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Map Courtesy CIA World Factbook

Martinique is an overseas département (département d'outre-mer, or DOM) of France, located in the Caribbean Sea. The capital is Fort-de-France. Population at the 1999 census: 381,427 inhabitants. Population as of 2004 estimates: 393,000 inhabitants.

Colonized by France in 1635, the Carib Expulsion occurred in 1660 when the island's indigenous peoples were deported and banned from returning by the French occupying forces. The island has subsequently remained a French possession except for three brief periods of foreign occupation.

From 1635 (arrival of Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, a French aristocrat who took possession of the island for France) to 1946, MArtinique lived as a French colony producing tropical trade goods such as cane sugar, coffee, rhum or cocoa. African captives were brought from West Africa to form the slave population who is at the origin of most of today's population.

Martinique was the birthplace of Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Although some have thought of Joséphine as colored, Joséphine Rose Tascher de la Pagerie was the offspring of colonial slave-owning aristocrats. The remnants of her parent's plantation, La Pagerie, can still be seen at Les Trois Ilets, across the bay from Fort-de-France.

On May 8, 1902 Mount Pelée, a volcano on the island erupted, destroying the town of St. Pierre killing over 30,000 people. Only one resident survived the blast — a prisoner by the name of Ludger Sylbaris, who was protected by the thick walls of his cell.

Martinique became an overseas département of France on March 19, 1946. This means it is treated equally to every other département in France and has full representation in the National Assembly.

Martinique is especially well known for the number of great authors that have come from the island and become extremely famous in France and throughout the world. It has also become known for a form of music called zouk, which developed in the 1980s.


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