May 26th was National Independence Day in Guyana. They celebrated 51 years since becoming independent of the UK. I thought it would be nice to share with y’all how Independence Day is celebrated around the country. Which is why it took a couple of days to post, I’ve been trying to collect photos/experiences from other volunteers.
Guyana is a relatively young country, when considering they’ve only been an independent nation for 51 years. They most recently were a British colony, but also were developed by the Dutch and a brief time the French. You see remnants of this recent history in the infrastructure of the country, the language, the names of villages, and in their cultural traditions. Guyana is distinctly unique, a meshing of the cultures of not only the countries that previously colonized them, but the people who live here. Most of the population’s ancestors are either from India or Africa and there are pieces of the Guyanese culture stemming from those places as well. All of this adds to the beauty of what Independence Day is – a celebration of Guyana, in all its many intricacies.
In Region 1, fellow PCV Sam wrote, “So to celebrate Independence Day, Marumba had a busy week!! It was kicked off last Sunday with a fitness walk hosted by the hospital. On Thursday we had a Suicide Prevention March and Rally, hosted by the Department of Education. The Minister within the Ministry of Health (Dr. Cummings) came to the rally. To end the week and officially celebrate, we had a flag raising event last night. People did dances, calypsos, speeches, etc. from 8pm-12am. At 12 am the army and police force came out and helped hoist the flag :)”
Region 2: One of the PCVs visiting Lake Mainstay said that there wasn’t much mention of Independence Day there or in her Amerindian village in Region 4. They did a Maypole activity for what they referred to as May Day.
Genesis, the school my host mom is the Principal of, had a special flag raising ceremony. This brought up an interesting conversation with my coworker who is a Jehovah’s Witness and who’s child attends the school. She kept her son home from school, because they believe pledging allegiance to a flag splits your priorities from God. While there are Jehovah’s Witnesses at home, my coworker Mandy is the first who I’ve had in depth conversations with concerning her faith. While I expected to learn (and experience) more about the Hindu and Muslim religion, it is nice to be exposed to/learn more about other religions as well.
Region 4: Apart from the big celebration in the capital, they celebrate in other areas. PCV Michaela lives in St Cuthbert’s mission, an Amerindian village. They celebrated Independence Day with a Miss Heritage Pageant. Contestants ranged between 14-17.
Region 5: Some of the volunteers went for a 9 mile hike for Independence Day. They said their was an Independence Day bike race in region 5.
Region 6: According to PCV Melanie in New Amsterdam, the police, army, and band march down the main road to the regional office in NA where they had a program set up under a tent. They have several politicians/public figures give speeches and the drum corps plays until they raise the flag.
Region 7: My fellow PCV Karin went to a couple of primary schools to see how they would be celebrating May Day.
Region 8 – We do not have any volunteers in Region 8, as it is very sparsely populated and is primarily composed of a protected area of the Rainforest.
Region 9: Our group’s only PCV in 9, Chris, went to a midnight flag raising and a fashion fundraiser for Independence Day. In his pictures you can see some traditional Wapishana wear and the meeting of cultures as he represents his Choctaw heritage while helping to celebrate the Wapishana culture.
Region 10: We do not have any volunteers currently in 10. My coworker who formerly lived there said they do a midnight flag raising as well.
On the USA State Department website, Secretary of State Tillerson posted the following in honor of Guyana’s Independence Day: “On behalf of the United States of America, congratulations to the people of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana on their 51st anniversary of independence. The United States and Guyana are committed to working together to create a more secure and prosperous future. Guyana’s leadership role in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is a testament to its vision to building a brighter future, not only for the citizens of Guyana, but for all people in the broader Caribbean region. The United States remains a steadfast partner as we strive to achieve mutually beneficial goals and objectives. We wish all Guyanese people a happy Independence Day celebration.”