Guyana Haitian Diaspora 40,000 Strong

Guyana began as a Dutch colony in the 17th century, becoming a British territory in 1815. When slavery became outlawed, blacks moved to metro areas, and indentured servants were imported from India to toil on sugar plantations. Since then, the ethnic and cultural dichotomy has endured, causing internal strife.


Guyana won independence from Britain in 1966, its governments favoring socialist agendas. In 1992, Guyana held its first free elections, picking Cheddi Jagan as its first democratic president. He held office for five years, dying of unexplained causes. Janet Jagan, his spouse, took over, but left office in 1999 because of ill health. Since then, Jagan's successor, Bharrat Gdeo, has won election twice, most recently in 2006.

Haitian immigrants started flocking to Guyana after Hurricane Flora struck Haiti in 1963. They continue to migrate to Guyana, and now comprise the largest Diaspora. Estimates vary as to how many have moved to Guyana. The French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies puts the figure at 33,500. But Haitian Consul, Jacques Marcellus, reports 40,000--50,000.

On a recent weekend, the Haitian Consulate, Kombit Association, and Matoury City honored the first Haitian immigrants with an event at the Palais Omnisports of Matoury. Consul Marcellus spoke of the enormous strides the Diaspora has made over the last 50 years, arriving shoeless and uneducated, but managing to put their children through school. The sons and daughters of the first immigrants have gone onto leadership positions in both Haiti and Guyana.

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