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The New York Times, March 5, 1876, p.4:|
A Cocoa Plantation in Dutch Guiana.
—To enter the Commenweyne River we were first obliged to retrace a portion of the route by which I had arrived three days before, and to follow the downward course of the Surinam River for about eight miles, passing the same objects, no longer wholly new, but now more interesting than before, because nearer and better understood.
Here is a plantation, seen by glimpses through the mangrove scrub that borders the river's bank; a narrow creek, at the mouth of which several moored barges and half-submerged corials are gathered, give admittance to the heart of the estate.
It is a vast cocoa-grove, where you may wander at will under 350 continuous acres of green canopy—that is, if you are ready to jump over any number of small brimming ditches, and to cross the wider irrigation trenches on bridges, the best of which is simply a round and slippery tree trunk, excellently adapted, no doubt, to the naked foot of a negro laborer, but on which no European boot or shoe can hope to maintain an instant's hold.
Huge pods, some yellow, some red—the former color is, I am told, indicative of better quality—dangle in your face and dispel the illusion by which you might, at the first sight of the growth and foliage around you, have fancied yourself in the midst of a remarkably fine alder-tree thicket; while from distance to distance broad-boughed trees of the kind called by the negroes "coffee-mamma," from the shelter they afford to the plantations of that bush, spread their thick shade high aloft and protect the cocoa-bushes and their fruit from the direct action of the burning sun.
Moisture, warmth, and shade—these are the primary and most essential conditions for the well-doing of a cocoa estate. Innumberable trenches, dug with mathematical exactitude of alternate line and interspace, supply the first requisite; a temperature that, in a wind-fenced situation like this, bears a close resemblence for humid warmth to that of an accurately shut hot-house, assures the second; and the "coffee-mamma," a dense-leaved tree, not unlike our own beech, guarantees the third.
Thus favored, a Surinam cocoa crop is pretty sure to be an abundant one. Ever and anon, where the green labyrinth is at its thickest, you come suddenly across a burly Creole negro, busily engaged in plucking the large pods from the boughs with his left hand, and holding in it so, while with a sharp cutlass held in his right he dexterously cuts off the upper part of the thick outer covering, then shakes the slimy agglomeration of seed and white burr clinging to it into a basket set close by him on the ground.
A single laborer will in this fashion collect nearly four hundred pounds weight of seeds in the course of a day. When the baskets are carried off on the heads of the assistant field-women, or, if taken from the remoter parts of the plantation, are floated down in boats or corials to the brick-paved court-yard adjoining the planter's dwelling-house, where the nuts are cleansed and dried by simple and inexpensive processes, not unlike those used for the coffee-berry; after which nothing remains but to fill the sacks and send them off to their market across the seas.
A Guiana cocoa plantation is an excellent investment. The first outlay is not heavy, nor is the maintenance of the plantation expensive—the number of laborers bearing an average proportion of one to nine to that of the acres under cultivation. The work required is of a kind that negroes, who are even now not unfrequently prejudiced by the memory of slave days against the cane-field and sugar-factory, undertake willingly enough; and to judge by their stout limbs and evident good condition they find it not unsuited to their capabilities.
More than four million pounds weight of cocoa are yearly produced in Surinam, "which is a consideration," as a negro remarked to me, laboriously attempting to put his ideas into English, instead of the Creole mixture of every known language that they use amongst themselves.
Neither Coolies nor Chinese are employed on these cocoa estates, much to the satisfaction of the Creoles...
The New York Times, June 1, 1902, p.SM6:|
IN A TROPICAL GARDEN.Nature's Glory in Fruit and Flower
Revealed by Day and Night in Surinam, Dutch Guiana.
This garden is not German, but only Surinam Dutch, and no one in it is called Elizabeth. This garden lies hidden behind a substantial old house that fronts the main street of Paramaribo. A high, wooden fence closes it in on its remaining sides, screened and dwarfed by an inner hedge of banana trees...
Petronella, the black housekeeper, has the banana trees in keeping, and with her the days of every one are numbered. She watches each plant, from the infant shoot until, in the ninth month, its single bunch of fruit approaches maturity; watches each "hand" as, with blossom-tipped fingers, it opens upward to the sky; and then, the appointed moment come, she cuts away the bunch, and lops the whole great trunk with a few swinging strokes of her machete. For the law of bananas is that what is finished is finished, and that no fruit may ripen on the parent stalk, on pain of degeneration into food for horned cattle.
A mammoth bread-fruit tree, dome-shaped, with deep-cloven leaves and spreading like a chestnut, overshadows one corner of the garden, its boughs hung full of great green globes, rough of surface, like an osage orange, and heavy by reason of the solid meat within. A young mahogany, by chance sprung up beside it, lately cast a feathery veil over my chamber window, but now Petronella has "chopped" that, too, with her potent machete, and it exists no more.
A fat and palpitating toad, making it his ladder to the upper window sill, had brought the hint that where toads trod snakes could follow; and that there are snakes in this garden, even bad ones, even the deadly fer-de-lance, it is not safe to doubt. We fell their causeways when we see them, we put up bits of netting, here and there—and then we close the doors of our imaginations.
