Cayman’s Guyanese population celebrates 50 years of independence

The Guyanese people certainly know how to celebrate.

Rudolph Brandt

The Association of Guyanese in Cayman is in celebration mode, and vice president of the association, Dr. Linden Swan, says this will be the case until May 26, 2017.

On May 26 of this year, Guyana celebrated 50 years of independence. “Fifty years is a long time in the existence of any entity, whether an individual or a nation,” said Dr. Swan, a pediatrician at the Cayman Islands Hospital.

A church service on May 30 at St. George’s Anglican Church marked the beginning of the celebrations. For the event, Guyanese Anglican priest, Father Errol Inshanally, was flown in from Jamaica (where he has been living and working for the past three years) to preach. Caymanian tenor/baritone Rudy Myles also thrilled the congregation with a rendition of one of Guyana’s national songs, “Oh Beautiful Guyana.”

Next is a cultural evening and dinner to be held at the Lion’s Centre on Friday. The affair is intended to showcase the singing, dancing and elocutionary talents of members of the Guyanese community living and working here. “This is our jubilee celebration,” said Dr. Swan, “and we are pulling out all the stops to do justice to the significance of the occasion.”

Invited guests include Premier Alden McLaughlin and Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush.

Guyana facts

Just a tad smaller than Idaho but larger than New York, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is cradled in the northwestern corner of Venezuela, bounded in the west by Suriname and in the southwest by Brazil.

Geographically located in South America, but for cultural and linguistic reasons identifying mainly with the Caribbean, Guyana is smaller than all but two countries (Cayenne and Suriname) in South America. Despite its relatively small size, Guyana is not an island, but rather is made up of several islands and is larger than all the islands in the Caribbean combined (the exception being Cuba).

An aerial view of Kaieteur Falls in southern Guyana. Located on the Pitaro Rivers, Kaieteur Falls is considered one of the most powerful in the world when combining the height of the main plunge of 741 feet , with the great volume of water.
An aerial view of Kaieteur Falls in southern Guyana. Located on the Pitaro Rivers, Kaieteur Falls is considered one of the most powerful in the world when combining the height of the main plunge of 741 feet , with the great volume of water.

Give or take a percentage point or two, about 78 percent of the total area of Guyana is dense, mostly uninhabited, rain forests. Amid this abundance of greenery can be found some of the best hardwoods in the world: mora, wallaba, greenheart, purple heart, kabakali and morabali, to name a few. These woods are all used in house-building and the greenheart (aka iron-pin) is known to outlast steel or iron in the briny waters of Guyana’s many rivers and the Atlantic Ocean, the country’s primary northern border. Greenheart, therefore, is the material of choice for building piers and docks or structures intended to stand for a long time.

Celebrations and tourism

Thousands from the globally spread Guyanese diaspora are returning to the land of their birth to celebrate the country’s golden jubilee.

The word in the social media sphere is that every hotel/motel room has been fully booked from around May 15 until around early June. Tourism, especially of the eco-variety, is set to receive a well-deserved shot in the arm.

Guided tours are on offer over endless acres of virgin forests and jungles, populated by large cats.

Some of the tours will put the tourists in proximity to leopards (the largest species of cat in South America) and smaller, but equally as pugnacious, felines, such as the jaguarondi, tree ocelot, oncilla and puma. Myriad tropical birds, some indigenous to Guyana’s Amazon jungle, promise ornithological delights. Pachyderms such as the tapir and the water-dwelling manatee, and reptiles such as the anaconda, which happens to be the largest snake in the world (known to grow to more than 30 feet), and a host of other creatures coexisting in Guyana’s unique bio-verse, are among the visual treats that potentially await the intrepid tourist. The arachnophobic might want to avoid places that the venomous goliath bird eater spider inhabits. This puppy-sized denizen of Guyana’s dense jungles, has a leg-span of about 12 inches, on average, and fangs that grow up to 1.5 inches in length. While its poisonous bite can cause a human as much pain as a wasp sting, it is believed to be not potent enough to kill humans.

Visiting the top of Kaieteur Falls.
Visiting the top of Kaieteur Falls.

Sightseeing tours to Kaieteur Falls, the highest one-drop falls (cascading down a sheer drop of 741 feet before making a staggered tumble downwards, for another 81 feet) is eye candy for all nature lovers. Kaieteur, of course, is not Guyana’s only world-class waterfall, but with its amazing height (four times the height of Niagara) and its volume of 663 meters per second, it probably has the majesty and grandeur to justify once being referred as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

The people of Guyana have always been hardworking and committed to self-development and academic excellence. Like every Third World country, however, Guyana has suffered from the “brain drain” but Guyanese have largely remained loyal to the land that gave them birth.

The short-term re-migration to celebrate the half-century of their country’s independence from Britain is expected to not only bring joy to the returnees, but also a much-needed injection of cash that would help wake up, and hopefully revitalize, the country’s long dormant economy.