• History of Guyana

The history of Guyana begins about 35,000 years ago with the arrival of humans coming from Eurasia. These migrants became the Carib and Arawak tribes, who met Alonso de Ojeda’s first expedition from Spain in 1499 at the Essequibo River. In the ensuing colonial era, Guyana’s government was defined by the successive policies of Spanish, French, Dutch, and British settlers.

Photo:The flag of Guyana, known as The Golden Arrowhead

The flag has been the national flag of Guyana since May 1966, when the country became independent from the United Kingdom. It was designed by Whitney Smith, an American vexillologist (though originally without the black and white fimbriations, which were later additions suggested by the College of Arms in the United Kingdom). The proportions of the national flag are 3:5.

The colors are symbolic:

  • red for zeal and dynamism,
  • gold for mineral wealth,
    green for agriculture and forests,
  • black for endurance,
    white for rivers and water.

During the colonial period, Guyana’s economy was focused on plantation agriculture, which initially depended on slave labor. Guyana saw major slave rebellions in 1763 and 1823. Following the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and South Africa were freed, resulting in plantations contracting indentured workers, mainly from India. Eventually, these Indians joined forces with Afro-Guyanese descendants of slaves to demand equal rights in government and society. After the Second World War, the British Empire pursued policy decolonization of its overseas territories, with independence granted to British Guiana on May 26, 1966. Following independence, Forbes Burnham rose to power, quickly becoming an authoritarian leader, pledging to bring socialism to Guyana. His power began to weaken following international attention brought to Guyana in wake of the Jonestown mass murder suicide in 1978.

After his unexpected death in 1985, power was peacefully transferred to Desmond Hoyte, who implemented some democratic reforms, before being voted out in 1992. The People’s Progressive Party (PPP/C) served as the country’s ruling party from 1992 to 2015. It was unseated following the victory of David Granger’s Afro-Guyanese political coalition of A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) in 2015. In 2020, the PPP/C returned as the ruling party of Guyana in a contested election.

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