French American Dependencies

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Located on the northeast coast of South America, and extending from 1°30 to 5°30 n and from 51°4 to 54°3 w, French Guiana (Guyane Française) has an Atlantic shoreline of about 320 km (200 mi) and a total area of some 91,000 sq km (35,000 sq mi). It is separated from Brazil by the Oyapock River in the e and the Tumuc-Humac Mountains in the s (440 km/273 mi); and from Suriname by the Maroni River (398 km/247 mi) on the w. Its length is about 400 km (250 mi) ns, and its width is 300 km (190 mi) ew. Several islands offshore are part of French Guiana including: the Îles du Salut (Devil's Island, Royale, and SaintJoseph).

French Guiana consists of a small, low swampy coast called "terres basses," varying from 10 to 30 km (619 mi) in width, and a vast, partly unexplored interior, the "terres hautes," with grassy plateaus, equatorial forests (which cover 90% of the land area), and mountains. The mean annual temperature along the coast is 26°c (80°f) year-round. There is a rainy season from January to June; annual rainfall has a range of 350400 cm (140160 in). Average humidity is 85%. Endangered species in 2002 included the small-footed water rat, giant armadillo, giant otter, three species of turtle (South American river, olive ridley, and leatherback), and the black caiman.

The population was estimated at 195,506 in mid-2005. Four-fifths of the inhabitants live in the coastal lowlands, and about 55% of the total live in Cayenne, the capital city. About 66% of the population is either black or mixed-raced, 12% is white, 12% is either of East Indian, Chinese, or Amerindian origin, and 10% belongs to other ethnic origins. In the interior are six tribes of aboriginal Indians; descendants of fugitive black slaves from Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) have settled along the rivers. Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion. The official language is French.

Amerindian tribes inhabited the region from ancient times, but their numbers probably did not exceed 25,000 on the eve of European colonization. The land now known as French Guiana was first settled by Frenchmen in 1604 and was awarded to France by the Peace of Breda in 1667. Since 1946, it has been an overseas department, sending, in 1986, two deputies and one senator to the French parliament and one representative to the French Economic and Social Council. The old penal settlements to which French prisoners were once deported have been completely liquidated. Devil's Island, the most famous of the offshore penal colonies, operated from 1851 until 1951. French Guiana consists of Cayenne and St.-Laurent-du-Maroni, each of which has the status of an arrondissement. The French commissioner is assisted by a popularly elected 19-member general council and a 31-member regional council.

Arable land and labor both being scarce, agriculture in French Guiana is still in a primitive state. Trade is mainly with France. The territory's exports, mainly shrimp, timber, gold, rosewood essence, and clothing, totaled us$155 million in 2002; imports totaled us$625 million. Gold, which has been mined since 1853, and large deposits of bauxite are the chief mineral resources. The European Space Agency launches communications satellites from Kourou.

Education for French Guiana's children is compulsory and provided by the government. The Pasteur Institute, five hospitals, and other health units provide public health services. The infant mortality rate in 2005 was 12.07 deaths per 1,000 live births, down from 13.22 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002.


The French overseas department of Guadeloupe, situated among the Lesser Antilles, extends 15°52 to 18°7 n, and 61° to 63°5 w. The length of Guadeloupe proper is 67 km (42 mi) ew, and its width is 60 km (37 mi) ns; its total coastline amounts to 656 km (408 mi). A narrow channel, Rivière Salée, divides Guadeloupe proper into two islands: Basse-Terre (848 sq km/327 sq mi) and Grande-Terre (585 sq km/226 sq mi). Outlying islands include Marie-Galante and La Désirade, and the Les Saintes and Petite Terre island groups, near the main islands; St. Barthélémy, about 120 km (75 mi) to the nw; and St. Martin, about 175 km (110 mi) to the nw, the northern two-thirds of it French, the southern third Dutch. Total area, including the outlying islands, is 1,780 sq km (687 sq mi). Basse-Terre is volcanic; its highest peak, La Soufrière (1,484 m/4,869 ft), erupted in the 18th and 19th centuries, and is still active. Annual rainfall ranges from 99 cm (39 in) on La Désirade to between 500 and 1,000 cm (200400 in) on the mountains of Basse-Terre. Ferns, bamboo, mangrove, and tropical hardwoods are abundant. Endangered species include the Guadeloupe wren, green sea turtle, and leatherback turtle.

The estimated population in mid-2005 was 448,713. About 90% of the inhabitants are blacks or a mixture of blacks and descendants of Normans and Bretons who first settled the island in the 17th century. Some 95% of the people are Roman Catholic. French is the official language, but a Creole dialect is widely spoken.

Guadeloupe was first settled by Arawak Indians from Venezuela about ad 200. Carib Indians, also from Venezuela, overran this agricultural and fishing community around ad 1000. Discovered by Columbus in 1493 and occupied by the French in 1635, Guadeloupe has, except for short periods during the Napoleonic wars, been French ever since. In 1648, St. Martin was shared with the Dutch. Guadeloupe became an overseas department in 1946. It is represented in the French parliament by four deputies and two senators. Local administration is similar to that of regions and departments in metropolitan France. The appointed commissioner is assisted by a 42-member general council, elected by universal suffrage, and by a newly created regional council.

