It was in 1502, during his fourth voyage to the New World, that Christopher Columbus landed on Martinique. At that time, the island was inhabited by Caribbean Indians who had already driven out the Arawaks, also natives of the Orinocco valley. For them, Martinique is Madinina, the island of flowers.
Since 1635, leaving aside two short periods of British occupation, Martinique has shared France's fate. A department since 1946, its administrative and political structure is identical to that of a department in metropolitan France.
The seat of the Prefecture, Fort-de-France, is the island's administrative and commercial capital: Trinité, for the North Atlantic, Saint-Pierre for the North Caribbean, Le Marin, for the South.
Located in the heart of the Caribbean archipelago, Martinique belongs to the group of the Lesser Antilles or the \'93Windward Islands\'94. Its coasts are bathed on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Caribbean Sea.
It is about 7,000 km from France, 3,150 km from New York, 440 km from the nearest South American coast. It nearest neighbours are, to the north, Dominica, 120 kms, Guadeloupe, 120 km away, and to the south Saint Lucia, 37 km away.
The climate is relatively mild in Martinique and the heat is never excessive. The average temperature of 26 °C gives the island an everlasting summer. Coming from the east and north-east, steady breezes, the Alizées, permanently cool the atmosphere.
Martinique covers an area of 1,102 km2. At its longest point it is 80 km long, and 39 km at its widest. The ground gradually rises from the coast towards the center and the north where the Pitons du Carbet and Mount Pelée are grouped, the highest point of the island (1,397 m). This part of Martinique is also the realm of the astonishing tropical forest.
In the center, the Lamentin plain changes over to the south region of the island, which offers a succession of mornes (small hills) and steep-sided valleys. At this point, the coast shelters a large number of very picturesque bays and coves. The Salines beach, at the very south, seems to be right out of a postcard.
The population of Martinique is multiracial. This diversity is due to the substantial cross-breeding, the result of encounters between the various ethnic groups which stopped at our island (European, African, Hindu, Caribbean, Asian,\~etc.).
A cathedral and numerous parish churches are the evidence of the importance of the Catholic religion. However, other religious communes are present.
SOME SIGNIFICANT DATES
15th June, 1502: Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean coast, at Carbet.
1635: First French establishment, with Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc.
31st October, 1636: King Louis XIII authorised the introduction of slaves to the French West Indies.
1685: Establishment of Colbert 'Black Code' which, in 60 articles, officially ruled the slaves lives up to 1848.
1762 to 1848: Martinique experienced some periods of British occupation.
22nd May, 1848: Abolition of slavery.
8th May, 1902: Eruption of Mount Pelée and destruction of the town of Saint-Pierre. Fort-de-France became the capital.
19th Mars, 1946: Martinique was given the status of a French department. It is represented by four deputies and two senators.
1983: The Regional Council was set up after the decentralisation act of 1982.