The descendants of the African slaves are known as Maroons and Creoles. The Maroons’ ancestors were African slaves who escaped from the coastal area’s sugarcane and tobacco plantations between the mid-17th and late 18th centuries and started a new life in the forest. After nearly 500 years of fighting, the Maroons’ independence was eventually recognised with the signing of a peace treaty with the Dutch in 1760. The treaty allowed them to occupy a large part of the interior of Suriname which has been their homeland ever since. The Maroons gained their independence over 100 years before the African slave trade was finally abolished in the rest of the world in 1863. The Creoles are descended mainly from slaves who did not manage to escape from the plantations.
Left in peace and isolated from the rest of the country, the Maroons held true to their traditional West African cultural heritage. Today, small communities still follow animist beliefs and have matrilineal family structures where children take their mother’s surname. To visit a Maroon village is to step back in time and be transported to West Africa as it was in the 18th century.