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Book source: Suriname, Land of Seven Peoples, Prof. Dr. F.E.M> Mitrasing, H. vd Boomen, Paramaribo, 1979

Subject: [Heritage] The Creoles


The Creoles are a complex ethnic group in Suriname. They have been studied by many scholars. One of them is Prof. Mitrasing and this is what he writes about the 'African-Surinamese or Creoles' of Suriname. Around 1530 the first black slaves were brought to what is now Suriname. First by the Spaniards, then the British and finaly the Dutch. The slaves came from the west coast of Africa, from Guinea to Cameroon and most of them from what is now Nigeria. When Suriname switched owner from British to Dutch the masters of the slaves were Portuguese Jews as they were the owners of the plantations.

Although the slave trade was forbidden in 1808 it continued until 1826. It is estimated that some 350,000 males, females and children were brought to Suriname. However the majority were males and this caused many social and psychological problems. None of the former slaves or descendants have shown any interest to return to Africa as individuals or in groups. The colonial government never had any plans to return them either. The slaves entry point into Suriname was the 'Waterkant' in Paramaribo (Plattebrug). They were sold on the spot and transported immediately to the plantations. For three centuries they lived under most inhumane conditions. They were considered objects and not humans. Male and female slaves were kept separated from each other which caused many problems and disturbances. In fact it made them 'mobile' as there was that urge to search for a wife. The inhumane treatment made them rebelious and many fled into the jungles from where they operated to rob and plunder the plantations.

In 1863 slavery was abolished in Suriname but the former slaves remained in custody of the government for ten more years. (Slavery was abolished in 1834 in British Guyana and in 1848 in French Guiana). The ten more years were instituted to prevent the slaves from running away all at once.

The runaway slaves are often called Maroons. They formed four main tribes (estimated 40,000): Aucaners (Djoekas), Saramacaners, Paramacaners, and Matuaries. They have their own language, culture and hut construction. Another name for the Maroons is 'Bush African-Surinamese'. Then you have the 'town-African-Surinamese'. These are the descendants who live in the towns and who have a formal western education. The other descendants who live in rural areas with some education are 'rural-African-Surinamese'. Until the 1920s there was almost no social contact and communication between the blacks and other ethnic groups and especially with the 'whites'. Then there was the historical handicap of an 'inferiority complex' caused by years of discrimination and stereo typing. Old slave cottages-houses in Paramaribo are ruins as are many of the former plantations. Little or no effort is made to repair or restore them. This lack of interest, initiative has been the cause of failure of projects and/or good intentions of the authorities.

In the 18th century a few 'free slaves' left with their master to the Netherlands. Some were of mixed blood and in the Netherlands they received formal education. From 1863-1873 a larger number especially those with 'intelligence, courage and drive' left for the Netherlands. Only a few returned years later. Until the second world war many of the rising elite migrated to Holland, the US, British Guyana and Brazil. There are some 10,000 Surinamers living in the US according to 1979 figures. After WWII emigration to the Netherlands increased due to the social welfare benefits, education and the Dutch language/culture. Many Surinamers feel'just being more Dutch than the Dutchman'. In 1975 more than 60,000 Creoles moved to the Netherlands.

Met dank aan Albert Buys

Met dank aan Albert Buys

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