The Chinese arrive on the Wild Coast

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Chinese Store

Across the Guianas, there have been Chinese immigrants since the 1830s. They were orginally brought in as labourers (or Coolies), and even today in Guyana they make up 0.2% of the population.

It's been a curious relationship with the locals. In French Guiana,

they were traditionally loyal to France (it's said that the Chinese were the only ones to declare holidays when France was finally liberated in 1945). These days, the old Chinese keep a low profile; they play majong on the streets on little stools; they sell hardware and nick-nacks (machetes, hammock, butterfliess and dried spiders). They also run all the internet cafés in Cayenne, and there's even a 'Patisserie Hong Kong' (where the café au lait tastes like melted snickers).

But across the Guianas, things are also changing, with the arrival of the New Chinese. In Suriname, its said that 10,000 have arrived in the last ten years. In French Guiana too there has been a huge influx of new immigrants, often much resented by the locals, especially as they begin to dominate the retail sector (with supermarkets like Proxi). Perhaps the local criminals sense weakness here, and - in Kourou - there are, on average, two armed robberies a day, mostly directed at the Chinese who run the stores. The idea of 'Chinese Guiana' may be a long way off, but nonethless, les Guyanais aren't happy.

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