Why Suriname Isn’t Part of Latin America
Suriname is not part of Latin America, which probably sounds surprising as it is located within South America.
Latin America consists of romance language-speaking Caribbean islands, Mexico, Central America, and the entire continent of South America. The whole region is culturally diverse due mainly to the various European settlers that claimed lands in it.
Latin America includes 26 countries that share history, heritage, and languages. There is, however, one region located within South America that is not considered Latin American!
Join me as I explore why Suriname is not part of Latin America and how its history shaped its diversity.
What Is Latino and Hispanic?
To understand why Suriname is not considered a Latinamerican country, these are some relevant concepts to check first.
The term Hispanic refers exclusively to the language, and the term Latino is based on geography and other aspects! Let me elaborate.
People from countries within the Latin American region who speak either Spanish or Portuguese are considered Latino, which is probably short for latinoamericano. On the other hand, the term Hispanic is used solely for speakers of the Spanish language regardless of their country—this means they can live in Latin America or Spain.
To make it a bit clearer, Brazilians are considered latinos and latinas because they live in a Latin American country, but they are not Hispanic as they speak Portuguese.
Read more about these important differences in What’s the Difference Between Hispanic and Latino?
What Makes a Country Latin American?
To dive further into what makes a country Latin American, let’s check some facts!
A country is considered Latin American if it was or is still ruled by a country that speaks a Romance language—Spanish, French, or Portuguese—and its population also speaks it.
Let’s take Belize as an example. Belize borders Guatemala, a Latin American country. However, Belize’s official language is English so it is not considered part of Latin America.
Let’s explore more about Suriname and the Guianas!
A Brief History of Suriname
Spanish explorers first arrived in the territory known as Suriname in 1593. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 1651 that the British settled permanently in its now capital Paramaribo.
As disputes of power over the territory rose, the Dutch controlled the land known as Dutch Guiana from 1667 until its independence in 1975.
The Republic of Suriname is now a constitutional democracy after having endured dictatorships for some years.
Though not a Latin American country, they share the similarity with its neighbors regarding dictatorships. Until the late 1980s, Suriname was ruled by a dictatorship. In 2010, Dési Bouterse was elected president, and his government lasted until 2020. Former police chief Chandrikapersad “Chan” Santokhi was elected in July 2020
With Paramaribo as its capital city, Suriname is the smallest region in South America, and it is considered a Caribbean country since the United Nations granted them one-third of an area of the Caribbean Sea. Suriname’s ethnically diverse population is only a bit over 600,000.
The colorful flag of Suriname consists of red, white, and green. Green stands for the abundant jungles and lands, white is for freedom, and red represents the “progressive spirit of a young nation.” The yellow star symbolizes the unity and sacrifice of the country as well as its bright future.
The Surinamese use the Surinamese Guilder (SRG) as their currency. Their economy highly relies on mineral resources and agriculture. Bauxite and rice are their most important products.
So, Why Are They Not Latin American?
Their official language is Dutch, which is the main reason why they are not a Latin American country. They do not speak a Romance language even if they are surrounded by Latinos!
What truly impressed me about this country was the large number of religions, ethnicities, and languages they have—despite Dutch being the official one.
Religions range from Christianity—the predominant one—to Hinduism, and Islam. On the other hand, its people’s heritage includes Creole, Javanese, Bush Negro, Amerindians, and Chinese. The reason for such diversity is that the Europeans brought African slaves, Indian, and Javanese workers to work as farmers.
Aside from Dutch, the Surniamese also speak English, Sranan Tongo (a Creole language), Hindustani, and Javanese.
Suriname and the Guianas
Suriname is part of a territory in northeastern South America known as the Guianas.
- French Guiana
While Suriname and Guyana are countries, French Guiana is a territory under French rule to this day.
The term Guiana derives from the Indian phrase “Land of many waters,” due to its proximity to the ocean and the major rivers in the region, causing a year-round humid tropical climate.
The whole region is home to Arawak Indians, Indigenous-American Indians, descendants of European colonizers, African slaves, East Indians, Chinese, and Indonesians.
Let’s discover why none of the Guianas are Latin American countries!
Suriname was the first to get its name from American Indians, which was Surinen.
Due to constant discords between the British, French, and Dutch it was time for a settlement concerning the territory. Under the Treaty of Breda (1667), the Dutch received Suriname from England, while the French got French Guiana.
Cooperative Republic of Guyana
Formerly known as British Guiana, Guyana gained its independence from Britain in 1966. However, its official language remains to be English and their capital city is Georgetown.
The Guyana people are mainly Indo-Guyanese (Guyanese of South Asian descent) and Afro-guyanese. This heritage resulted initially from the British transporting slaves into the continent, and later on, doing the same with Indian workers after the abolition of slavery.
French Guiana remains a territory of France, which means they are part of the European Union and their official language is French. Similar to many European nations, the official religion is Roman Catholicism.
Besides the three official languages of this territory, they also speak Creole and African and Asian dialects.
We Want To Hear You Out!
As seen above, the three different countries and territories known as The Guianas do not speak any of the Romance languages mentioned at the beginning of this post! That makes them countries within South America that cannot be considered Latin American.
As broad as Latin America is, it is important that we know the differences between terms like Hispanic and Latino. Acknowledging this will surely change the way we perceive the diversity of our continent!
We sure hope this blog post was as enriching as it was for us! We would love to know what you thought of all the interesting facts you learned today. Let us know in the comments, and we will make sure to read them!
Want to learn more about Latin American culture? Check out these posts!
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- 10 Famous Afro-Latinas Who’ve Made a Powerful Impact
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Thank you! Nice Article.
Greetings from Suriname!
Hey there! Thank you, I’m glad you liked it 🙂
Hi, nicw blog!
However, suriname became independent in 1975. Not 1954. 🙂
From a dutchie with South American roots haha
Thanks for letting us know! We changed the date to make it accurate.
Hi Tara! lovely post and article. I enjoyed it very much. A small mistake is that Suriname was granted their independence on November 25 1975. Not 1954 as your article notes.
Hey, thanks for your feedback! We changed the date to make it accurate.
“All Latinos are Hispanic and somebody from Brazil is Latino but not Hispanic”. So, not all Latinos are Hispanic.
Hi, Tatiana! Thank you for your feedback. You’re right! We’ll change our info to make it accurate