Guadeloupe's two main islands are Basse-Terre to the west and Grande-Terre to the east, which are separated by a narrow strait that is crossed with bridges. They are often referred to as a single island. The department also includes the Dependencies of Guadeloupe, which include the smaller islands of Marie-Galante and La Désirade, and the Îles des Saintes.
Guadeloupe, like the other overseas departments, is an integral part of France. As a constituent territory of the European Union and the Eurozone, the euro is its official currency and any European Union citizen is free to settle and work there indefinitely. As an overseas department, however, it is not part of the Schengen Area. The prefecture of Guadeloupe is the city of Basse-Terre, which lies on the island of the same name. The official language is French and Antillean Creole is spoken virtually by the entire population except recent arrivals from metropolitan France.
Christopher Columbus named the island Santa María de Guadalupe in 1493 after the Virgin Mary, venerated in the Spanish town of Guadalupe, in Extremadura. Upon becoming a French colony, the Spanish name was retained though altered to French orthography and phonology.
The island was called "Karukera" (or "The Island of Beautiful Waters") by the Arawak people, who settled on there in 300 AD/CE. During the 8th century, the Caribs inhabited the island.
During his second trip to the Americas, in November 1493, Christopher Columbus landed on Guadeloupe, while seeking fresh water. He called it Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura, after the image of the Virgin Mary venerated at the Spanish monastery of Villuercas, in Guadalupe, Extremadura. The expedition set ashore just south of Capesterre, but left no settlers behind.
Columbus is credited with discovering the pineapple on the island of Guadeloupe in 1493, although the fruit had long been grown in South America. He called it piña de Indias, which can be correctly translated as "pine cone of the Indies."
During the 17th century, the Caribs fought against the Spanish settlers and repelled them.
After successful settlement on the island of St. Christophe (St. Kitts), the French Company of the American Islands delegated Charles Lienard (Liénard de L'Olive) and Jean Duplessis Ossonville, Lord of Ossonville to colonize one or any of the region's islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, or Dominica.
Due to Martinique's inhospitable nature, the duo resolved to settle in Guadeloupe in 1635, took possession of the island, and wiped out many of the Carib Amerindians. It was annexed to the kingdom of France in 1674.
Over the next century, the British seized the island several times. The economy benefited from the lucrative sugar trade, which commenced during the closing decades of the 17th century. Guadeloupe produced more sugar than all the British islands combined, worth about £6 million a year. The British captured Guadeloupe in 1759. The British government decided that Canada was strategically more important and kept Canada while returning Guadeloupe to France in the Treaty of Paris (1763) that ended the Seven Years War.
In 1790, following the outbreak of the French Revolution, the monarchists of Guadeloupe refused to obey the new laws of equal rights for the free people of color and attempted to declare independence. The ensuing conflict with the republicans, who were faithful to revolutionary France, caused a fire to break out in Pointe-à-Pitre that devastated a third of the town. The monarchists ultimately overcame the republicans and declared independence in 1791. The monarchists then refused to receive the new governor that Paris had appointed in 1792. In 1793, a slave rebellion broke out, which made the upper classes turn to the British and ask them to occupy the island.
In an effort to take advantage of the chaos ensuing from the French Revolution, Britain seized Guadeloupe in 1794, holding control from 21 April until December 1794, when republican governor Victor Hugues obliged the British general to surrender. Hugues succeeded in freeing the slaves, who then turned on the slave owners who controlled the sugar plantations.
In 1802, Napoleon Bonaparte issued the Law of 20 May 1802. It restored slavery to all colonies the British had captured during the French Revolutionary Wars—but did not apply to certain French overseas possessions, such as Guadeloupe, Guyane, and Saint-Domingue. Napoleon sent an expeditionary force to recapture the island from the rebellious slaves. Louis Delgrès and a group of revolutionary soldiers killed themselves on the slopes of the Matouba volcano when it became obvious that the invading troops would take control of the island. The occupation force killed approximately 10,000 Guadeloupeans.
On 4 February 1810 the British once again seized the island and continued to occupy it until 1816. By the Anglo-Swedish alliance of 3 March 1813, Britain ceded it to Sweden for a brief period of 15 months. During this time, the British administration remained in place and British governors continued to govern the island.
In the Treaty of Paris of 1814, Sweden ceded Guadeloupe once more to France. An ensuing settlement between Sweden and the British gave rise to the Guadeloupe Fund. The Treaty of Vienna in 1815 definitively acknowledged French control of Guadeloupe.
