Martinique (French pronunciation: ) is an island in the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of 1,128 km2 (436 sq mi). Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. It is directly north of St. Lucia and south of Dominica.
As with the other overseas departments, Martinique is one of the twenty-seven regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the French 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 owes its name to Christopher Columbus, who sighted the island in 1493 and finally landed on 15 June 1502. 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 would mean "the island of iguanas". After Columbus' initial discovery, the name then evolved into Madinina ("Island of Flowers"), Madiana, and Matinite. When Columbus returned to the island in 1502, he rechristened the island as Martinica. Finally, through the influence of the neighboring island of Dominica (La Dominique), it came to be known as Martinique.
The island was occupied first by Arawaks, then by Caribs. The Carib people had migrated from the mainland to the islands about 1200 CE, according to carbon dating of artifacts. They largely displaced, exterminated and assimilated 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. D'Esnambuc claimed 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).
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 Caravella Peninsula in the Capesterre. When the Carib revolted against French rule in 1658, the Governor Charles Houel de 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.
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 suppress the Protestant "heretics", these were mostly ignored by island authorities until Louis XIV's Edict of Revocation in 1685.
In 1685, Louis XIV signed into law the Code Noir (Black Code), which regulated slavery in the French colonies. The law, originally conceived by French Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert prior to his death in 1683, was finalized by his son Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Marquis de Seignelay, and presented to the King for his signature. The law limited the rights of slave-holders, ensured that freed blacks held the same rights as other Frenchmen in the islands, and required that all slaves be baptised as Catholics. The law also ordered the expulsion of the Jews from all the French Caribbean islands. These Jews then moved to the Dutch island of Curaçao.
From September 1686 to early 1688, the French crown used Martinique as 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 in the 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 their 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.
Martinique was occupied several times by the British, including once during the 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 Wars. Martinique has remained a French possession since then.
On May 8, 1902, Mont Pelée erupted and completely destroyed St. Pierre, killing 30,000 people. The only survivor in the town, 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.
Physical Description 
Part of the archipelago of the Antilles, Martinique is located in the Caribbean Sea about 450 km northeast of the coast of South America and about 700 km southeast of the Dominican Republic. It is directly north of St. Lucia 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 in length and 30 km in width. The highest point is the volcano of Mont Pelée at 1,397 metres (4,583 ft).
The island is volcanic in origin, lying along the subduction fault where the North American Plate slides beneath the Caribbean Plate. Martinique has 8 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 May 8, 1902 destroyed Saint-Pierre and killed 28,000 people in 2 minutes; that of August 30, 1902 caused nearly 1,100 deaths, mostly in Morne-Red and Ajoupa-Bouillon. 
The coast of Martinique is difficult for navigation of ships. The peninsula of Caravelle clearly separates the north Atlantic and south Atlantic coast.
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.
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, balsam, logwood and acacia. Anolis lizards and fer-de-lance snakes are native to the island. Mongooses, introduced in the 1800s, prey upon bird eggs and have exterminated or endangered a number of native birds, including the Martinique trembler, white-breasted trembler and white-breasted thrasher.
The economy of Martinique is based on trade. Agriculture accounts for about 6% of GDP and the small industrial sector for 11%. Sugar production has declined, with most of the sugarcane now used for the production of rum. Banana exports are increasing, going mostly to France. The bulk of meat, vegetable, and grain requirements must be imported, contributing to a chronic trade deficit that requires large annual transfers of aid from France. Tourism has become more important than agricultural exports as a source of foreign exchange. The majority of the work force is employed in the service sector and in administration.
Fort-de-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 connect Fort-de-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.
|24,000||74,000||120,400||152,925||157,805||162,861||167,119||175,863||189,599||203,781||239,130||292,062||320,030||324,832||328,566||359,572||381,427||397,732||400,000||402,000||412,305||Official figures from past censuses and INSEE estimates.|
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 to allow a lengthy lunch, then reopen later in the afternoon. The official language is French.
