Martinique Explained

Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, having a land area of 1,128 km². It is an overseas department of France. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia. 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 many 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.


See main article: Geography of Martinique.


See main article: Politics of Martinique. 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.The President of France is Nicolas Sarkozy.


See main article: History of Martinique.


See main article: Arrondissements of the Martinique department.

See also: Communes of the Martinique department.


The north of the island is mountainous and lushly forested. It features 4 ensembles of pitons and mornes: the Piton Conil on the extreme North, which dominates the Dominica Channel, the Mount Pelee, an active volcano, the Morne Jacob, and the Pitons du Carbet, an ensemble of 5 rainforest-covered extinct volcanoes dominating the Bay of Fort de France at 1,196 meters. The most dominating of the island's many mountains, with 1397 meters, is the infamous volcano Mount Pelée. The volcanic ash has created grey 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 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 town of St. Anne all the way down to Les Salines are popular.


See main article: Demographics of Martinique.

Historical population

Historical population! 1700
estimate !! 1738
estimate !! 1848
estimate !! 1869
estimate !! 1873
estimate !! 1878
estimate !! 1883
estimate !! 1888
estimate !! 1893
estimate !! 1900
colspan=10 align=centerOfficial figures from past censuses and INSEE estimates.


See main article: Culture of Martinique.

See also: Music of Martinique and Guadeloupe. As an overseas département of France, Martinique's culture blends French and 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, then reopen later in the afternoon. The official language is French, although many Martinicans speak Martinican Creole, a subdivision of Antillean Creole virtually identical to the varieties spoken in neighbouring English-speaking islands of Saint Lucia and Dominica. Mostly based on French and African languages, Martinique's creole also incorporates a few elements of English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Originally passed down through oral storytelling traditions, it continues to be used more often in speech than in writing. Its use is predominant within friends and the family cell. Though it is normally not to be used in professional situations, it is being increasingly used in the media and by politicians as a way to redeem national identity and by fear from a complete cultural assimilation by mainland France. The local Creole is, for the most part, intelligible to speakers of Standard French, as it has lost some of its distinct dialectal qualities.

Most of Martinique's population is descended from African slaves brought to work on sugar plantations during the colonial era, generally mixed with some French, Amerindian(Carib people), Indian (Tamil), Lebanese or Chinese elements. Between 5 to 10% of the population is of Eastern Indian (Tamil) origin. The island also boasts a small Syro-Lebanese community, a small but increasing Chinese community, and the "Béké" community, White descendants from the first French and British settlers, which still dominate parts of the Agricultural and Trade sectors. Whites represent 5% of the population.[1] The Béké people (which total around 5,000 people in the island, most of them 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).

There are an estimated 260,000 people of Martinican origin living in mainland France, most of them in the Parisian region.

Today, the island enjoys a higher standard of living than most other Caribbean countries. The finest French products are easily available, from Chanel fashions to Limoges porcelain. Studying in the métropole is common for young adults. For the rest of the French, Martinique has been a vacation hotspot for many years, attracting both upper-class and more budget-conscious travelers.

Martinique has a hybrid cuisine, mixing elements of African, French, and Asian traditions. One of its most famous dishes is the Colombo, a unique curry of chicken (curry chicken), meat or fish with vegetables, spiced with a distinctive masala of Tamil origins acidulated with tamarind and often containing wine, coconut milk, and rum. There is also a strong tradition of créole desserts and cakes, often employing pineapple, rum, and a wide range of local ingredients.

Martinique in Popular Culture

Miscellaneous topics

See also

See main article: List of Martinique-related topics.

External links

General information

Notes and References

  1. Martinique: People: Ethnic Groups.