An earthquake in 1843 caused the La Soufrière volcano to erupt and killed over 5000 people.
Slavery was finally abolished on the island (and in all French possessions) on 28 May 1848 at the initiative of Victor Schoelcher.
Guadeloupe lost 12,000 of its 150,000 residents in the cholera epidemic of 1865–66.
The colonial history of Guadeloupe has been addressed in research publications.
In 1925, after the trial of Henry Sidambarom (Justice of the Peace and defender of the cause of Indian workers), Raymond Poincaré decided to grant French nationality and the right to vote to Indian citizens.
In 1946, the colony of Guadeloupe became an overseas department of France. Then in 1974, it became an administrative center. Its deputies sit in the French National Assembly in Paris.
In 1967, rallies became riots, and repression backed by the prefect Pierre Bolotte caused dozens of deaths.
In 2007 the island communes of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy were officially detached from Guadeloupe and became two separate French overseas collectivities with their own local administration. Their combined population was 35,930 and their combined land area was 74.2 km2 (28.6 sq mi) as of the 1999 census.
In January 2009, an umbrella group of approximately fifty labour union and other associations (known in the local Antillean Creole as the Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP), led by Élie Domota) called for a €200 ($260 USD) monthly pay increase for the island's low income workers. The protesters have proposed that authorities "lower business taxes as a top up to company finances" to pay for the €200 pay raises. Employers and business leaders in Guadeloupe have said that they cannot afford the salary increase. The strike lasted 44 days, ending with an accord reached on 5 March 2009. Tourism suffered greatly during this time and affected the 2010 tourist season as well.
The 2009 French Caribbean general strikes exposed deep ethnic, racial, and class tensions and disparities within Guadeloupe.
Located as the southernmost of the Leeward Islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea, Guadeloupe comprises two main islands: Basse-Terre Island and Grande-Terre, which are separated by a narrow sea channel called Salt River. The adjacent French islands of La Désirade, Les Saintes, and Marie-Galante are under jurisdiction of Guadeloupe.
Western Basse-Terre has a rough volcanic relief while eastern Grande-Terre features rolling hills and flat plains. La Grande Soufrière is the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles, with an elevation of 1,467 metres (4,813 feet).
Further to the north, Saint-Barthélemy and the northern French part of Saint Martin were previously under the jurisdiction of Guadeloupe but on 7 December 2003, both of these areas voted to become overseas territorial collectivities separate from Guadeloupe, a decision that took effect on 22 February 2007.
There is an active volcano in Guadeloupe called "La Soufrière," located in the South of Basse-Terre. La Soufrière is actually a part of a volcanic complex that is composed of the Carmichael volcanoes, the Nez Cassé, the Echelle, the Cistern and the Madeleine. It is one of the nine active volcanoes of the Lesser Antilles. Its last eruption was in 1976. This eruption led to the evacuation of the southern part of Basse-Terre. 73,600 people were displaced over a course of three and a half months following the eruption.
The island was devastated by several hurricanes in modern times:
Guadeloupe has a tropical climate tempered by maritime influences and the Trade Winds. We distinguish two seasons in Guadeloupe and nearby islands:
Guadeloupe recorded a population of 402,119 in the 2013 census.
The population of Guadeloupe is mainly of African or mixed descent of Europeans, Indians, Lebanese, Syrians, Chinese, and Carib Amerindians (remnants of the original pre-European population). The archipelago of Îles des Saintes is mostly populated by the descendants of colonists from Brittany and Normandy. It is largely Roman Catholic, speaking French and a Creole (Antillean Creole).
The population of Guadeloupe has been stable recently, with a net increase of only 335 people between the 2008 and 2013 censuses.
In 2012 the average population density in Guadeloupe was 247.7 inhabitants for every square kilometre, which is very high in comparison to the whole France's 116.5 inhabitants for every square kilometre. One third of the land is devoted to agriculture and all mountains are uninhabitable. This lack of space and shelter makes the population density even higher.
Because Guadeloupe is a wealthy country in comparison to the surrounding Caribbean islands, immigration is popular. People immigrate to Guadeloupe because of its stronger political stability and greater agricultural job opportunities. However, just because foreigners immigrate to Guadeloupe for its opportunities does not mean the country is economically stable; rather, it is stable in comparison to the surrounding regions/islands.
Over 80% of the population are Roman Catholic. Guadeloupe is in the diocese of Basse-Terre (et Pointe-à-Pitre).
Evangelical Protestants concentrated in newly arriving denominations from the United States are also present in Guadeloupe.
