WanderingTrader

Racism & Repression In French Guiana-SHAME ON FRANCE!

 

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Cool Sign in Cayenne

Rolling through The Guianas in South America I ran into something that I didn’t think existed in our society today. It was beyond God’s mandate to not allow me a comfortable way in and out of the country. I didn’t think that this kind of situation would occur with a 1st world power like France. Africa and some parts of Asia are the only parts of the world that still have modern day slavery. South America was just setting laws into place when I was leaving the country of Venezuela (1990-ish) to be a good little Latin boy in the United States. There isn’t actual slavery going on in French Guyana but the racism and repression is very clear.

First let me start when I first arrived in French Guyana. I just finished coming back from the Galibi Natural Reserve to see the sea turtles and other animals when our tour guide was leading us around the border town of St. Laurent. The entire group was walking and in true Latin fashion I was the last person walking out of the mini-market. The tour guide was walking just behind me when a police van drove and said it (English translation): “Hey boo boo what are you doing here”.

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Statue when we got off the boat

First let me explain that in The Guianas there is a very healthy mix of a variety of cultures. In Guyana you mainly have Africans and Indians from the British slave imports. In Suriname you have a healthy dose of Indians, Indonesians, and Africans from the Dutch colony and in French Guyana you have mostly Africans and the occasional white Frenchman.

You do have other cultures in these countries as well like Chinese and Japanese but the vast majority are the ones listed above. There is a significantly higher amount of African Americans living in French Guiana then Suriname or Guyana.  All of police in French Guiana are white. My hotel in Cayenne was right next to a police station and only then did I see 1 African American policeman.

Now this white police man called our tour guide “boo boo” which means something similar to little black boy. With no respect at all for him as an individual. He didn’t bring his passport when we crossed the border (a river) and if we weren’t with him he would have been arrested on the spot. What bothers me is that there was a complete lack of respect for our tour guide for no reason. Let me mention that our tour guide was Amerindian which is the name for the natives in the region. I did say something to the cops and they did get upset but there was nothing they could do to me.

After having a conversation with several people that grew up in French Guiana many things came to light. Many of the residents of the nation state that most people, many of them African American, don’t work and just collect welfare from the French government. They receive a total of 500 Euros per child. Many of the people that come to work in the country are foreigners or people from France.  When I spoke to numerous African American’s they stated that they don’t like the French occupying the country but still want them there.

Gates at Devil's Island in French Guyana

Many of them also stated that the French government treated them in a very condescending manner. I would like to point out that while they don’t agree with the way they are treated they stated that they still want the French there. The French Guianese are smart enough to realize that their standard of living is higher with the French occupying the region.

There wasn’t a single pot hole on a road while I was driving.  The only flights in and out of French Guiana are with Air France and Air Caraibes to Paris or Martinique. There are direct flights between Guyana and Suriname and there are direct flights to Suriname from Miami.

There are not any flights directly to French Guyana from anywhere in the western hemisphere except other french colonies like Martinique.Air France wanted me to have 8 connections in order for me to get back home to Medellin, click here for the post.

 

It seems to me that the reason why it is so difficult to fly into French Guiana is because the French don’t want them to leave. In order for people of French Guiana to migrate to France they have to go by land to Suriname which consists of 2-3 hour bus rides in each direction (4-6 hours). In between the drive you have a border crossing which consists of a river with glorified canoe boats going back and forth. I could have smuggled an entire family into either country with no one noticing. After they reach the international airport in Suriname they fly to the Netherlands and take a train into France. All this is cheaper than getting a flight from French Guiana to France.

What do you think? Could this be just a coincidence?

21 Comments

  1. Humm man, you got me thinking and really curious about this.  Have you talked with any French backpackers who have been there as well?  Just wondering what there thought is on it vs the locals who live there full time that are white.

    By-the-way: the link “Air France wanted me to have 8 connections in order for me to get back home to Medellin, click here for the post.” is broken.

