SURINAME CELEBRATES SREFIDENSI (independence)
Trip Start Aug 14, 2005
13Trip End Dec 16, 2005
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Yesterday Suriname celebrated 30 years of independence! The Surinamese love to celebrate and this was a reason to party. It started Friday. I had just arrived from Nickerie on the bus at about 4 p.m. and decided to go to Independence Square as I knew that the school children were forming the Surinamese flag on the lawn of the square. There was quite a crowd and I didn't get an ideal spot, but was able to catch glimpses. I did see "the flag" later on TV and it was certainly impressive from the air. I'm not sure how many children were involved, but hundreds anyway. They were draped in green, white, red or gold and formed the lines and the gold star of the flag. To music and on cue they waves coloured cloths and made the 'flag' wave to great cheers! Soreath, one of the women on our country committee was there. Her 11 year old daughter, Megan was part of the star. Many, many people in the crowds were dressed in their traditional dress, complete with headdress
Saturday morning began with a canon salute of 30 blasts at 6 a.m. followed by a parade at 9 a.m. A seemingly endless array of various military regiments, cadets, youth organizations and what have you. I did hear that some of the neighbouring countries also had troops in the parade. I think French Guyana, Guyana and Venesualia, which might account for the endless numbers. There was, of course music and the Surinamese anthem.
Our Dutch teacher had arranged an invitation for the CCI participants to the Presidents reception held in the garden of the Presidential palace at noon. We were able to enter the reception area of the palace and see some fabulous art in the reception area. We were also hosted h'ourderves and drinks.
I spent far too much time in the hot sun and when I went home in the late afternoon and had no energy to return for the evening festivities which included street dancing and fireworks that went on for 1 1/2 hours that I watched on TV
The city has been decked out all week with red/green/white bunting and many, many flags on homes, cars and buildings. I am thinking that only the USA rivals Suriname in their love of their flag!
And this event brings other discussions as well. Sandra, our Dutch teacher when asked what she planned for that day answered. "Nothing, I will stay home and rest, Suriname is not independent! We still ask Holland or America for everything". Many others share her sentiments. Talking to people about 1975 and what it was like, I am told by many that Suriname was not ready for independence and they have suffered as a result. Some think it was forced on them by Holland and others the manipulations of the political power brokers of the time. I am finding increasingly that conversations with Surinames about their recent history yields a curious and confusing mix of answers.
My family, Agnes and Glen talked last night about the day of independence and the celebration and the fireworks back then, Nov. 25/75. They were young they said and they were there in the wild and joyous celebrations of their independence. So, it would seem that while they were skeptical, there was hope and anticipating that they could be an independent nation. It has been a difficult 30 years for this country, but 30 years is not a long time in the history of a nation and they entered nationhood at a time when the world was changing rapidly
This week there was a major chemical leak from Rosberg mine (a subsidiary of Canada's Cambior) that has affected one of Suriname's major rivers. Did anyone of you hear about it? I doubt it. And, I am reminded again of the risks that the multinationals are allowed to take with the environment in countries that have so little accountability and are so vulnerable.
This past couple of weeks I've done more work with Maxi Linder, the Aids Service organization that primarily provides support to Commercial Sex Workers and I've been confronted with the reality of the human trafficking that goes on in this country. Brazilian and Purto Rician girls who have their passports taken by the club owners who basically own them. I naively thought that the girls who worked in the clubs had more protection than those on the streets. The time I spent in Nickerie also exposed me more to the dark underbelly of Suriname. First hand stories of the corruption of the police who are involved in the drug trade in this community with the highest suicide rate in Suriname. Little is done by the authorities to stem child abuse and family violence in this community
I'm tired today and blaming it on too much sun and heat yesterday, but as I write I find myself wondering if the emotional confusion of Suriname's vibrant and optomistic celebrations against the reality of their shadows is contributing to this energy drain.
I've also been wondering about the ways this experience is affecting me and what I will take away from it. The world has many Suriname's and it is a humbling experience to connect with people whose lives are lived in this reality of hope and despair.