Many Martinicans speak Martiniquan Creole, a subdivision of Antillean Creole that is virtually identical 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. Its use 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
Most of Martinique's population is descended from enslaved Africans brought to work on sugar plantations during the colonial era, generally mixed with some French, Amerindian (Carib people), Indian (Tamil), Lebanese or Chinese ancestry. Between 5 and 10% of the population is of Indian (Tamil) origin. The island also boasts a small Syro-Lebanese community, a small but increasing Chinese community, and the Béké community, descendants of European ethnic groups of the first French and Spanish settlers, who still dominate parts of the agricultural and trade sectors of the economy. Whites represent 5% of the population.
The Béké population (which totals 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 Martiniquan 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.
Today, the island enjoys 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. Martinique has 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.
In popular culture 
- Martinique is the main setting of the 1944 film To Have and Have Not starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
- The island is mentioned in the songs "Kokomo" by The Beach Boys, and "Uffington wassail" by Half Man Half Biscuit.
- In the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, the characters of Angelique Bouchard Collins, Josette du Pres, and Josette's family are from Martinique.
- Martinique was featured in the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, and in the movie Sugar Cane Alley.
- Setting of Caridad Bravo Adams' novel Corazón Salvaje.
- In one or more of the Pink Panther movies, Chief Inspector Dreyfus threatens to have Inspector Clouseau reassigned to Martinique.
- Much of the 1979 Italian thriller Concorde Affaire '79 took place on and around the island.
- The Bugs Bunny cartoon 8 Ball Bunny saw Bugs and a showbiz penguin called Playboy stranded on Martinique.
- "Martinique Blue" was a popular color used by automotive builder Pontiac, a division of General Motors, on 1978 Firebirds and Trans Ams. Also known as cowl tag color code 24.
- Martinique is one of the hotel areas at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort a tropical island themed hotel in Walt Disney World.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Angelica (Penélope Cruz) while talking to Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), mentions that the last time he left her was at "La Martinique".
- In the movie Quick Change after robbing the bank, the fugitives plan to flee to Fiji; but when it appears that they may miss that flight, the mastermind reveals that he had also made a reservation for the trio on a flight to Martinique.
- 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.
In literature 
- Martinique is the main setting of Patrick Chamoiseau's novel Solibo Magnificent.
- Martinique is referenced frequently in Jean Rhys' novel Wide Sargasso Sea as the previous home of the protagonist's mother and caretaker.
- Aimé Césaire's seminal poem, "Notebook on Return to My 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 colonial presence.
- Martinique Island by Rex Bestle. A fictional story based on the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelée, when it erupted on May 8, 1902 killing over 30,000 people.
- It is used as the name of a popular gym chain in Mexico City, Mexico.
Miscellaneous topics 
See also 
- Bibliography of Martinique
- Index of Martinique-related articles
- 2009 French Caribbean general strikes
- Caribbean Sea
- Colonial and Departmental Heads of Martinique
- Lesser Antilles
- List of Martinique-related topics
- Overseas departments and territories of France
- (French) INSEE. "INSEE Martinique".
- (French) IEDOM. "L’Institut d’Émission des Départements d’Outre-mer, rapport 2009 Martinique".
- Sweeney, James L. (2007). "Caribs, Maroons, Jacobins, Brigands, and Sugar Barons: The Last Stand of the Black Caribs on St. Vincent", African Diaspora Archaeology Network, March 2007, retrieved 26 April 2007
- , History of the Huguenot Migration to America, p. 205-107
- Ver Berkmoes, Ryan, and others (2008), Caribbean Islands (print) (5th ed.), Lonely Planet
- Baker, Christopher, and others (2009), Caribbean (print) (1st ed.), Eyewitness Travel
- Explore Volcanoes: Mount Pelée, Martinique (web), Maple Creative, 2010?
- Scarth, Alwyn (2002), La Catastrophe (print), Oxford
- Notes, Nature (print) 66 (1714), 1902
- Martinique Telephones, IIWINC, 2013, retrieved 4-23-2013
- Martinique: People: Ethnic Groups. World Factbook of CIA
- Martinique : the island of flowers - Official French website (in English)
- Prefecture Région Martinique - Official site
- Regional Council of Martinique Official site
- General information
- Martinique Tourism Authority - Official site
- Martinique - Informations site
- Martinique travel guide from Wikivoyage