While we happily looked at the legendary city of El Dorado after arriving in Guyana on this worldwide tour, today we take a somber twist and discuss the Jonestown Massacre, an event which brought the most international attention to Guyana, following the mass suicide/murder of 909 Peoples Temple cult members:
First, let’s get some background on these folks. The Peoples Temple was founded in 1956 and led by reverend Jim Jones. First established in Indianapolis, Indiana, the church was moved to Redwood Valley, California in 1966. Seeking to build a communistic community, free from the U.S. government’s involvement, the Peoples Temple set up shop in Guyana after buying jungle land from that government in 1973.
As an article about Jones was set to be printed, featuring quotes from ex-Peoples Temple members, the cult leader moved his operation to Guyana, dubbing the compound, Jonestown. Things got off to a rocky start in Jonestown, as there weren’t enough cabins, making those that existed overfilled. Followers were also split up according to gender, separating married couples and families.
The conditions were rough in the humid jungle, where members were required to work long days and rest wasn’t rewarded in the evening, as Jones broadcast his non-stop thoughts over a loudspeaker all through the night. Followers weren’t allowed to leave the armed-guarded compound and escape was futile, given the remote location deep in the bush.
On November 18, 1978, U.S. congressman Leo Ryan, who was visiting Jonestown (along with worried family members of Peoples Temple worshippers and various news crews, reporters, and photographers) after hearing stories about the situation, offered to bring anyone who wanted to leave the compound back with him to America. Only a few followers accepted the proposition, scared of Jones and his power.
As the group was set to leave, a Peoples Temple member attempted to attack Ryan. This let the whole group know they were in danger and they made their way to the nearby airport, but tragically, the planes weren’t ready to take off yet. As the ensemble waited, cult followers opened fire on them, killing five, including Ryan. Ryan’s death made him the first congressman to perish during official government duty.
Jones gathered his worshippers, told them of the attack on Ryan and his group, and warned them of repercussions from the U.S. government. He advocated for a “revolutionary act” of mass suicide and quelled the one objection to the plan. Tubs of a grape-flavoured drink (I never was a fan of grape drink), mixed with cyanide, chloral hydrate, and Valium were brought out and distributed to members – women and children first – with armed guards enforcing everyone to drink the potion.
It only took approximately five minutes for the whole congregation to perish, 303 of which were kids. As for Jones, he died after being shot in the head, although it’s inconclusive if the bullet was self-inflicted or not. Only 33 people (some of them children) survived the whole ordeal, including members who hid within the compound, escaped into the jungle or were part of the group not killed at the airport.
It was later discovered that Jones, referred to as ‘Dad’ by his followers, was addicted to various drugs, which didn’t bode well for his rampant paranoia. Jones had even been arrested in the men’s room of a Los Angeles movie theatre, five years before the tragedy, for soliciting sex from an undercover cop. Although sex was banned (LAME!) at Jonestown, Jones regularly participated in intimate acts with female and male worshippers, saying it was to bring them a closer connection to him.
While the massacre bred the term ‘Drink the Kool-Aid,’ Kool-Aid wasn’t even the refreshing beverage used at all, but a knockoff called Flavor-Aid. I hope the fine makers of Kool-Aid, represented legally by their mascot the Kool-Aid Man, took every person who used the line to court and if they didn’t change their ways, were the recipient of one of Kool-Aid Man’s classic wall crashing “Oh-Yeah’s.”
Today, what was once Jonestown has disappeared back into the jungle landscape, with the buildings destroyed and the plant life overgrowing and dominating the area again. The massacre was the greatest loss of U.S. civilian life (not including natural disasters) until the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Guyana: Hart of Darkness
- 1.5 oz Lemon Hart Rum
- Top with Club Soda
- Splash of Sweet & Sour Mix
- Dash of Passion Fruit Syrup
- Dash of Honey
- Garnish with a Peach Wedge
It’s crazy to think that anyone can be swayed so dramatically as to kill themselves and allow their families to suffer such a horrible fate. Tragically, cults have popped up from time to time across the globe, feasting on the minds of the weak and needy. At least in the Cult of Sip you get frequent doses of booze… join me, won’t you!?
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
This was a very nice martini, but I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I subbed in Lemon-Lime Soda, rather than Club Soda to give it a little more flash and flair. The Lemon Hart Rum is quite nice and will make for many good cocktails in the future.