Saint-Laurent du Maroni City of Art and History

It was on the 23 August 1857 that Commander Mélinon established an agricultural penal colony, and it was named Saint-Laurent du Maroni in 1858. In 1880 it became the first ever French penal community. Over the years, the Guyanese penal colony has received 70,000 political prisoners and convicts from the French mainland, as well as captives from the colonies. Once arrived in Saint-Laurent du Maroni, convicts were sent to different camps known as annexes located in the penitentiary or to the Iles du Salut.

Besides this historic colonial establishment on Guyanese soil, the Maroni Basin is also a safe haven for the Bushinengue and the Amerindians. The estuary is populated by the Kali’na and Lokono Amerindians. Further upstream is the home of the descendants of slaves who managed to escape from the plantations, the Bushinengue: the Paramaka, the Ndjuka and the Boni as well as the Amerindians (Wayana, Teko and Tilio). Saint-Laurent was later destined to become an important trading post during the 1880-1888 Haut-Maroni gold rush. People from all over came to live and trade in the colonial village from the Antilles and China via Surinam.

It was only in 1946 when the prisons were closed down that the local populations of Amerindians, Bushinengue and gold diggers came to inhabit the city, which then became a sous-prefecture of the Guiana département. Migrants then started coming from further afield: the French mainland, Surinam and Guiana, Haiti, Brazil and China. The already cosmopolitan city became even more so in 1979 with the arrival of the Hmongs from Laos who settled in Javouhey.

An exceptional heritage

Since 2007, Saint-Laurent du Maroni has held the City of Art and History label. This label distinguishes Saint-Laurent du Maroni, whose beauty are revealed throughout its districts though a buit and natural heritage. Saint-Laurent du Maroni has 11 buidings registered or classified as historical monuments. Among them, the Transportation Camp, the Town Hall, the former house of the Director of the Prison, the current residence of the Subprefect, the former hospital, etc. In addition to these listed buildings, the city os full of architectural details that you can observe throughout your walks, even at the bend of more recent constructions.


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