Martinique (French pronunciation: [maʁtinik]) is an insular
France located in the
Lesser Antilles in the eastern
Caribbean Sea, with a land area of 1,128 square kilometres
(436 sq mi) and a population of 385,551 inhabitants as of
January 2013. Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France,
consisting of a single overseas department. One of the Windward
Islands, it is directly north of Saint Lucia, southeast of Greater
Antilles, northwest of Barbados, and south of Dominica.
As with the other overseas departments,
Martinique is one of the
eighteen regions of
France (being an overseas region) and an integral
part of the République française (French Republic). As part of
Martinique is part of the European Union, and its currency is
the euro. The official language is French, and virtually the entire
population also speaks
Antillean Creole (Créole Martiniquais).
2.1 Pre-European contact
4.1 Flora and fauna
6.2 Ethnic groups
8 In popular culture
9 See also
11 External links
Christopher Columbus landed on 15 June 1502, after a 21-day trade wind
passage, his fastest ocean voyage. He spent three days there refilling
his water casks, bathing and washing laundry.
The island was then called "Jouanacaëra-Matinino", which came from a
mythical island described by the
Tainos of Hispaniola. According to
historian Sydney Daney, the island was called "Jouanacaëra" by the
Caribs, which means "the island of iguanas".
When Columbus landed on the island in 1502, he christened the island
as Martinica. The name then evolved into Madinina ("
Flowers"), Madiana, and Matinite. Finally, through
the influence of the neighboring island of
Dominica (La Dominique), it
came to be known as Martinique.[vague]
Main article: History of Martinique
Saint-Pierre. Before the total destruction of Saint-Pierre in 1902 by
a volcanic eruption, it was the most important city of Martinique
culturally and economically, being known as "the
Paris of the
The island was occupied first by Arawaks, then by Caribs. The Carib
people had migrated from the mainland to the islands about 1201 CE,
according to carbon dating of artifacts. They were largely displaced,
exterminated and assimilated by the Taino, who were resident on the
island in the 1490s.
Martinique was charted by Columbus in 1493, but Spain had little
interest in the territory.
On 15 September 1635, Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, French governor of the
island of St. Kitts, landed in the harbor of St. Pierre with 150
French settlers after being driven off
St. Kitts by the English.
Martinique for the French King
Louis XIII and the
French "Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique" (Company of the American
Islands), and established the first European settlement at Fort
Saint-Pierre (now St. Pierre). D'Esnambuc died in 1636, leaving the
Martinique in the hands of his nephew, Jacques Dyel du
Parquet, who in 1637, became governor of the island.
In 1636, the indigenous Caribs rose against the settlers to drive them
off the island in the first of many skirmishes. The French
successfully repelled the natives and forced them to retreat to the
eastern part of the island, on the Caravelle Peninsula in the region
then known as the Capesterre. When the Carib revolted against French
rule in 1658, the Governor
Charles Houël du Petit Pré retaliated
with war against them. Many were killed; those who survived were taken
captive and expelled from the island. Some Carib had fled to Dominica
or St. Vincent, where the French agreed to leave them at peace.
The attack on the French ships at
Martinique in 1667
Because there were few
Catholic priests in the French Antilles, many
of the earliest French settlers were
Huguenots who sought greater
religious freedom than what they could experience in mainland France.
They were quite industrious and became quite prosperous. Although
edicts from King Louis XIV's court regularly came to the islands to
Protestant "heretics", these were mostly ignored by
island authorities until Louis XIV's Edict of Revocation in 1685.
From September 1686 to early 1688, the French crown used
a threat and a dumping ground for mainland
Huguenots who refused to
reconvert to Catholicism. Over 1,000
Huguenots were transported to
Martinique during this period, usually under miserable and crowded
ship conditions that caused many of them to die en route. Those that
survived the trip were distributed to the island planters as Engagés
(Indentured servants) under the system of serf peonage that prevailed
French Antilles at the time.
