Martinique

Geographical and territory description

Martinique is located in the archipelago of Lesser Antilles, bathed in the East by the Atlantic Ocean and in the West by the Caribbean Sea. Enjoying this exceptional geographical location, the island is ideal for regular exchanges with other countries and continents.

With an area of 1,128 km², it is one of the smallest French departments.

Paris is 7,000 kilometres away, that is about 8 hours of flight time; 2,000 kilometres separate Martinique from Miami, which is three hours of flying time, and 1,500 kilometres separate it from French Guiana (South American continent).

Martinique enjoys a warm and humid climate divided into two seasons: lent (dry period) and wintering (rainy period from June to October). The temperature oscillates between 25 and 30 ° C all year.

The topography of Martinique is characterized by its diversity:

  • It consists of a mountainous massif in the North, dominated by the peaks of Carbet (1,207m) and Montagne Pelée (1,397m). The latter is a volcano still active, which is among the most watched volcanoes in the world.
  • In the rest of the island, a succession of medium mountains, the hills, can reach up to 505m (Montagne du Vauclin).
  • Only one plain emerges from this rugged ensemble, that of Lamentin, in the centre, where the international airport is located.

Coordinates: 14° 40′ North 61° 00′ West

Area: 1,128 km2

Time zone: UTC -4h

Martinique belongs to one of the 35 global biodiversity hotspots (Caribbean islands). The richness of this region is unique due to the numerous endemic species and the heritage nature, which is rare but also threatened by the habitats sheltering them. It also enjoys an exceptional marine ecosystem (mangroves, seagrass, coral reefs).

Due to its geographical location, this region has a significant potential for renewable energies (solar, photovoltaic, hydraulic, geothermal, wind, biomass …).

Martinique has, among others, 101 historical monuments and a town, Saint-Pierre, classified as “City of Art and History”, destroyed by the Mount Pelée eruption in May 8, 1902. Many writers here have become famous worldwide, among whom are Aimé Césaire, Suzanne Dracius, Rene Maran, Frantz Fanon, Edouard Glissant or Joseph Zobel.

It has clear potential for tourism, despite the lack of local infrastructure. The agri-food sector is essential for the economy, through the export-oriented production of bananas and rum. The region has also valuable expertise in managing and preventing natural hazards.

Administration

  • Official language: French
  • Regional language: Creole
  • Department code: 972
  • County town: Fort-de-France
  • Boroughs: 4
  • Towns: 34
  • Territorial Community of Martinique:
    • President of the Executive Council: Mr. Alfred MARIE-JEANNE
    • President of the Martinique Assembly:  Mr. Claude LISE
  • Prefecture of Martinique (find out more):
    • Prefect: Mr. Franck ROBINE
  • Regional cooperation: Associate member of the Caribbean Estate Association (AEC in French) ; member of the Eastern Caribbean Estates’ Organization (OECO in French).

Demographic data

  • Population: 388,364 hab. (2014)
  • Density: 349 hab. /km2
  • Main towns: Fort-de-France, Schœlcher, le Lamentin, le Robert, le François, Sainte-Marie and la Trinité

Economic data

  • Currency: Euro (EUR or €)
  • Calling code: +596
  • Key figures 2016 (in EUR million):
    • Exports of goods and services: 1,076
    • Imports of goods and services: 2,978
    • Gross Domestic Product: 8,806
    • Household consumption: 5,605

Sources: IEDOM, INSEE

History

The early inhabitants were the Arawak Indians, who had to flee before new arrivals: the Caribbean Indians. These were in turn decimated by the European soldiers, shortly after the arrival of Christopher Columbus, in 1502, St. Martin’s day. Called Madinina, “the island of flowers” or Jouanacaera, “the island of iguanas”, Martinique becomes French in 1635.

The foundations of the resident society, first time undermined by the slavery abolition, proclaimed May 22, 1848 after the slave revolt in the region of St. Peter, is gradually brought into question over the twentieth century. It begins in Martinique with the disaster the Mount Pelée eruption in May 8, 1902, which annihilates the city of Saint-Pierre and 30,000 of its inhabitants. On March 19, 1946, the law establishes Martinique as an Overseas department.