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A map of MartiniqueA map of Martinique Like Guadeloupe, Martinique is an overseas department of France. French settlers first claimed the island in the early 17th century. It is the largest of a group called the Windward Islands. The north is a land of mountains (known as “mornes”) and volcanoes (“pitons”). Volcanic activity has created grey and black beaches along the island’s northern coast. The interior is thickly forested. To the south, the island is flatter, the beaches white and sandy. Martinique has a hot, tropical climate, cooled gently by northeasterly breezes from the Atlantic known as trade winds.

Anse Cafard Slave MemorialAnse Cafard Slave Memorial


People from Martinique are called Martiniquais. The vast majority are of African descent, and speak French in addition to Antillean Creole. The small European, or Béké, community are descendants of the first French and Spanish settlers. Others include those descended from Indians who came to work on plantations in the 19th century—along with more recent immigrants from SyriaLebanon and China.

In 1902, Martinique’s Mount Pelée volcano erupted, sending massive clouds of superheated gas (pyroclastic flows) surging down its slopes. One cloud destroyed the city of Saint-Pierre, killing its 30,000 people. The only survivor was saved by the thick walls of his prison cell.

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