As many of the planters on
Martinique were themselves Huguenot, and
who were sharing in the suffering under the harsh strictures of the
Revocation, they began plotting to emigrate from
Martinique with many
of their recently arrived brethren. Many of them were encouraged by
Catholic brethren who looked forward to the departure of the
heretics and seizing their property for themselves. By 1688, nearly
all of Martinique's French
Protestant population had escaped to the
British American colonies or
Protestant countries back home. The
policy decimated the population of
Martinique and the rest of the
French Antilles and set back their colonization by decades, causing
the French king to relax his policies in the islands yet leaving the
islands susceptible to British occupation over the next century.
Jolly Roger flag of pirate Bartholomew Roberts
Under Governor of the
Antilles Charles de Courbon, comte de Blénac,
Martinique served as a home port for French pirates including Captain
Crapeau, Etienne de Montauban, and Mathurin Desmarestz. In later
Bartholomew Roberts styled his jolly roger as a black
flag depicting a pirate standing on two skulls labeled "ABH" and "AMH"
for "A Barbadian's Head" and "A Martinican's Head", after Governors of
those two islands sent warships to capture Roberts.
The Battle of
Martinique between British and French fleets in 1779
Martinique was occupied several times by the British including once
Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War and twice during the Napoleonic Wars.
Britain controlled the island almost continuously from 1794–1815,
when it was traded back to
France at the conclusion of the Napoleonic
Martinique has remained a French possession since then.
As sugar prices declined in the early 1800s, the planter class lost
political influence. In 1848,
Victor Schoelcher persuaded the French
government to end slavery in the French West Indies.
On 8 May 1902,
Mont Pelée erupted and completely destroyed St.
Pierre, killing 30,000 people. Due to the eruption refugees from
Martinique arrived in boats to the southern villages of
some remaining permanently on the island. In
Martinique the only
survivor in the town of Saint-Pierre, Auguste Cyparis, was saved by
the thick walls of his prison cell. Shortly thereafter the capital
shifted to Fort-de-France, where it remains today.
During WWII, the Vichy government controlled
Guadeloupe. German U-boats used
Martinique for refueling and re-supply
during the Battle of the Caribbean. In 1942, 182 ships were sunk in
the Caribbean, dropping to 45 in 1943, and 5 in 1944. Free French
forces took over on the island on Bastille Day, 14 July 1943, as
Admiral Robert fled.
In 1946, the French National Assembly voted unanimously to transform
the colony into an Overseas Department of France. In 1974, it became
simply a Department.
In 2009, the French
Caribbean general strikes exposed deep ethnic, and
class tensions and disparities within Martinique.
Main article: Politics of Martinique
Together with Guadeloupe, La Réunion,
Mayotte and French Guiana,
Martinique is one of the Overseas Departments of France. It is also an
outermost region of the European Union. The inhabitants of Martinique
are French citizens with full political and legal rights. Martinique
sends four deputies to the French National Assembly and two senators
to the French Senate.
January 24, 2010, during a referendum, the Inhabitants of Martinique
approved in 68.4% the passage in a " unique(only) community ", within
the framework of the article 73 of the Constitution, this one replaces
and exercises the skills of the General Council and the regional
A map of
Martinique showing the island's four arrondissements
Arrondissements of the
Communes of the Martinique department and Cantons
Martinique is divided into four arrondissements, 34 communes, and 45
cantons. The four arrondissements of the island, with their respective
locations, are as follows:
France is the sole prefecture of Martinique. It takes up the
central zone of the island. It includes four communes and sixteen
cantons. In 2013 the population was 161,021. Besides the capital,
it includes the communities of Saint-Joseph and Schœlcher.
La Trinité is one of the three subprefectures on the island and
occupies the northeast region. It has ten communes and eleven cantons.