There are about 2,082 km (1,300 mi) of highways, of which about 1,752 km (1,089 mi) are paved. There are no railways except for privately owned plantation lines. Marine traffic is concentrated trated at Pointe-à-Pitre and Basse-Terre. Steamships connect Guadeloupe with other West Indian islands, with North and South America, and with France. Air France and other airlines serve the international airport at Pointe-à-Pitre.

Sugar has been replaced by bananas as the principal agricultural product. Other products include other tropical fruits and vegetables. About 63% of import and 60% of export trade is with France. In 1997, exports yielded us$140 million; imports totaled us$1.7 billion (the last figures available). Sugar refining and rum distilling are the traditional industries.

About 90% of the population is literate. Four teaching and research unitsone for law and economics, one for liberal arts and the sciences, one for medicine, and one for the science and technology of physical and sporting activitiesprovide higher education at the Université Antilles-Guyane in Pointe-à-Pitre. Several hundred scholarship-holders study in French universities. The infant mortality rate was an estimated 8.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005, down from 9.3 in 2002 and 17 in 1985.


The island of Martinique is situated from 14°26 to 14°53 n and 61° w among the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, between the islands of Dominica and St. Lucia. It has an area of 1,110 sq km (429 sq mi), with a length of 75 km (47 mi) senw and a maximum width of 34 km (21 mi) nesw. Its total coastline is about 350 km (220 mi). Most of the island is mountainous. The two highest peaks, Pelée (1,397 m/4,583 ft) and Carbet (1,196 m/3,923 ft), are volcanoes. On 8 May 1902, Mt. Pelée erupted, completely destroying the city of St. Pierre and killing 30,000 inhabitants. About 25% of the land is wooded, with both European and tropical trees represented. Average temperature is about 26°c (80°f) and average annual rainfall about 190 cm (75 in).

The mid-2005 estimated population was 432,900. The population, composed mostly of descendants of black Africans, Carib Indians, and Europeans, is predominantly Roman Catholic. French is the official language, but a Creole dialect is widely spoken and English is understood in tourist areas.

There were reportedly 2,105 km (1,314 mi) of highway in 2000, and no railways. Steamer service connects Martinique with North and South America and France. Air France and other airlines provide air service from Lamentin Airport near Fort-de-France.

First inhabited by Carib Indians, Martinique was discovered by Columbus in 1502, and colonized by the French in 1635. Except for the periods 176263, 17931802, and 180915, the island has remained in French hands ever since. It is represented in the French parliament by four deputies and two senators.

Martinique's economy is agricultural. Sugarcane and bananas are the leading crops; pineapples, citrus fruit, mangoes, avocados, coffee, and cacao are also grown. Sugar refining, rum distilling, and fruit processing are the chief industries. Bananas, petroleum products, and rum are the principal exports; foodstuffs and oil are the main imports. In 1997, exports totaled us$250 million; imports totaled us$2 billion (the last figures available). Trade is mainly with France, which heavily subsidizes the budget. Tourism has become more important than agriculture as a source of foreign exchange.

Education is compulsory through the primary and secondary levels. There is a branch of the Universitaire Antilles-Guyana. Martinique has 13 hospitals. The infant mortality rate in 2005 was estimated at 7.09 deaths per 1,000 live births, up from 6.76 per 1,000 live births in 1999, but down significantly from 14 in 1985. Life expectancy was 79.04 years in 2005, up from 78.56 years in 2002.


The French territorial collectivity of St. Pierre and Miquelon (Territoire des Îles Saint-Pierre et Miquelon) is an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, between 46°45 and 47°10 n and 56°5 and 56°25 w, located about 24 km (15 mi) w of Burin Peninsula on the south coast of Newfoundland. It consists of three main islands, St. Pierre, Miquelon, and Langladethe two latter linked by a low, sandy isthmusand several small ones. The length of the group is 43 km (27 mi) ns, and it measures 22 km (14 mi) ew at its widest extent. The total area is 242 sq km (93 sq mi). The islands were the focus of a maritime boundary dispute between Canada and France, but in 1992 an arbitration panel awarded the islands an exclusive economic zone area of 12,348 sq km (4,768 sq mi) as a settlement. Although the archipelago is volcanic in origin, the highest point, Morne de la Grande Montagne, is only 393 m (1,289 ft). The temperature varies between an average daily low of15°c (5°f) in winter and an average daily high of 22°c (72°f) in summer. The spring and autumn are very windy, and fogs are frequent throughout the year; annual precipitation averages 130 cm (51 in). Vegetation is scanty, except on Langlade, where several species of trees are found. Animal life includes seabirds, foxes, rabbits, and deer. The population in mid-2005 was estimated to be 7,012. Most of the people are descendants of Basque, Breton, and Norman settlers and are Roman Catholics.

The first permanent French settlement dates from 1604, and, except for several periods of British rule, the islands have remained French ever since. They became a French overseas territory in 1946, an overseas department in 1976, and a territorial collectivity in 1985. The economy has traditionally centered around fishing and by servicing the fishing fleets operating off the coast of Newfoundland, but the number of ships stopping at St. Pierre has been declining in recent years. Also affecting the economy are disputes with Canada over fishing quotas. The islands receive significant subsidies from France. Total exports in 2004 amounted to us$7 million, while imports totaled us$70 million, requiring heavy subsidies from France.

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French American Dependencies

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