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Guiana

Guiana (gēăn´ə, –än´–), region, NE South America. It faces the Atlantic Ocean on the north and east and is enclosed on the west and south within a vast semicircle formed by the linked river systems of the Orinoco, the Río Negro, and the lower Amazon. It includes SE Venezuela, part of N Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana), and Guyana (formerly British Guiana). The region consists of a cultivated coastal plain, where most of the population lives, and a forested, hilly interior, the Guiana Highlands. Descending from plateaus as high waterfalls, such as Kaieteur Falls (Guyana) and Angel Falls (Venezuela), the rivers, notably the Caroní, Essequibo, Courantyne (Corantijn or Corentyne), Maroni, and Oiapoque, flow through low mountains, savannas, and tropical rain forests into coastal swamps and lagoons. Most of the streams are navigable only for short distances, a feature that has hindered development. The coastal plain contains rich alluvial deposits carried by ocean currents from the Amazon. The Dutch and subsequently the English reclaimed much of the tidal lands for planting sugarcane and rice, but the acreage is tiny in comparison to Guiana as a whole. Most of coastal Guiana has a monotonously hot, humid climate with heavy rainfall. The interior is inhabited by indigenous peoples and descendants of freed slaves (maroons).

The Guiana coast was discovered (1498) by Columbus, who did not land there. The legend of El Dorado drew Sir Walter Raleigh to the region in 1595. The Spanish had also come in search of easy wealth, but, finding none, they left the coast open to exploitation by the Dutch, English, and French. The Dutch were the first to settle, but ownership of territory changed hands many times. After the emancipation of the slaves in the 19th cent., labor shortage proved a major problem on the European-owned plantations. It was partially offset by importing South Asians and Indonesians.

See J. Gimlette, Wild Coast (2011).

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Guiana

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Guiana

GUIANA

GUIANA (formerly British Guiana ), state in N.E. South America, population: 650,000 (est. 2000); Jewish population: 40 persons (1990 estimate) living in the capital Georgetown. The earliest Jewish settlers in Guiana arrived during the Dutch rule which began in 1613. In 1657 an agreement was reached between Paulo Jacomo Pinto, acting on behalf of the Jews of Leghorn, and Phillipe de Fuentes, acting on behalf of the Jewish refugees from Dutch Brazil and Dutch cities of Middleburgh, Flushing, and Vere on the settling of Spanish-speaking Jews in the colony called Nova Zeelandia. Jews arrived from Amsterdam and Leghorn and were later joined by Jews from Hamburg and Salé (Morocco). The Jews settled in the town of New Middleburgh on the Pomeroon (Pauroma) river, and numbered 50 to 60 families, specializing in sugar cane plantations and vanilla. In 1666 an English attack destroyed the settlement, and the Jews dispersed in the Caribbean, mainly to Curaçao.

Before the outbreak of World War ii there were a handful of Jews in the capital, Georgetown, but there was neither an organized community nor a synagogue. Early in 1939, 165 Jewish refugees from Europe, who arrived on the S.S. Koenigstein, were not permitted to disembark, and shortly thereafter the government barred immigration. However, 130 Jews found refuge in the country during the war years but most of these eventually emigrated.

In 1939, in the wake of the failure of the *Evian Conference on the German refugee problem and in view of Britain's intention to severely restrict Jewish immigration to Palestine (see *White Paper), Britain proposed her crown colony Guiana as a site for Jewish immigration and settlement. Thus, in February 1939, an international investigating committee under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Commission on Refugees, formed at Evian, arrived in the country to explore the proposed area. The land under consideration consisted of approximately 42,000 sq. mi. in the forest and swamp region of the interior. Neither the coastal region, which comprises 4% of the area of British Guiana but holds 90% of the country's population, nor the open region adjacent to it, were included in the proposed area.

The committee stated that although the region was not ideal for the settlement of European immigrants, the quality of the soil, the availability of important minerals, and the climatic and health conditions did not preclude their settlement. The committee proposed a two-year trial period during which 3,000–5,000 sturdy young people with professional training would be sent to the region to test the practicality and the advisability of large-scale investment and development.

Many considered the British plan for Jewish settlement in British Guiana to be a political strategem. They pointed out that the same region was investigated in 1935 by an international commission and found unsuitable for the settlement of 20,000 Assyrians suffering persecution in Iraq. Not only had the commission stated unanimously that the region was unsuitable for settlement, but also its conclusion had been accepted by the British government itself.

However, in May 1939, before British policy on Palestine was officially proclaimed in the White Paper, the British government published the report of its own investigating committee which found British Guiana to be a place for possible settlement. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced that Jewish settlement in British Guiana would bring the establishment of a new community which would enjoy a large measure of autonomy and representation in the government of the colony. The program was described in government circles as a "New Balfour Declaration" and as a plausible alternative to the Jewish National Home in Palestine.

The only Jewish organization which was seriously involved in the British Guiana scheme was the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee on whose behalf Joseph A. *Rosen participated in the inquiry commission.

Relations with Israel

Since April 1967 Israel's ambassador to Colombia has also been non-resident ambassador to Guiana. Out of a desire to mobilize the Arab and Soviet blocs in the international arena, for support of its own conflicts, Guiana formerly adopted a hostile line toward Israel. However, from 1969 relations between the two countries improved substantially. Israel has extended a certain amount of technical assistance to Guiana.

bibliography:

M. Arbell, "The Jewish Settlement in Pomeroon/Pauroma (Guiana), 1657–1666," in: idem, The Jewish Nation of the Caribbean (2003); Report of the British Guiana Refugee Commission… (1939); E. Liebenstein (Livneh), Ha-Teritoryalizm he-Ḥadash (1944), 11–16.

[Aryeh Morgenstern /

Mordecai Arbell (2nd ed.)]

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