Guyana is a nation in South America's northeastern region. Before the arrival of the Europeans, indigenous peoples called the region Guyana, which means "land of water" in English. Guyana's current state reflects both its past as a British and Dutch colony and its responses to it. It is the only country in South America that speaks English. Since Guyana's independence in 1966, its natural resources, particularly its pristine rainforests, sugarcane plantations, rice fields, and bauxite and gold reserves, have been the nation's key economic assets. Guyana remained one of South America's poorest nations despite its wealth until the early twenty-first century. Still, in 2015, the first of a string of wealthy oil discoveries radically transformed the country's economic fortunes. Deepwater oil field finds on the Stabroek Block off the coast of Guyana. According to some geographers, Guyana is a part of the Caribbean, including the West Indies and the South American mainland's Guyana, Belize, Suriname, and French Guiana. Georgetown serves as both Guyana's capital and largest port.
Most of Guyana's population is of colonial descent. However, there are a few Indians in the country's interior forests. The more abundant coastal populations are primarily descended from enslaved people brought to the region from Africa and indentured laborers from India who were employed on the region's sugarcane plantations as enslaved people. In Guyanese society, ethnic conflicts between the last two groups have caused disruption.
Suriname (along the Courantyne River) and the Atlantic Ocean border Guyana north and south, respectively. The east, Venezuela to the west, and Brazil to the south and southwest. As a result of colonial control, Guyana is embroiled in territorial disputes with Suriname and Venezuela. The New River Triangle, a 6,000 square mile (15,600 square km) region in southern Guyana between two tributaries of the Courantyne River, is still claimed by Suriname despite a long-standing maritime border dispute between the two countries being resolved by an international tribunal in 2007.
The country's Atlantic coast's slender plain has seen significant human modification. Several canals and approximately 140 miles (225 km) of dikes have helped to recapture most of the region from the sea, despite only being about 10 miles (16 km) broad at its widest point. The coastline Canals that divide the plain from interior marshes typically identify the plain's inland edge.
The Courantyne, Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo are Guyana's four principal rivers, and they all originate in the south and empty into the Atlantic Ocean along the country's eastern coast. The Potaro, the Mazaruni, and the Cuyuni are Essequibo tributaries that drain the northwest, while the Rupununi drains the southern savanna. The Pomeroon, Mahaica, Mahaicony, and Abary are shorter rivers that cut across the shore.