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Surinam: Fort Zeelandia

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Fort Zeelandia | Surinam | Americas

[Visited: July 2007]

Right on the bank of the Suriname River, Fort Zeelandia is a clear reminder of the colonial history of Surinam and proof of the complexity of that history. Originally, the French built a wooden fort here, around a Dutch trading post, and when the British took over, they reinforced it and called it Fort Willoughby. In 1667, the Dutch retook it and renamed it Fort Zeelandia, and later reinforced it further. It provided protection against invaders for Paramaribo and the plantations on the Suriname River. When the French successfully attacked the fort, the Dutch built another fort, Fort Nieuw Amsterdam. Fort Zeelandia was turned into a barracks, and later a prison.

Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): View on Fort Zeelandia from below

Much later, in 1967, the fort was restored and turned into the Surinam Museum, but in 1982 Bouterses soldiers entered the fort to live in it. It was again used as a prison, holding political adversaries, among them lawyers, journalists and trade union leaders, of Bouterse; 15 of them were executed on the courtyard of Fort Zeelandia during the so-called December murders. Only in 1995 Fort Zeelandia was reestablished as a museum, and renovated again in 2004. From the outside, the fort looks like a charming Dutch-style building, and nothing reminds the visitor of the sometimes bloody history of this place.

Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): View on the small courtyard of Fort Zeelandia

Fort Zeelandia is a pentagonal structure, with a defensive bastion on all five corners. In the middle of the fort, you will find a courtyard with a 5-pointed star, and several buildings, some formerly used as warehouses, one holding an example of a 19th century pharmacy. It is possible to walk around most of the fort, and the views of the Suriname River are good. The museum gives a good explanation of the history of the country and the original interior of the fort. When you exit the fort, you will see a statue of Queen Wilhelmina looking out over the Suriname River - another reminder of the colonial history of this country.

Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): Queen Wilhelmina and exterior of Fort Zeelandia
Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): Outside wall of Fort Zeelandia
Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): Suriname river and Fort Zeelandia in the foreground
Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): View on the courtyard of Fort Zeelandia
Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): Building of Fort Zeelandia
Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): Old pharmacy in Fort Zeelandia
Picture of Fort Zeelandia (Surinam): Looking at Fort Zeelandia from below

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