About Martinique


 

 

 

Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, having a land area of 1,128 km². It is an overseas department of France. As with the other overseas departments, Martinique is also one of the twenty-six regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the Republic. As part of France, Martinique is part of the European Union, and its currency is the euro. Its official language is French, although almost all of its inhabitants also speak Antillean Creole (Créole Martiniquais). Martinique is pictured on all euro banknotes, on the reverse at the bottom of each note, right of the Greek ΕΥΡΩ (EURO) next to the denomination.

 

 

 

 

Before European colonization, Martinique was inhabited by at least two waves of amerindian settlements. Initially, Arawak tribes lived on the island, of which only traces were found. At the time of European colonization, the Carib Indians had taken over the island.

The island was under Britain's command during the Seven Years' War from 1762 to 1763; during the French Revolutionary Wars from 1794 to 1802; and again during the Napoleonic wars from 1809 to 1814. The last British governor was General Sir Charles Wale.

Napoleon's wife, Joséphine, was born in Martinique to a family of the wealthy Creole elite. The ruins of the Habitation de la Pagerie where she spent her childhood can still be visited in Trois-Ilets, across the bay from Fort-de-France, the island's capital.

During the French Revolution, severe conflicts rapidly broke out, developing into civil war. In 1789, a slave rebellion was put down. The following year open war broke out when monarchists, who wanted freedom from revolutionary France, massacred troops faithful to the Parisian revolutionary government. The royalist faction gained the upper hand in 1791 and declared the independence of Martinique followed by refusal to grant rights to the free people of colour. In 1793, the republican-Parisian faction gained support from the revolutionary government in Saint Lucia, which prompted the monarchists to invite British occupation in 1794.

Slavery was banned in 1848. People from India and China were brought to work the sugar cane plantations.

Mount Pelée erupted in 1902, killing 26,000 to 36,000 people and destroying Saint-Pierre.

During World War II the island was controlled by the Vichy regime from 1940-1943; later it was under the Free French Forces.

An important role in the independence movement was played by Aimé Césaire, a famous poet and essayist. Martinique was the home of Frantz Fanon (July 20, 1925 – December 6, 1961), an author, essayist, psychoanalyst, and anti-colonialist revolutionary, who was strongly influenced by Césaire.

Political parties include the Progressive Party of Martinique, Socialists, Communists, Union for French Democracy, Rally for the Republic and several small left-wing parties. A small independence movement exists but most people prefer greater autonomy without total independence from France.

In 1988 Martinique voted for the Socialist François Mittérand for president and in the 1995 elections the island remained socialist. In the second round the socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin received 58.9% of the vote compared with 41.1% for the present incumbent, Jacques Chirac. However, the turnout was low at only 48.9% of the electorate, lower than the 79.2% turnout in France as a whole. In the National Assembly elections in 1997 the right wing Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) held two seats in Martinique but lost a third to a supporter of independence from France. The fourth Martinique seat was retained by the left wing Parti Progressiste Martiniquais.

 

 Warm weather throughout the year, with the main rainy season occurring in the autumn. Showers can occur at other times of the year, but they are usually brief. Cooler in the upland areas.

Required Clothing
Lightweight, with waterproof wear advised for the rainy season.

 

 

Photos courtesy by Philippe Pla - Onera DirCom