Sep 17, 2011

What do you know about Suriname?

Just 500,000 people live in Suriname, a country on South America’s northeastern shoulder about the size of Florida, but the variety of cultures they represent rivals those of much larger countries. The official language is Dutch, in a nod to Suriname’s past as a colony of the Netherlands, but on the streets of Paramaribo, the capital, one hears, in addition to Sranan Tongo, languages like Hindi and Javanese. Chinese characters decorate signs on casinos and corner stores. Motorized rickshaws called tuk-tuks speed past mosques and Hindu temples, giving Suriname a vaguely Asian feel. (With a name that rhymes with Vietnam, Hollywood seems to prefer it this way: the movie “The Silence of the Lambs” seems to suggest that Suriname is in Asia.) Suriname’s obscurity and charm, in an age in which frontiers seem to melt away at the click of a mouse, proves that there are still corners of the world that can provide surprise and adventure, even a bit of awe.

Exhibits at the complex, still surrounded by a dike to prevent flooding, explain how the Dutch traded New York for Suriname to the English in the 17th century.

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