As to the matter of "chopping," Petronella chopped the very heart out of the lime tree not long ago, and that cruelly, when it was laden with half-grown fruit. "A kom toemoesi dik. A wan sneki hoso. Wakta pikinso. Wi sa kisi foeroe limetje baka." She scoffed to all protests. "It has grown too dense. It is a snake lair. Wait a bit, we shall have limes yet. And surely enough, in an incredibly short time the remaining boughs had doubled their promise, taking up the task let fall by their murdered brothers. Month after month that liberal tree continues to bring forth its plenty...
The alligator pear, hearty and lazy, shows no such character. For more often its great boughs go barren than studded...
Up toward the head of the garden grows a "pompramousse," as the negroes call it, a lean and sprawling giant, often decked with fragrant flowers but rarely rallying its energies to more material effort. Occasionally, however, it justifies itself by an offering of fruit nearly as large as a man's head, crimson-pulped things of the orange sort, their juices stored in a mass of close-packed vessels as distinct one from another as the several peas in a pod.
Beside the pompramousse, and encircled by a hedge of some green foliage plant, more delicate of leaf than any fern, a beautiful orange tree bends its protecting boughs above a jasmine covered with camelialike blossoms, and the scent of the two goes up to heaven in a single cloud of sweetness.
Under the arch of the orange, and within the circle of the hedge, a blue-and-scarlet macaw sits enthroned, bending a friendly brow to the few whom he favors, but keeping a fierce and ready beak for all his world besides. A wise old bird he is, mellowed, resourceful, and given over to contemplation. The masters of the house he receives on equal terms, with reverend kindliness, but the servants he has taught by stripes and blood to respect his privacy...
An alley of grapefruits shades the central path of the garden, and where the grapefruits cease guavas begin, leading to a high arbor of maracousa, or passion flowers, very splendid with its jeweling of violet blossoms. Each delicately tinted disk measures five inches or more in diameter, and the fruit, pale green and satin smooth, reaches the size of an average muskmelon. Within lies a mass of white jelly filled with seeds. Turn this into a bowl, ice it, add sugar and red wine, and you have improvised a sherbet of merit.
The most delicious sherbet that man could desire, however, has its source close by. The soursop tree, after rearing a bare trunk to a prodigious height, puts forth a crown of foliage so discolored, thin, and poor that hope sickens at the sight, and each great ball suspended among the faltering branches seems a final effort of existence. But month after month the miracle continues. Still there are soursops, jade-green and prickly, packed from centre to circumference with snowy pulp. Words cannot describe the delicacy of their flavor and consistency, or the excellence of the ices into which they are made.
The star apple, under its shining canopy of ivy-green russet-lined leaves, bears a rich treasure of fruitlike plums. Slice one across and within its purple, milk-exuding heart you find a white star, very true of form and very palatable.
The papaias, too, tall as the palms, which, with their slender stems and dainty crests, they most resemble, have culinary uses. Their fruit serves either as a vegetable or as a dessert, and if the meat for dinner be tough, wrap it in a fresh papaia leaf for half an hour before cooking, and it is tender. Leave it a little longer and it is decomposed.
From our trees, on the whole, we get our best garden service. Beautifully varied of shape and tint, generally lavish of foliage and often sweet of flower, their unbroken persistence or succession in bearing does much toward solving a vital question of health in the tropics—how to keep the fare sufficiently varied and attractive to tempt appetites dangerously discouraged by physical conditions.
Lettuce we find that we cannot grow. Only the good Moravian missionaries possess courage and devotion sufficient to espouse to a victorious issue the cause of a lettuce head against the sun, flood, drought, worms, and beetles. To the Moravians, therefore, the credit and the spoils—to us their salad.
see also: Venezuela News - Brazil - Guyana - French Guiana|
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All of Suriname
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Republic of Suriname: First explored by the Spaniards in the 16th century and then settled by the English in the mid-17th century, Suriname became a Dutch colony in 1667. With the abolition of slavery in 1863, workers were brought in from India and Java.
Independence from the Netherlands was granted in 1975. Five years later the civilian government was replaced by a military regime that soon declared a socialist republic. It continued to rule through a succession of nominally civilian administrations until 1987, when international pressure finally forced a democratic election.
In 1990, the military overthrew the civilian leadership, but a democratically elected government - a four-party New Front coalition - returned to power in 1991 and has ruled since, expanding to eight parties in 2005.
CIA World Factbook: Suriname
Area of Suriname:
163,270 sq km
slightly larger than Georgia
Population of Suriname:
July 2010 estimate
Languages of Suriname:
Dutch official, English widely spoken
Sranang Tongo Surinamese, sometimes called Taki-Taki, is native language of Creoles and much of the younger population and is lingua franca among others
Hindustani a dialect of Hindi, Javanese
Free Books on Suriname (.pdfs)
online only: The Rain Forest LIFE Mag. Sep 20, 1954
Guiana: British, Dutch, and French Rodway 1912
Dutch Guiana Palgrave 1876
A Voyage to Surinam Sack 1810
The Natural History of Guiana Bancroft 1769
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