Suriname, is a country on the northeast coast of South America. The country's name is also spelled Surinam. Mountainous rain forests cover about eighty percent of Suriname, and most of the people live in the flat coastal area. Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America, both in area and population. Nearly half of the people live in Paramaribo, the capital, largest city, and chief port. The Netherlands ruled the country during the most of the period from 1667 until 1975, when Suriname gained independence. People of many ethnic backgrounds live in Suriname. Hindustanis, who are descendents of people from India, make up more than a third of the country's population. Creoles, people with mixed European and black African ancestry, make up about a third. The rest of Suriname's people are, in order of number, Indonesians, Maroons, American Indians, Chinese, and Europeans. Maroons are the descendents of black Africans who escaped from slavery in the 1600's and 1700's.

Each ethnic group in Suriname has preserved its own culture, religion, and language. Dutch is the nation's official language. But the most commonly used language is Sranan Tongo, also called Suriname Creole. Sranan Tongo combines elements of English, Dutch and several African languages. Christopher Columbus sighted what is now Suriname in 1948, and Spaniards and Portugese explored the area during the 1500 s. In 1651, British explorers built the first permanent settlement there. They established cotton and sugar cane plantations and brought slaves from Africa to work the land. In 1667, the Dutch took control of it and in exchange gave the British what became the state of New York. Suriname became a self-governing Dutch directory in 1954.


The World Book Encyclopedia, World Book, Inc., Chicago, 2004, pgs 1008-1010


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