In 2013 the population was 81,475. La Trinité contains the
communities of La Trinité, Ajoupa-Bouillon, Basse-Pointe, Le
Gros-Morne, Le Lorrain, Macouba, Le Marigot,
Le Robert and
Le Marin, the second subprefecture of Martinique, makes up the
southern part of the island and is composed of twelve communes and
thirteen cantons. In 2013 the population was 119,653. The
subprefecture includes the communities of La Marin, Les Anses d'Arlet,
Le Diamant, Ducos, Le François, Rivière-Pilote, Rivière-Salée,
Sainte-Anne, Sainte-Luce, Saint-Esprit,
Les Trois-Îlets and Le
Saint-Pierre is the third subprefecture of the island. It comprises
eight communes and five cantons, lying in the northwest of Martinique.
In 2013 the population was 23,402. Together with Saint-Pierre, its
communities include Le Carbet, Case-Pilote-Bellefontaine, Le
Morne-Rouge and Le Prêcheur.
Main article: Geography of Martinique
A map of Martinique
Part of the archipelago of the Antilles,
Martinique is located in the
Caribbean Sea about 450 km (280 mi) northeast of the coast
South America and about 700 km (435 mi) southeast of the
Dominican Republic. It is directly north of St. Lucia, northwest of
Barbados, southeast of both
Puerto Rico and
Dominican Republic and
south of Dominica.
The total area of
Martinique is 1,100 square kilometres
(420 sq mi), of which 40 square kilometres
(15 sq mi) is water and the rest land.
Martinique is the 3rd
largest island in The
Lesser Antilles after
Trinidad and Guadeloupe.
It stretches 70 km (43 mi) in length and 30 km
(19 mi) in width. The highest point is the volcano of Mont Pelée
at 1,397 metres (4,583 ft) above sea level.
The island is volcanic in origin, lying along the subduction fault
South American Plate
South American Plate slides beneath the
Martinique has eight different centers of volcanic activity. The
oldest rocks are andesitic lavas dated to about 24 million years ago,
mixed with tholeiitic magma containing iron and magnesium. Mont
Pelée, the island's most dramatic feature, formed about 400,000 years
ago. Pelée erupted in 1792, 1851, and twice in 1902. The
eruption of 8 May 1902, destroyed Saint-Pierre and killed 28,000
people in 2 minutes; that of 30 August 1902 caused nearly 1,100
deaths, mostly in Morne-Red and Ajoupa-Bouillon. 
The Atlantic, or "windward" coast of
Martinique is difficult for the
navigation of ships. A combination of coastal cliffs, shallow coral
reefs and cays, and strong winds make the area a notoriously hazardous
zone for sea traffic. The peninsula of Caravelle clearly separates the
north Atlantic and south Atlantic coast.
The Caribbean, or "leeward" coast of
Martinique is much more favorable
to sea traffic. In addition to being shielded from the harsh Atlantic
trade winds by the island, it also descends steeply from the shore.
This ensures most potential hazards are too deep underwater to be an
issue and also prevents the growth of corals that could otherwise pose
a threat to passing ships.
A tropical forest near Fond St-Denis
Les Salines, wide sand beach at the south eastern end of the island
The north of the island is mountainous. It features four ensembles of
pitons (volcanoes) and mornes (mountains): the Piton Conil on the
extreme North, which dominates the
Dominica Channel; Mont Pelée, an
active volcano; the Morne Jacob; and the Pitons du Carbet, an ensemble
of five extinct volcanoes covered with rainforest and dominating the
Bay of Fort de
France at 1,196 metres (3,924 ft). Mont Pelée's
volcanic ash has created gray and black sand beaches in the north (in
particular between Anse Ceron and Anse des Gallets), contrasting
markedly from the white sands of Les Salines in the south.
The south is more easily traversed, though it still features some
impressive geographic features. Because it is easier to travel and
because of the many beaches and food facilities throughout this
region, the south receives the bulk of the tourist traffic. The
beaches from Pointe de Bout, through Diamant (which features right off
the coast of Roche de Diamant), St. Luce, the department of St. Anne
and down to Les Salines are popular.
Flora and fauna
The northern end of the island catches most of the rainfall and is
heavily forested, featuring species such as bamboo, mahogany, rosewood
and locust. The south is drier and dominated by savanna-like brush,
including cacti, Copaiba balsam, logwood and acacia.