  2. What a sad image given by this french territory. Sadly, it is a reflection of what is also happening into the the rest of is territory, including the “metropili” 🙁

  3. While i agree with most of your statement about the horrible way that france is treating the population(especially blacks) that are still under the french occupation, i do not agree about you saying that africa is one the place in the world where slavery exist. Have you ever traveled in africa in your life? and if you did for how long did lived there, and please can you bring some more specification when you say”modern slavery” is it slavery as we know like the one that happened in US centuries ago or is it “child slavery” or “sex slavery”? because i’m from africa, i have my roots there and i can tell you that while we might have problems with governments and authorities corruptions, nevertheless there were never slavery in africa, even when Europeans use to have authority over african countries it was “colonization”, never slavery.

    1. I have not visited Africa.. I have LIVED IN AFRICA. There is plenty of slavery in Africa.. dont be naive. Look at the way women are treated in tribes…

  4. It was utterly horrendous to be in that situation, if not outright insulting. I have had been traveling as a backpacker in Asia and since I am a Filipino, I have had seen discrimination however on a different manner and situation, not in that scenario where the police even were the culprits.

    This post is an eye-opener for those visiting Guiana and how the French, their former colonial masters are still, up to this very day of modernism, treats them in such a lamentable manner.

    Thanks for this post!

    1. It was really sad.. at one point I actually said something to the police because I didn’t like the way they were treating people. You shouldn’t treat anyone like that.. no matter what color they are

  5. So odd. We noticed this even on some travel show we were watching that featured that area – all of the hired help and laborers were of African descent, and the only people there wealthy enough for hired help were all white.

  6. @anne: See Touareg/Bella, and slavery issues in Mauritania. It may or may not be like slavery was in the Americas, but it’s slavery, nonetheless

  7. Im from France and actually here we don’t really know much about Guyana, even why we keep this piece of land. If they don’t like the french then no problem, french should just leave.

    But hey, you say “they don’t like the French occupying the country but still want them there” and “The French Guianese are smart enough to realize that their standard of living is higher with the French occupying the region”

    So Im not sure what you are trying to explain in this post… saying “Shame to France” based on one bad experience is very stupid (so to say that french are racist would be… racist ?)

    1. Mat, the way the French treat the locals of those in French Guyanese is extremely racist from what I experienced. The way you treat the locals is very different from the way “they treat their own” from the mainland. While they are much better off with the French in charge that doesn’t give the French the right to treat them the way they do.

  8. This is such a sad thing to hear about in this day in age, but also please keep in mind that Black people who did not originate from the United States (African descendants) are not “African Americans” they are simply just black, and could find it offensive if you called them “African American”. (this coming from a Black person from the Caribbean). This is a great article however, and thanks for sharing.

  9. Swan, that is true. I am of Ethiopian and Panamanian ancestors, but was born as a black American in Los Angeles, California.

    I refer to other black people (skin tone/race) who were born in the U.S. as black American. Anyone of the American continents, is American, whether you’re from Colombia, Panama, Brazil, Mexico, or Canada. I could even call myself a black U.S. citizen to be specific, but its hardly ever necessary. I just refer to myself as a “black American”.

  10. mate check out what goes on in Malaysian Borneo, Sabah and Sarawak and you will see a healthy slave trade with young Filipino girls coming in through Sandarkan and being passed around wealthy Malaysians like they are DvDs to be loaned out. Disgusting and completely unreported in the western media.

  11. “In order for people of French Guiana to migrate to France they have to go by land to Suriname”?

    I don’t understand that part. There are flights Cayenne – Paris. So why would someone from French Guiana emigrate to Suriname if they just can pick a flight to Paris?

  12. Umm.. yes, slavery still exists in Latin America. One of my best friends is Bolivian and her father, an activist, and his friend, an international attorney, worked together to liberate an entire tribe that was enslaved in Bolivia (a country with a predominantly indigenous population!) just over a year ago.

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