GEORGETOWN, GUYANA — When Frank McLean touched down at Cheddi Jagan International Airport at the start of the week, he couldn’t believe he was home. “I’m here but it’s like I am not here. I remembered where my school was and I had to walk by it to really realize that I am here in Guyana,” McLean exclaims.
The 61-year-old Queens, New York resident left Guyana four decades ago and has not returned to the country of his birth until now to celebrate the nation’s 50th anniversary of independence. “I have a phobia of flying but I am a Guyanese to the bone. I am a Guyanese to the core and I couldn’t miss this,” he says.
McLean is one of thousands who have traveled to Guyana from the United States — home to the largest population of Guyanese people outside of Guyana — for the country’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. “This event is so significant. For me, it’s similar to having President Obama as the president of the United States. It will never happen again. I had to be here,” says McLean.
Guyana, which is located on the northern coast of South America between Venezuela and Suriname, gained its independence from Great Britain on May 26, 1966. The country became a republic four years later. Its official name is the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. It is the only English-speaking country on mainland South America as well as the only Commonwealth or Anglophone Caribbean country on the continent.
When Guyana gained its independence, Lynette Layne-Emesibe was just a teenager, but says she understood why the country’s struggle for sovereignty was so important. “This is an occasion that could not be missed because when we became independent, we created one national identity from the six that make up our people,” she says.