Music and dance
Martinique is dependent upon France for government spending equivalent to about 70% of GNP, without which there would be no public services or social welfare. Fishing contributes to the local food supply but much of the domestic market is met by imports. Most manufactured goods are imported, adding to the cost of living. There is some light industry and the major industrial plants are an oil refinery, rum distilleries and a cement works, while there is also fruit canning, soft drinks manufacturing and polyethylene and fertilizer plants.Tourism is the greatest area of economic expansion. Of total stopover visitors, 80% come from France and 3% from the USA, while of total cruise ship visitors, 72% come from the USA, 14% from the whole of Europe and 9% from Canada. Tourism income is now around 220 mn a year.
Christopher Columbus named Guadeloupe after the Virgin of Guadalupe, of Extremadura, Spain, in 1493. The Caribs, who had inhabited the island, called it Karukera, meaning ‘island of beautiful waters’. As in most of the Lesser Antilles, the Spanish never settled, and Guadeloupe’s history closely resembles that of Martinique, beginning with French colonization in 1635. The first slaves had been brought to the island by 1650. In the first half of the 17th century, Guadeloupe did not enjoy the same levels of prosperity, defence or peace as Martinique. After four years of English occupation, in 1763 Louis XV handed over Canada to Britain to regain his hold on the islands with the Treaty of Paris. The French Revolution brought a period of uncertainty, including a reign of terror under Victor Hugues. Those landowners who were not guillotined fled; slavery was abolished, only to be restored in 1802 by Napoléon. The slaves were finally freed in 1848, largely because of work by Victor Schoelcher. After 1848, the sugar plantations suffered from a lack of manpower, although indentured labour was brought in from East India.Despite having equal status with Martinique, first as a Département then as a Région, Guadeloupe’s image as the less sophisticated, poor relation persists. In common with Martinique, though, its main political voice is radical (unlike the more conservative Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin), often in the past marked by a more violent pro-Independence movement.
When Christopher Columbus first sighted Martinique, it was inhabited by the Carib Indians who had killed or absorbed the Arawaks, the previous settlers of the Lesser Antilles some 200-300 years previously. He did not land until 15 June 1502, when he put in at Le Carbet. Columbus named the island Martinica in honour of St Martin; the Caribs called it Madinina, or island of flowers. The Spanish never settled. In 1635 Martinique was colonized by the French under the leadership of Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc. His nephew, Jacques du Parquet, governed in 1637-1658 and started to develop the island; when he died, his widow took over. The cultivation of sugar cane and the importation of slaves from West Africa commenced. Fierce battles took place between the Caribs and the French until 1660 when a treaty was signed under which the Caribs agreed to occupy only the Atlantic side of the island. Peace was shortlived, however, and the Indians were soon completely exterminated. Louis XIV bought many of the du Parquet land rights and appointed an administrating company, making Martinique the capital of France’s Caribbean possessions. In 1762 England occupied Martinique for nine months, only to return it with Guadeloupe to the French in exchange for Canada, Senegal, the Grenadines, St Vincent and Tobago. France was content to retain Martinique and Guadeloupe because of the importance of the sugar trade at the time.
More unrest followed when in 1789 the French Revolution inspired slaves to fight for their emancipation. White artisans, soldiers, small merchants and free people of mixed race also embraced its principles. In 1792 a royalist governor re-established control but he was expelled by a revolutionary force sent from France. The capital, Fort-Royal became République-Ville and Paris abolished slavery. Martinique was occupied by the English again from 1794 to 1815 (with one interruption), at the request of the plantation owners of the island who wanted to preserve slavery. Slavery was finally abolished in 1848 in the French colonies and in the following years 25,000 immigrant workers from India and a few from Indo-China came to Martinique to supplement the remaining workforce on the plantations.In 1946 Martinique became an overseas Département (DOM), with all the rights of any department in metropolitan France. The bill was steered through the National Assembly by Martinique’s Deputy at the time, Aimé Césaire (1913-), poet, mayor of Fort-de-France and a pioneer of négritude . In 1974 Martinique also became a Région, giving it more economic advantages.
