Saramaka - History and Cultural Relations

The ancestors of the Saramaka were among those Africans sold into slavery in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries to work Suriname's sugar, timber, and coffee plantations. Coming from a variety of African peoples speaking many different languages, they escaped into the dense rain forest—individually, in small groups, and sometimes in great collective rebellions—where for nearly 100 years they fought a war of liberation. In 1762, a full century before the general emancipation of slaves in Suriname, they won their freedom and signed a treaty with the Dutch crown. Like the other Suriname Maroons, they lived almost as states-within-a-state until the mid-twentieth century, when the pace of outside encroachments increased. During the late 1980s a civil war between Maroons and the military government of Suriname caused considerable hardship to the Saramaka and other Maroons; by mid1989 approximately 3,000 Saramaka and 8,000 Djuka were living as temporary refugees in French Guiana, and access to the outside world had become severely restricted for many Saramaka in their homeland.

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