A historical and cultural melting pot in the French West Indies


Saint-MartinSaint BarthelemyFrench Guiana - AmazoniaThe Islands of GuadeloupeMartiniqueCultural Heritage

Comité Martiniquais du Tourisme – K.TANAKA
© Comité Martiniquais du Tourisme – K.TANAKA

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 31 December 2022


The Arawak people, who came from the South American coasts, were decimated by their warlike enemies: the Caribbean Indians. They themselves were wiped out by the first Spanish, English and French explorers. These invincible warriors and great navigators were the ones who lived in the Caribbean when Columbus landed there for the first time in 1493 (Guadeloupe) and 1502 (Martinique). Of this pre-Colombian era, an archaeological site of carved rocks remains, containing 220 relics of rock art. The Museum of American Prehistory at the Moule in Guadeloupe pays homage to this period.

Whether it be the reconstitution of the great plantations in Martinique, or the historic excavations of the Bertrand cove in Guadeloupe, traces of slavery villages remind visitors that the sadly famous ‘Black Code’ was in place in the West Indies during1685. Then the entire economy survived on the basis of specialised, large-scale agriculture: sugar cane, coffee and cocoa beans. Since then it has been replaced by the sale of bananas.

Today, you can visit some of these great estates, which are made up of a traditional rum distillery or a typical Creole house. These Creole huts have now become symbols of the Caribbean heritage.

...and traditions

Caribbean traditions are based pri- marily on music and dance, which accompany the life of all inhabitants. The beguine, zouk, the quadrille and the Gwo Ka are all traditional Creole dances.

The carnival which takes place in February is an emblematic event for all of the French Caribbean. Processions, colourful parades, music and traditional dance are all present and should not be missed.

In early August, the iconic Tour des Yoles (race) is a uniquely Martiniquan experience that is also not to be missed. This small-boat sailing competition is a wonderful show for both visitors and residents.

Did you know?

Christmas is one of the highlights of Martinique. This traditional religious celebration is fully enjoyed and many festivities take place during the month of December.

Carol singing is an opportunity to get together with family and friends who enjoy singing to therhythm of drums, chacha and Tibois (percussion) in celebration of the coming of Christ.

Many people decorate their house with Christmas lights and contests are organised by the tourist offices and syndicates,which are judged on originality. Christmas markets during the festive period are at the heart of Martinique. A medley of liqueurs and other spirits can be found at the markets; schrubb, orange liqueur and coconutpunch are popular choices available for visitors to buy.

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