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South America

French Guiana

A map of French GuianaA map of French Guiana French Guiana is an overseas department of France. Two members of the National Assembly represent it in the French government. Most people live on the coast: the capital, Cayenne, has half the population of the entire country. Inland, the land slopes up to the Guiana Highlands. Much of the little-explored, barely inhabited interior is covered by thick rainforest. Lying just above the Equator, French Guiana has a hot, humid, tropical climate. Since 1964 French Guiana has been the home of the European Space Programme, which has its main launch site at Kourou, on the coast.

Carnival in CayenneCarnival in Cayenne


French Guiana’s Creole people are descended from a mixture of French settlers and Africans who arrived to work on plantations in the 19th century. They make up the largest part of the population; many of the rest are descended from people of the French West Indies (Guadeloupe and Martinique), France and Laos. In the rainforest, along the River Maroni, live the Maroons, the descendants of escaped African slaves. French is spoken by everybody. The French social security system helps people with health care, benefits and insurance, and so nearly all the inhabitants of French Guiana are ensured a high standard of living.

In a referendum held in January 2010, almost 70% of voters rejected the option for French Guiana to have a more independent government.

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