Guyana is a small country on the northern coast of South America, bordered by Venezuela to the west; Suriname to the east; Brazil to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the north. It is part of what was historically known as the Guiana region of northern South America – or “land of many waters” – located between the Orinoco and Amazon rivers. During the colonial era, European powers each claimed a piece of Guiana and they eventually split into several countries.
The Dutch claimed most of what is now Guyana first, until the British took it away in the early 18th century. At its colonial peak, Guiana was split into Spanish Guiana, compromising what is now southern and eastern Venezuela, Dutch Guiana in what is now Suriname, French Guiana, which remains an overseas territory of France just east of Suriname, Portuguese –or Brazilian- Guiana compromising the current Brazilian state of Amapa and British Guiana, which is n ow Guyana.
Guyana won its independence from the United Kingdom on May 26, 1966 and became part of the British Commonwealth. Guyana became a republic in 1970.
Guyana is a diverse country. Just over 43 percent of the population is of East Indian descent, tracing their roots back to the Indian subcontinent. About 30 percent of the country’s population is of African descent and about nine percent is Amerindian. A smaller population of white and Chinese Guyanese also exist.
Approximately 57 percent of Guyana’s population is Christian, with about 30 percent being Protestant and eight percent Roman Catholic. The rest adhere to other Christian beliefs. Hindus make up about 29 percent of the faithful in Guyana while Muslims are about seven percent. Only next-door Suriname has the largest percentage of Muslims in the entire Western Hemisphere.