th century to work on plantations. Other large groups are Creoles, who have mixed African and European ancestry, and Javanese people from another former Dutch colony, Indonesia. As well as Dutch, the official language, most people speak Sranan: a mixture of English, Dutch, Portuguese and African languages.

When Suriname became independent in 1975, more than a third of its population emigrated to the Netherlands, fearing that the new country would not be able to survive on its own.

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