In 2011, life expectancy at birth was recorded at 77.0 years for males and 83.5 for females.
Medical centers in Guadeloupe include:
A University Hospital Center (CHU) in Pointe-à-Pitre
A Regional Hospital Center (CHR) in Basse-Terre
Four hospitals located in Capesterre-Belle-Eau, Pointe-Noire, Bouillante and Saint-Claude
The Institut Pasteur de la Guadeloupe, which is located in Pointe-à-Pitre and is responsible for researching environmental hygiene, vaccinations, and the spread of tuberculosis and mycobacteria
Guadeloupe sends four deputies to the French National Assembly and three senators to the French Senate.
Guadeloupe is divided into two arrondissements (Basse-Terre and Pointe-à-Pitre), 21 cantons and 32 communes.
Formerly called the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, following the local elections of March 2015 the administering Assembly now bears the name of the Departmental Council of Guadeloupe.
In 2006, the GDP per capita of Guadeloupe at market exchange rates, not at PPP, was €17,338 (US$21,780).
The economy of Guadeloupe depends on tourism, agriculture, light industry and services. It is dependent upon mainland France for large subsidies and imports. Unemployment is especially high among the youth.
Tourism is a key industry, with 83.3% of tourists visiting from metropolitan France, 10.8% coming from the rest of Europe, 3.4% coming from the United States, 1.5% coming from Canada, 0.4% coming from South America, and 0.6% coming from the rest of the world. An increasingly large number of cruise ships visit the islands.
The traditional sugar cane crop is slowly being replaced by other crops, such as bananas (which now supply about 50% of export earnings), eggplant, guinnep, noni, sapotilla, paroka, pikinga, giraumon squash, yam, gourd, plantain, christophine, monbin, prunecafé, cocoa, jackfruit, pomegranate, and many varieties of flowers. Other vegetables and root crops are cultivated for local consumption, although Guadeloupe is dependent upon imported food, mainly from rest of France.
Light industry features sugar and rum, solar energy, and many industrial products. Most manufactured goods and fuel are imported.
As it is a region of France, Guadeloupe's sole official language is French, which is spoken by nearly all of the population. In addition, most of the population can also speak Guadeloupean Creole (GC), a variety of Antillean Creole French. Throughout the island's colonial history, GC was the language of local community, of resistance to European domination, of ethno-racial identity. Consequently, when from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s, Guadeloupe saw the rise and fall of an at-times violent movement for (greater) political independence from France, GC was claimed as key to local cultural pride and unity. In the 1990s, in the wake of the independence movement's demise, GC retained its de-stigmatized status as a symbol of local culture, albeit without de jure support from the state and without de facto being practiced with equal competence in all strata and age groups of society. The third millennium, however, brought greater acceptance of GC on the part of France, such that it was introduced as an elective in public schools. Today, the question as to whether French and GC are stable in Guadeloupe, i.e. whether both languages are practised widely and competently throughout society, remains a subject of active research.
Guadeloupe's culture is probably best known for the islanders' literary achievements, particularly the poetry of Saint-John Perse, the pseudonym used by Alexis Léger. Perse won the 1960 Nobel Prize in Literature "for the soaring flight and the evocative images of his poetry, which, in a visionary fashion, reflects the conditions of our time."
Guadeloupe has always had a rich literary output, continued today by many living writers, poets, novelists, essayists and journalists, among them Mesdames Maryse Condé and Simone Schwarz-Bart, Ernest Pépin (fr).
French writer Gisèle Pineau, who currently lives in Marie-Galante, has Guadeloupean parentage.
Music and dance are also very popular, and the widely accepted interaction of African, French and Indian cultures has given birth to some original new forms specific to the archipelago. Since the 1970s, Guadeloupean music increasingly claimed the local language, Guadeloupean Creole as the preferred language of popular music. Islanders enjoy many local dance styles including zouk, zouk-love, kompa, as well as the modern international dances such as hip hop, etc.
One of his most famous artists was Henri Debs (1932-2013) a musician and producer of French, origin of Lebanese parents, who made many Caribbean rhythms like Zouk (Soca in Spanish) and Belé heard throughout the Antilles, North, Central, Suramerica and France.
