Members of the local Guyanese community are flying the South American country's flag high at Winnipeg City Hall on Thursday.

Guyana won autonomy 50 years ago today, after more than 150 years under British rule.

Sandra Sukhan, honorary consul for Guyana to Manitoba, said there was a lot of violence in her country during the decade leading up to its independence.

Guyana flag raising ceremony Winnipeg

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman is flanked by officials with the city and representatives from Manitoba's Guyanese community at City Hall Thursday at a flag raising ceremony. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

"It was probably the most turbulent time in Guyana's history — it had a very painful history of colonization," Sukhan said.

Sukhan, who was 12 when the country became independent, still has vivid memories from the early '60s of building fires, "smoke in the sky" and British soldiers driving through the streets in Land Rovers. Sukhan said although she didn't quite grasp what was happening, she knew something was wrong.

"The British spent a lot of time dividing us along racial lines, and so suddenly people who were your neighbours were no longer your friends," she said.

That rift imposed on the people hit home for Sukhan's family, which employed a nanny of a different race.

Sandra Sukhan

Sandra Sukhan moved to Manitoba from Guyana when she was 16, four years after the country gained independence. She is the author of In Search of the Blue Lotus: A Feminist Counter-Narrative to the Dominant Hegemonic Discourse. (CBC)

"There were these hidden rules of what you could or couldn't do, and people kind of understood them," she said. "But we didn't live that. In the area we lived.… It was hard for us to understand, for me anyway, who was black, who was Indian, who was family, who was not family."

On May 26, 1966,the country set off down a path of independence and toward developing a new cultural identity.

"People were waving their flag; we had a new flag to fly, we had a new country. It was a sense of pride," she said.

Four years later as a 16-year-old, Sukhan moved to Winnipeg to marry her husband as part of an arranged marriage. Almost 50 years have passed and the couple is still married.

Members of the Guyanese Cultural Organization and Guyanese Association of Manitoba raised the country's flag at city hall with Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman and others at 9 a.m. Thursday.


Sukhan is the author of In Search of the Blue Lotus: A Feminist Counter-Narrative to the Dominant Hegemonic Discourse, a book that touches on Guyana's fight for independence.