One of the most surprising experiences while shopping on the market in Moengo is the absence of fruit. Yes, there are mango’s, and bananas, but that’s it. When we want fruit, we are advised, ask bus driver Artur to stop at a fruit stall
on the East/ West highway. How come there is no fruit in Moengo? In Paramaribo the market is full of all kinds of exotic produce. Don’t the maroon like fruit?
Artur smiles. We like fruit. There used to be lots of fruit. But now, all fruit is sold
in st Laurent. On the French side. People take the fruit from their trees and their kostgrondje (allotment) there. They get much more money for it than in Moengo. And, just as important: they get Euros. Hard currency.
Euro’s? Yes, east of Surinam
lies French Guyana. The river .. forms a natural border. Border town is Albina, a village on the road to Paramaribo. Albina is only half an hours drive from Moengo. There is an official border crossing, but nobody uses it. Everybody uses the korjalen
(traditional boats) from Albina to cross the river to st Laurent. Illegally, no passport is ever shown. Which is surprising since French Guyana is part of Europe and therefore of the European union. Prices in French Guyana are at European level: twice
that of Surinam. That’s why it is lucrative and traffic is both ways: Surinamese selling goods in French Guyana, French Guyanese buying in Suriname. Everybody is carrying big bags, jerry cans with petrol, car tires, you name it and avoiding taxes.
This apparently is ok with both governments. Boats could be stopped easily. But we have seen no police.
So the absence of fruit makes sense. At the same time it is sad that you change your diet for monetary reasons. It is a sign of poverty, only
more hidden. And a sign of an underlying problem: most maroon people still use the strategy of survival. The smuggling keeps the traders on the ‘hossel’. They don’t build a living that is independent and sustainable. As well the trade
is not fortifying either state and promotes ‘cleverness’ over education. Because in the slipsteam of this the job of errant boy has come into existence: boys in the age from 8 tot 16, who help people carry their stuff from and to the
market and to the cars. These boys come from Albina, and skip school to make some euros. Not because they don’t like education. Most of them coming from single parent families, it is also expected from them to help out. In st Laurent, Europe, mothers
get child support and welfare. Child labor is not necessary. When they shop, their children are enjoying school. The forbidden fruit is not only sweet.