Independence Day is a public holiday in Guyana that celebrates its’ independence from the British on 26 May 1966. The holiday is celebrated annually on 26 May.
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With a growing population of almost 800,000 people now, Guyana has been sought after for quite some time. European voyagers, including Christopher Columbus, were first introduced to the country in 1498. In 1831, Guyana was initially declared a British colony.
However, these voyagers had competition on their hands because French, Spanish, Dutch and British settlersall wanted to stake the territory as their own. After slavery was abolished by 1834, indentured workers from India replaced them.
A few decades later in 1879, gold was discovered, which further made the land more attractive to other settlers. Venezuela took over the Essequibo River in 1889. Jules Caman, an African gold miner, found a large amount of gold in the Akaiwanna Creek and the Konawaruk Creek, both near Essequibo River. Gold was also located by the Demerara River.
However, by 1953, Guyana’s constitution was suspended and a new administration was brought together. Four years later, in 1957, the Guyanese constitution was reissued. But the Indo-Guyanese Progressive People’s Party (PPP) had already divided themselves among racial lines with African descendants on one side (referred to as the People’s National Congress or PNC) and Indian descendants on the other.
British rulers eventually declared Independence Day in Guyana on May 26, 1966. Today the country is still a diverse group of 43.5 percent East Indian, 31.2 percent Black African, 16.7 percent multiracial (largely of African descent), 9.2 percent Amerindian, and 0.46 percent include Chinese, Portuguese and English.
Although celebrated worldwide, locals in South America have particular traditions to celebrate their history. Festivities include fireworks, a flag-raising ceremony, crafts, music, fashion and a message to the public from the president. In 2016, President David Granger will be the first president from the Afro-Guyanese Partnership to speak at the festival. Previously the land had been governed by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) for 23 years.
- Main events: Crafts, including paintings, bowls and ornaments, are made available for sale at the Guyana Food, Arts and Music festival at the National Stadium. The festival, which is held for two days, includes Caribbean music, fashion shows and family activities.
- Strengthening literacy: Although Guyana is celebrated in other parts of the world, one worldwide connection from Guyana to New York in the United States is to educate others about the rich literary history in Guyana. On May 23 and 24, the symposium in Guyana will be at the Guyana International Convention Centre (GICC) — the building of which was renamed after Guyana’s first President, the late Arthur Chung. Attendees speak out about what life has been like since Independence Day in Guyana.
- Eats and treats: Creole foods are popular at Guyanese festivals, including black-eyed peas, cassareep (a sauce made in Guyanese pepperpot), coconut milk, crab, curry, dasheen, eddoes, fish soup, green plantains, pigs’ tails, rice and roti. Curried meat and vegetarian dishes are also commonly found at food booths.
- Significance of flag raising: The flag itself represents the history that the country has gone through. The golden arrowhead in the middle refers to the journey of independence. The colors are also significant – green (agriculture and forests), gold (mineral wealth), red (building a nation), black (endurance), and white (natural water).