Guyana (guy-anna), officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America. Culturally Guyana is part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana is one of the few Caribbean countries that is not an island. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM), of which Guyana is a member, has its secretariat’s headquarters in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. Guyana was originally colonized by the Netherlands. Later, it became a British colony and remained so for over 200 years until it achieved independence on 26 May 1966 from the United Kingdom.
On 23 February 1970, Guyana officially became a republic.
In 2008, the country joined the Union of South American Nations as a founding member. Guyana, a member state of the Commonwealth of Nations, is the only South American nation whose official language is English. Historically, the region known as “Guiana” or “Guyana” comprised the large shield landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River known as the “Land of many waters”.
Historical Guyana consists of three Dutch colonies: Essequibo, Demerara, and Berbice. Modern Guyana is bordered by Suriname to the east; by Brazil to the south and southwest; by Venezuela to the west; and by the Atlantic Ocean to the north.
At 215,000 square kilometres (83,000 sq mi), Guyana is the third-smallest independent state on the mainland of South America after Uruguay and Suriname. Its population is approximately 770,000. The name “Guyana” is derived from Guiana, the original name for the region that now includes Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and parts of Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the name comes from an Amerindian word meaning “land of many waters”. here are nine Native American tribes residing in Guyana: the Wai Wai, Machushi, Patamona, Arawak, Carib, Wapishana, Arecuna, Akawaio, and Warrau.
Historically the Arawak and Carib tribes dominated Guyana. Although Christopher Columbus sighted Guyana during his third voyage (in 1498), the Dutch were the first to establish colonies: Essequibo (1616), Berbice (1627), and Demerara (1752). After the British assumed control in the late 18th century, the Dutch formally ceded the area in 1814. In 1831 the three separate colonies became a single British colony known as British Guiana. A map of Dutch Guiana 1667–1814. Since Independence in 1824, Venezuela has claimed the area of land to the west of the Essequibo River.
Simon Bolivar wrote to the British government warning against the Berbice and Demerara settlers settling on land which the Venezuelans claimed was theirs. In 1899 an international tribunal ruled the land belonged to Great Britain. Map of British Guiana. Guyana achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 26 May 1966 and became a republic on 23 February 1970, remaining a member of the Commonwealth. The US State Department and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), along with the British government, played a strong role in influencing political control in Guyana during this time.
The American government supported Forbes Burnham during the early years of independence because Cheddi Jagan was identified as a Marxist. They provided secret financial support and political campaign advice to Burnham’s People’s National Congress, to the detriment of the Jagan-led People’s Progressive Party, which was mostly supported by Native American Guyanese. In 1978, Guyana received international notice when 918 members of the American cult, Peoples Temple, died in a mass murder/suicide.
Most of the suicides were American and more than 300 children were killed; the people were members of a group led by Jim Jones in Jonestown, the settlement which they had created. Jim Jones’ bodyguards had earlier attacked people landing at a small remote airstrip close to Jonestown, killing five people, including Leo Ryan, the only congressman ever murdered in the line of duty in US history. In May 2008, President Bharrat Jagdeo was a signatory to the UNASUR Constitutive Treaty of the Union of South American Nations. Guyana has ratified the treaty.