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The Cooperative Republic of Guyana—formerly the colony of British Guiana—is a country the size of its former colonial master, Great Britain, and slightly bigger than the state of Kansas.
Its northern boundary consists of 250 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean.
Of the country's total area, 86 percent is forest, 10.5 percent is savannah grassland, and 3.5 percent is the coastal belt on which nearly all its people live.
Guyana has a population of about three-quarters of a million people; 50 percent are of East Indian descent and about 30 percent are of African ancestry.
Amerindian, Chinese, Portuguese, and British peoples all have contributed to the cultural heritage of the land.
(The name Amerindian is used to distinguish Guyana's native groups from the immigrant East Indian population.) Primarily because of ambitious missionary activities during the nineteenth century, the Afro-Guyanese are mostly Christian.
In fact, more than half of Guyana's people—regardless of race or ethnicity—are classified as Christian: 18 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, and 16 percent is Anglican.
Of the non-Christian Guyanese, 35 percent Hindu, and 9 percent Muslim. The official language of the country is English, but almost everyone speaks Creolese, a fusion of European and African dialects.
The major religious holidays of each of the three faiths—Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam—are observed nationally. Amerindian dialects and East Indian tongues are spoken as well, and three major Indian languages—Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu—are still in use among the Indo-Guyanese.
Each of a dozen native groups speaks a different Carib, Arawak, or Warrau dialect.
About 91 percent of the Guyanese population is literate—one of the highest rates among new nations of the world.
Guyana's national flag consists of five colors: the green background symbolizes agriculture and forests, the golden arrowhead represents mineral wealth, the white border stands for water resources, and the red triangle edged in black signifies the energy and zeal of the Guyanese in building their nation.
Guyana is an Amerindian word that means "land of [many] waters." The Europeans first used the name to refer to the triangle formed by the Orinoco, Amazon, and Negro rivers.