Before you travel
Tourist offices overseas
Austria, Maison de la France, Argentinierstrasse 41a, A1040 Vienna, T43-15032890.
Belgium, Maison de la France, 21 Av de la Toison d’Or, 1060 Brussels, T32-25053819, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canada, Maison de la France/Martinique Tourist Office, 1981 Av MacGill College, Suite 490, Montréal, Quebec, H3A 2W9, T514-8448566/2884264, Canada@franceguide.com.
France, Comité Martiniquais du Tourisme, 2 rue des Moulins 75001, Paris T33-01-44778600, http://www.martinique.org. Comité du Tourisme des Iles de Guadeloupe, 23-25 rue du Champ de l’Alouette, 75013 Paris, T33-(0)1-40629907, http://www.lesilesdeguadeloupe.fr.
Germany, Maison de la France, Westend Strasse 47, D-60325 Frankfurt AM Main, T49-699 7580131, email@example.com.
Italy, Maison de la France, Via Larga, 7, 20122 Milan, T392-58486218, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scandinavia, Maison de la France, Nanrnalmstorg 1A 5tr, SE 111146 Stockholm, T46-856612216.
Spain, Maison de la France, Gran Vía 59, 28013 Madrid, T0034-915489740, email@example.com.
Switzerland, Maison de la France, Lowenstrasse 59, Postfach 7226, 8023 Zurich, T41-12174600, firstname.lastname@example.org.
UK, Maison de la France, 178 Piccadilly, London W1V 0AL, T44-(0)20 73993500.USA, Maison de la France/Martinique Promotion Bureau, 444 Madison Av, 16th floor, New York, NY 10022, T212-8387800, email@example.com.
Festivals and events
No public transport after dark.
Daily flights from Pointe-à-Pitre, although only those at weekends are guaranteed to depart as they will only take off if full, 15 mins, Air Caraïbes, T0590-824700, e145 return including taxes, e85 one way. 9-seater planes are used, the 9th seat is up beside the pilot for a great view.
There are daily ferries from Pointe-à-Pitre (e39 round trip, children e27, plus e0.74 tax) and Trois-Rivières (e22 round trip, children e17). Competition is tough between the ferry companies and you may be approached by the crew to persuade you to take their boat. Some ferries stop at Terre-de-Bas before reaching Terre-de-Haut. Ask where you are. Terre-de-Haut has a new pier, built 2006, for passenger ships, while the pier at Fond de Curé is a freight pier. Many day charters take you to Les Saintes from the marina at Bas du Fort (Gosier), from Saint-François and from Sainte-Anne, about e50 per person.
Ferry companies include: Deher CTM, T0590-995068 in Les Saintes, T0590-216951, F0590-822580 in Trois Rivières; Express des Îles, T0825-359000, http://www.express-des-iles.com, from Gare Maritime de Bergevin, Pointe-à- Pitre; Transport Maritimes Brudey Frères, T0590-900448, http://www.brudey-freres.fr, from Trois Rivières and Pointe-à-Pitre; SMIS (Ouyva & Wapayou), T0590-983008, from Trois Rivières; Comatrile, T0590-222631 (Iguana Beach and Iguana Sun), from St-François and Ste-Anne also runs 2 round trips a week between Les Saintes and Marie-Galante. Les Saintes is also a port of call on the route to and from Martinique. The ferry between Terre-de-Haut and Terre-de-Bas, Navette L’Inter, runs about 5 times a day passing the Pain de Sucre.
Mini-buses take day trippers all over Terre-de-Haut; tour of the island e10, including to Fort Napoléon.
Cycle and scooterSeveral central locations rent bikes and scooters. It is not necessary to hire a scooter, as you can walk to most places. Scooters are banned from the town 0900-1200, 1400-1600 and have to be pushed. At the Mairie (town hall) you can get basic information.