Anole lizards and fer-de-lance snakes are native to the island.
Mongooses (Herpestes auropunctatus), introduced in the 1800s to
control the snake population, have become a particularly cumbersome
introduced species as they prey upon bird eggs and have
exterminated or endangered a number of native birds, including the
Martinique trembler, white-breasted trembler and white-breasted
Main article: Economy of Martinique
Martinique had a total
GDP of 5.496 billion euros. In 2000
its per capita
GDP was 14,283 euros. In that year services constituted
82.2% of GDP, while industry represented 8.6% and agriculture 3.5%. In
2002, the island exported 26 million euros-worth of goods, primarily
fruit, beverages and refined petroleum products. It imported 486
million euros-worth of goods, including vehicles, furniture, medicine
and raw petroleum (used in the island's refinery).
Historically, Martinique's economy relied on agriculture, but by the
beginning of the 21st century this sector had dwindled considerably.
Sugar production has declined, with most of the sugarcane now used for
the production of rum. Banana exports are increasing, going mostly to
mainland France. The bulk of meat, vegetable and grain requirements
must be imported. This contributes to a chronic trade deficit that
requires large annual transfers of aid from mainland France.
All goods entering
Martinique are charged a variable "sea toll" which
may reach 30% of the value of the cargo and provides 40% of the
island's total revenue. Additionally the government charges an "annual
due" of 1–2.5% and a value added tax of 2.2–8.5%.
Tourism has become more important than agricultural exports as a
source of foreign exchange. In 2000, the island hosted 500,000
tourists, and the tourism industry employed 7% of the total workforce.
Roughly 16% of the total businesses on the island (some 6,000
companies) provide tourist-related services.
Transportation in Martinique
Transportation in Martinique and Communications in
Martinique's main and only airport with commercial flights is
Aimé Césaire International Airport. It serves flights to
and from Europe, the Caribbean, Venezuela, the United States, and
Canada. See List of airports in Martinique.
France is the major harbor. The island has regular ferry
service to Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia,
Les Saintes and Marie
Galante. There are also several local ferry companies that
France with Pointe du Bout.
The road network is extensive and well-maintained, with freeways in
the area around Fort-de-France. Buses run frequently between the
capital and St. Pierre.
The country code top-level domain for
Martinique is .mq, but
often used instead. The country code for international dialling is
596. The entire island uses a single area code (also 596) for landline
phones and 696 for cell phones. (596 would be dialled twice if calling
Martinique landline from another country.)
Main article: Demographics of Martinique
Martinique had a population of 385,551 as of January 2013. There
are an estimated 260,000 people of Martinican origin living in
mainland France, most of them in the
Paris region. Emigration was
highest in the 1970s, causing population growth to almost stop, but it
is comparatively light today.
Official figures from past censuses and
The population of
Martinique is mainly of African descent, but also
includes people whose ancestry is French, Amerindian (Carib),
Indo-Martiniquais (descendants of 19th century immigrants from India),
Lebanese or Chinese.
Martinique also has a small Syro-Lebanese
community, a small but increasing Chinese community, and the Béké
community, descendants of the first French and Spanish settlers, who
still dominate parts of the agricultural and trade sectors of the
economy. Whites in total represent 5% of the population.
Béké population (which totals around 1% of Martinique's
population, most of them being of aristocratic origin by birth or
after buying the title) generally live in mansions on the Atlantic
coast of the island (mostly in the François – Cap Est district). In
addition to the island population, the island hosts a metropolitan
French community, most of which lives on the island on a temporary
basis (generally from 3 to 5 years).
The official language is French, which is spoken by virtually the
entire population. In addition, most residents can also speak
Martiniquan Creole, a form of
Antillean Creole closely related to the
varieties spoken in neighboring English-speaking islands of Saint
Lucia and Dominica. Martiniquan Creole is based on French, Carib and
African languages with elements of English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
It continues to be used in oral storytelling traditions and other
forms of speech and to a lesser extent in writing.
