Guiana —not to be confused with the independent nation of Guyana— is a country located on the Atlantic coast of South America, between Suriname and Brazil. It is administered as a French overseas region —the largest of this European state— and an outermost region of the European Union.
Guiana is part of the geographical region of the Guiana Shield, a massif that stretches immediately north of the Amazon basin, from Venezuela to Brazil, and is home to enormous biodiversity.
Inhabited in pre-Columbian times by Arawak and Carib peoples, Guiana owes its present-day borders to European colonisation, which determined its them between the 15th and 20th centuries. Over that period, the country was settled by people of European origin (mainly French), African slaves, Asian and Lebanese immigrants, deportees from Indochina and, more recently, immigrants from neighbouring countries and Hmong refugees from Laos.
The Guianese economy remains heavily dependent on France for trade, subsidies, and metropolitan investment in the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou. Between 1960 and 2010, the Guianese economy experienced significant growth, which has however stagnated over the last decade.
Guiana’s only official language is French, which most inhabitants speak as either their first or second language. It is the language of the administration, schools, and most of the media.
However, Guiana is a linguistically diverse territory. Guianese Creole is a French-based Creole spoken by some 140,000 people, about 45% of the country’s population, although it is the first language of only 30%. It has some presence in schools and on radio and television.
Several English-based Creole languages are also spoken in Guiana, with several tens of thousands of speakers. Those spoken by Maroon-descendant Aluku, Ndyuka and Pamaka peoples are collectively known as Nenge Creole and are also spoken in neighbouring Suriname, from which another of Guiana’s Creole languages, English- and Dutch-based Sranan Tongo, also originates.
In addition, several languages of the Carib, Arawak, and Tupi families are also spoken in Guiana. Within the first Kalina and Wayana can be mentioned, within the second Palikur and Arawak, and within the third Wayampi and Emerillon. They have about 10,000 speakers in total, of whom slightly less than half are Kalina speakers, concentrated in the northwestern region of Guiana.
Politics and administration
Guiana is a French overseas region. Since 2010 it has been administered as a single territorial collectivity (the Territorial Collectivity of Guiana), which merges the former Regional Council and General Council into a single parliament, or Assembly of Guiana, with executive but not legislative powers in areas such as health, education, transport, culture, sport, and youth.
Guiana is represented to the French Parliament by 2 MPs in the National Assembly and 2 senators in the Senate.
In the second round of the most recent Guianese elections (2021), left-wing parties formed a single alliance, Guyane Kontré, led by the leader of pro-autonomy Péyi Guyane party, Gabriel Serville, and joined by other pro-autonomy parties such as the Socialist Party of Guiana (PSG), To the Left in Guiana (AGEG) and New Force of Guiana (NFG), as well as pro-independence Movement for Decolonisation and Social Emancipation (MDES).
This alliance defeated the other list, Guyane Rassemblement (GR), which was linked to French centrist party La République en Marche (LREM) and was allied to French conservative party Les Républicains (LR).
President of the Assembly of Guiana: Gabriel Serville, Péyi Guyane-Guyane Kontré (since 2021).
Political system: Territorial collectivity within the French unitary state.
Distribution of seats in the Assembly (2021 election). 55 members:
Guyane Kontré (left-wing alliance of pro-autonomy, pro-independence, and French loyalist parties) – 35
Guyane Rassemblement (centre and centre-right unionist) – 20
Electoral system: proportional with majority bonus
Government: Guyane Kontré
(Last updated March 2022.)