Traditional Guadeloupean music includes la biguine, kadans, cadence-lypso, zouk, and gwo ka such as Anzala and Ti Celeste. Popular music artists and bands such as Experience 7, Francky Vincent, Kassav' (which included Patrick St-Eloi), and Gilles Floro embody the traditional music style of the island and the new generation of music, while some other musical artists, like Tom Frager (who grew up in Guadeloupe), perform colorful reggae music that defines the Guadeloupe island as paradise-like. Many international festivals take place in Guadeloupe, like the Creole Blues Festival, hosted in Marie-Galante. All the Euro-French forms of art are also ubiquitous. The melting pot is emphasized by other communities (from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Lebanon, Syria), who live on the island and share their cultures.
Another element of Guadeloupean culture is its dress. A few women (particularly of the older generation) wear a unique style of traditional dress, with many layers of colourful fabric, now only worn on special occasions. On festive occasions they also wore a madras (originally a "kerchief" from South India) head scarf tied in many different symbolic ways, each with a different name. The headdress could be tied in the "bat" style, or the "firefighter" style, as well as the "Guadeloupean woman". Jewelry, mainly gold, is also important in the Guadeloupean lady's dress, a product of European, African and Indian inspiration.
French born dancers, choreographers, comedians Laurent and Larry Bourgeois (known as Les Twins) are also of Guadelupean descent. Noted for their fresh take on hip-hop dance, this twin duo made an impression on the dance world while touring with Cirque du Soleil on the Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour, and with Beyoncé on The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, as well as the On the Run Tour.
Guadeloupe is the most violent overseas French department. The high level of unemployment combined with the legacy of slavery caused violence and crime to rise especially in 2009 and 2010, the years following a great worldwide recession. Since the population is so small, the murder rate is slightly more than that of Paris, but with a murder rate of 8.2 per 100,000, Guadeloupe is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean. Most of this violence is caused by the drug trade or domestic disputes, and the residents of Guadeloupe describe the island as a place with not a lot of everyday crime.
Football (soccer) is popular in Guadeloupe, and several notable footballers are of Guadeloupean origin:
The national football team experienced success in 2007, advancing all the way to the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finals, where they were defeated 1–0 by CONCACAF powerhouse Mexico.
NFL, *Jacques Chery was undrafted by the Dallas Cowboys and later traded to the Buffalo Bills based in New York, and he also played in the British American Football League for Manchester Titans, Yorkshire Rams and Doncaster Mustangs.
Basketball is also popular. Best known players are the NBA players Mickaël Piétrus, Johan Petro, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Mickael Gelabale (now playing in Russia), who were born on the island. Utah Jazz star centre Rudy Gobert is also of half guadeloupean descent. Also known is trainer and former player Paul Chonchon, after whom a basketball stadion in Pointe-à-Pitre is named.
Many fine track and field athletes, such as Marie-José Pérec, Patricia Girard-Léno, Christine Arron, and Wilhem Belocian, are also Guadeloupe natives. Triple Olympic champion Marie-José Pérec, fourth-fastest 100-metre (330-foot) runner Christine Arron, and fencing champion Laura Flessel were all born and raised in Guadeloupe.
Even though Guadeloupe is part of France, it has its own sports teams. Rugby union is a small but rapidly growing sport in Guadeloupe. France international and RC Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud (cousin of footballer William Gallas) was born in Guadeloupe.
The island is also internationally best known for hosting the Karujet Race – Jet Ski World Championship since 1998. This nine-stage, four-day event attracts competitors from around the world (mostly Caribbeans, Americans, and Europeans). The Karujet, generally made up of seven races around the island, has an established reputation as one of the most difficult championships in which to compete.
The Route du Rhum is one of the most prominent nautical French sporting events, occurring every four years.
Bodybuilder Serge Nubret was born in Anse-Bertrand, Grande-Terre, representing the French state in various bodybuilding competitions throughout the 1960s and 1970s including the IFBB's Mr. Olympia contest, taking 3rd place every year from 1972 to 1974, and 2nd place in 1975. Bodybuilder Marie-Laure Mahabir also hails from Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupe also has some less conventional sporting groups and associations, which include The Skywalkers Parkour Team and Rollers forward, both based in Sainte Anne. The country has also a passion for cycling. It hosted the French Cycling Championships in 2009 and continues to host the Tour de Guadeloupe every year. Guadeloupe also continues to host the Orange Open Guadeloupe tennis tournament (since 2011) and the Tour of Guadeloupe sailing, which was founded in 1981.
On 9 September 2013 the county government voted in favour of a constructing a tramway in Pointe-à-Pitre. The first phase will link northern Abymes to downtown Pointe-à-Pitre by 2019. The second phase, scheduled for completion in 2023, will extend the line to serve the university.