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No settlement, however, resulted from this early exploration.Between 15, English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh—who dreamed of "El Dorado" (the mythical land of gold)—led three expeditions to the Guyanese territory.Similar settlements sprang up along the Berbice, Demerara, and Pomeroon rivers.The Berbice district became a separate territory in 1732, and a Demerara district was established in 1741.But during his voyage to the New World in 1498, Columbus only viewed the land's low-lying tropical shore.It was not until 1499 that Alonso de Ojeda became the first Spaniard to actually set foot on the land that would later be known as Guyana.The major religious holidays of each of the three faiths—Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam—are observed nationally. Amerindian dialects and East Indian tongues are spoken as well, and three major Indian languages—Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu—are still in use among the Indo-Guyanese.
The British used "Guiana"—an English spelling of the same Amerindian name—to refer to their New World colony.About 91 percent of the Guyanese population is literate—one of the highest rates among new nations of the world.Guyana's national flag consists of five colors: the green background symbolizes agriculture and forests, the golden arrowhead represents mineral wealth, the white border stands for water resources, and the red triangle edged in black signifies the energy and zeal of the Guyanese in building their nation.In 1781 war broke out between the Dutch and the British over ownership of the colony, resulting in a year of British control over Guyana.In 1782 the French seized power and governed for two years, during which time they created the new town of Longchamps at the mouth of the Demerara River.
The Caribs roamed the heavily forested regions of the interior.