The Guianas

"The Guianas"Up on the top right corner of South America (northwest for those cartographly inclined) are three sections of land: two countries and a territory that seem curiously out of place. Not geographically, as they clearly are part of the continent, but that only makes it more odd that they typically are associated with the Caribbean. These would be the Guianas, or Guyanas, depending on your spell checker.

While the rest of South America was conquered by the Iberians (Portuguese and Spanish), the Guianas weren’t part of the party, and ended up being colonized by the British, Dutch and French. When the rest of the continent gained their independence, and continued to speak Spanish and Portuguese (which are easy to understand between them), these three territories remained colonies. It wasn’t until almost 150 years that two of them, Guyana and Surinam, became independent. The third, French Guiana remains an overseas department of France, and therefore administratively part of Europe.

Since then, the Guianas have had trouble integrating with the rest of the continent. For example, the most popular sport in Latin America is soccer, but they don’t participate in the South American Football Confederation, and instead play for the Caribbean. Since they aren’t seen participating in many South American activities, its lead to the myth in the rest of the continent that they don’t even exist. Or maybe they are islands off the coast of Venezuela.

It’s not just the language barrier: the majority of the population of the Guianas come from former slaves, and laborers brought to work the cane fields from Africa and India. The culture is distinctly Afroindian, quite different from the mix of Iberian and native that makes up the rest of South America.

Be that as it may, the Guianas are part of South America, and have a wonderful set of attractions to offer visitors. To the north of the Amazon and on the edge of the Caribbean, their biggest attractions are picture-perfect beaches, wondrous waterfalls and an impressive array of wildlife.

The countries themselves are small, both in land mass and population. In fact, they are the smallest on the continent. However, this makes them exceedingly convenient to explore, with everything a short ride away from everything else. And being on the northern edge of the continent, they afford easy access to North Americans and Europeans, and could be considered a gateway to the Americas if they had more flight options.

So please visit these countries; they have a lot to offer tourists, and they have exceptionally friendly people (in a continent that already stands out for friendliness).

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