Use of Creole is predominant among friends and close family. Though it
is normally not used in professional situations, members of the media
and politicians have begun to use it more frequently as a way to
redeem national identity and prevent cultural assimilation by mainland
France. Indeed, unlike other varieties of French creole such as
Mauritian Creole, Martinican Creole is not readily understood by
speakers of Standard French due to significant differences in grammar,
syntax, vocabulary and pronunciation, though over the years it has
progressively adapted features of Standard French.
An estimated 90% of residents are Roman Catholic; 5% are Hindu and
another 5% practice other faiths, including Protestantism, African
belief systems, Judaism, or are non-religious.
Martinique dancers in traditional dress
Main article: Culture of Martinique
As an overseas département of France, Martinique's culture blends
Caribbean influences. The city of Saint-Pierre (destroyed
by a volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée), was often referred to as the
Paris of the Lesser Antilles". Following traditional French custom,
many businesses close at midday to allow a lengthy lunch, then reopen
later in the afternoon.
Martinique has a higher standard of living than most other
Caribbean countries. French products are easily available, from Chanel
fashions to Limoges porcelain. Studying in the métropole (mainland
France, especially Paris) is common for young adults.
been a vacation hotspot for many years, attracting both upper-class
French and more budget-conscious travelers.
Martinique has a hybrid cuisine, mixing elements of African, French,
Carib Amerindian and South Asian traditions. One of its most famous
dishes is the Colombo (compare Tamil word kuzhambu for gravy or
broth), a unique curry of chicken (curry chicken), meat or fish with
vegetables, spiced with a distinctive masala of Tamil origins, sparked
with tamarind, and often containing wine, coconut milk, cassava and
rum. A strong tradition of Martiniquan desserts and cakes incorporate
pineapple, rum, and a wide range of local ingredients.
See also: Music of Martinique
Martinique has a large popular music industry, which gained in
international renown after the success of zouk music in the later 20th
century. Zouk's popularity was particularly intense in France, where
the genre became an important symbol of identity for
Guadeloupe. Zouk's origins are in the folk music of
Guadeloupe, especially Martinican chouval bwa, and Guadeloupan gwo ka.
There's also notable influence of the pan-
Caribbean calypso tradition
and Haitian kompa.
In popular culture
Les Anses d'Arlet
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In 1887, the artist
Paul Gauguin lived in Martinique. Gauguin painted
the tropical landscape and the native women. The Paul Gauguin
Interpretation Centre (former Gauguin Museum) is dedicated to his stay
on the island.
Martinique is the main setting of the 1944 film To Have and Have Not
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
Caridad Bravo Adams wrote Corazon Salvaje (published in
1957), which was set in Martinique.
Martinique was featured in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair,
and in the movie
Sugar Cane Alley (1983).
Much of the 1979 Italian thriller
Concorde Affaire '79
Concorde Affaire '79 took place on
and around the island.
In Assassin's Creed III, Benjamin Church was trying to escape from
Boston to get away from Haytham Kenway and Ratonhnhaké: ton until
they caught him in Martinique.
Martinique is the main setting of Patrick Chamoiseau's novel Solibo
Martinique is referenced frequently in Jean Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso
Sea (1966) as the previous home of the protagonist's mother and
Aimé Césaire's seminal poem, Cahier d'un retour au pays natal
(Notebook of a Return to the Native Land), envisions the poet's
imagined journey back to his homeland
Martinique to find it in a state
of colossal poverty and psychological inferiority due to the French
Lafcadio Hearn in 1890 published an extraordinary travel book titled
Two Years in the French West Indies, in which
Sketches] is its main topic; his descriptions of the island, people
and history are lively observations of life before the Mont Pelèe
eruption in 1902 that would change the island forever. The Library of
America republished his works in 2009 entitled Hearn: American
John Edgar Wideman
John Edgar Wideman is a travel memoir of a
black man visiting "a place built on slavery" and a "deeply personal
journal of his romance with a Frenchwoman" (2003, National Geographic
Alya Césaire from
Miraculous Ladybug is from Martinique.
