Why was Jonestown established in a remote area of the small South American country of Guyana?

There were several factors which led to the decision to place the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project in Guyana: it is an English-speaking country in the Western Hemisphere with a large black population and – at the time – a socialist government. There was one other place that met those criteria – the island nation of Grenada in the Caribbean – and while Temple leaders did pursue that option, it didn’t work out, mainly because Grenada’s government got a better offer for the land the under consideration.

Once the Temple focused on Guyana, there were additional reasons for locating it in the Northwest District, and not just because Jim Jones wanted a bit more isolation where he couldn’t be reached as easily. The site was located in an area which Venezuela had claimed in the past and where the boundary between the two countries was still in dispute. By agreeing to place a community of 1000 Americans there, Guyana was not only declaring its sovereignty over the area, but it upped the ante in any challenge Venezuela might make to the claim: by putting a bunch of Americans in harm’s way, Guyana’s Prime Minister Forbes Burnham knew – as did Venezuela – that any incursions by Venezuela would suddenly constitute a threat to the citizens of one of the world’s superpowers.

In short, the agreement was a political deal between Burnham and Jones, two leaders working out an arrangement that benefited them both.

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