Island by Rex Bestle. Based on the volcanic eruption of
Mount Pelee on May 8, 1902, killing 30,000 people and destroying the
town of St. Pierre.
Martinique on the Gulf is a small beach house resort in Gulf Shores,
Alabama. Its architecture reflects that of the islands.
Carolly Erickson's 2007 romance novel, The Secret Life of Josephine:
Napoleon's Bird of Paradise takes place in 18th century
Martinique and France.
Caribbean general strikes
Bibliography of Martinique
Index of Martinique-related articles
Le Tour de Yoles Rondes de Martinique
List of colonial and departmental heads of Martinique
Regional Council of Martinique
^ "Mot du Président de l'Exécutif".
^ a b c d e f g INSEE. "Recensement de la population en
385 551 habitants au 1er janvier 2013" (in French). Retrieved 21 May
^ INSEE, Produits intérieurs bruts régionaux et valeurs ajoutées
régionales de 1990 à 2012, retrieved 4 March 2014
^ Baker, Colin; Jones, Sylvia Prys (1998), Encyclopedia of
Bilingualism and Bilingual Education, p. 390,
^ Morison, Samuel (1942). Admiral of the Ocean Sea. Boston: Little,
Brown and Company. pp. 588–589. ISBN 9780316584784.
^ Sweeney, James L. (March 2004), "Caribs, Maroons, Jacobins,
Sugar Barons: The Last Stand of the Black Caribs on St.
Vincent" (PDF), African Diaspora Archaeology Network, retrieved 26
April 2004 [permanent dead link]
^ History of the Huguenot Migration to America,
^ Gasser, Jacques (1992–1993). "De la mer des
Antilles à l'océan
Indien (From the
Caribbean Sea to the Indian Ocean)". Bulletin du
Cercle généalogique de Bourbon (Bulletin of the Bourbon Genealogical
Circle). 38-41. Retrieved 31 August 2017. French language
original, as reprinted in Le Diable Volant : Une histoire de la
flibuste : de la mer des
Antilles à l'océan Indien (1688-1700)
/ ('The Flying Devil : A History of the Filibusters : From
Antilles to the Indian Ocean (1688-1700)').
^ Little, Benerson (2016). The Golden Age of Piracy: The Truth Behind
Pirate Myths. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
ISBN 9781510713048. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
^ a b c d e f g h Ver Berkmoes, Ryan; et al. (2008),
(print)format= requires url= (help) (5th ed.), Lonely Planet
^ a b c d Baker, Christopher; et al. (2009),
requires url= (help) (1st ed.), Eyewitness Travel
^ Hubbard, Vincent (2002). A History of St. Kitts. Macmillan
Caribbean. pp. 136–139. ISBN 9780333747605.
^ "Race, class fuel social conflict on French
Agence France-Presse (AFP), retrieved 17 February 2009 [dead
^ Atlas of the World (10th ed.). National Geographic. p. 6.
^ Explore Volcanoes: Mount Pelée,
Martinique (web), Maple Creative,
^ Scarth, Alwyn (2002), La Catastrophe (print)format= requires url=
^ Notes, Nature (print)format= requires url= (help), 66 (1714),
^ Global Invasive Species Database:Martinique
^ a b c Informations Economie Martinique, archived from the original
on 28 May 2007, retrieved 15 September 2013
Martinique Telephones, IIWINC, 2013, retrieved 23 April 2013
^ Martinique: People: Ethnic Groups. World Factbook of CIA
^ Béatrice Gurrey et Benoît Hopquin (28 February 2009),
"Békés : Une affaire d'héritage", Le Monde (in French)
^ Ledesma and Scaramuzzo, pp. 289–303
Martinique : the island of flowers – Official French website
Martinique – Official site
Regional Council of Martinique
Regional Council of Martinique – Official site
Martinique at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
Wikimedia Atlas of Martinique
One Girl One World Guide to
Martinique – Travel Blog about
Martinique Tourism Authority – Official site
Martinique – Informations site
Martinique travel guide from Wikivoyage
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