views updated May 29 2018


Culture Name


Alternative Names

Before its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493, the island was called Karukera ("island of beautiful waters") by the Caribs.


Identification. Columbus named the island after the Spanish sanctuary Santa Maria de Guadalupe de Estremadura.

Location and Geography. Guadeloupe is an archipelago of eight inhabited islands in the Lesser Antilles, between the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea. The two principal islands, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, are separated by a channel, the Rivière Salée. The capital, Basse-Terre, is on the western wing; the commercial center, Pointe-á-Pitre, is on the eastern wing. The other islands, known as "dependencies," are Marie-Galante, la Désirade, Petite-Terre (uninhabited), and the archipelago Les Saintes, along with Saint Barthélemy and the northern half of Saint Martin to the north. The total area is 660 square miles (1,705 square kilometers). Grande-Terre, essentially limestone, consists of plateaus, plains, and hills (mornes ). Basse-Terre is volcanic with high mountains and a tropical rain forest. The climate is humid and tropical with a dry season from January to May and a wet season from June to December.

Demography. The total population in 1997 was estimated to be 428,044 with a density of 650 inhabitants per square mile (251 per square kilometer) and a growth rate of 1.5 percent annually. Until recently, population growth was steady because of high levels of fertility and declining mortality as a result of better hygiene and medicine. The youth of the population and high unemployment situation spurred government attempts to control the population through subsidized family-planning programs and a policy of emigration in the period 19611981. The majority of the population is of African descent, with a substantial East Indian minority and smaller groups of Syro-Lebanese and white Creoles (blancs-pays ). In the outlying island dependencies there are distinctive white populations in La Désirade and Saint-Barthélemy and light-skinned inhabitants in Les Saintes.

Linguistic Affiliation. French is the official language of administration and education, but Guadeloupeans speak a French-lexified Creole that dates back to the time of colonization and slavery. In the 1970s and 1980s, Creole became a critical symbol in the nationalist claim for independence from France. Today all social strata recognize the value of Creole in cultural revitalization. Other languages play symbolic roles for ethnic minorities. Syro-Lebanese residents frequently listen to Arabic-language radio stations, and songs and prayers in Tamil have survived in Hindu religious ceremonies.

Symbolism. Creole, drum music, food specialties, and the celebration of carnival operate alongside symbols of the French hegemonic presence such as the tricolor flag and the French national anthem.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. In the pre-Columbian period, Arawaks and later Caribs moved to the region from coastal South America. European exploration led to conquest, to colonization, to the eradication of the indigenous population, to the introduction of sugarcane cultivation, and a plantation economy that was dependent on African slave labor. Under French colonial domination since 1635, with brief periods of English occupation, Guadeloupe was shaped by French politics. The first abolition of slavery (17941802) and the almost total elimination of the white plantocracy during the French Revolution had far-reaching social and economic consequences. After the final abolition of slavery in 1848, a crisis of labor and capital led to the introduction of Indian indentured laborers, to the entry of metropolitan capital, and to the centralization of the sugar industry.

During the twentieth century, the local population of color sought to redress political, social, and economic inequalities. With the passage of the Assimilationist Law on 19 March 1946, Guadeloupe became an overseas department of France. This process ushered in wide-scale transplantation of French administrative and political superstructures and educational and social security systems. Integration with France precipitated a decline in both export and subsistence agriculture, a growth in the service sector, a rise in unemployment, massive emigration, and increasing tensions between Guadeloupeans and metropolitan French. In 1974, Guadeloupe was designated a region, ushering in a policy of decentralization.

National Identity. The revolutionary hero Louis Delgrès, who committed suicide in 1802 rather than be subjugated to the restoration of slavery, is credited with starting the formation of a national consciousness. The first independence movements had their origins in Antillean student organizations in France and the decolonization movement after World War II. The Groupe d'Organisation Nationale de la Guadeloupe was formed in the mid-1960s; in the early 1970s the independentist partythe Union pour la Libération de la Guadeloupewas founded, and in 1981 the Mouvement Populaire pour une Guadeloupe Indépendante was created. Nationalist activity has focused on political demonstrations, trade-union strikes, electoral abstention, and affirmations of cultural difference. The marginal support nationalists enjoyed in the 1980s has eroded with decentralization.

Ethnic Relations. Relations between the black majority and the East Indian minority are basically devoid of tension. Politics and culture remain arenas of debate as a result of increased French integration and the growing presence of the European Union.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Colonialism created different levels of culture, architecture, and the use of space. A unique architectural style was created in rural areas: the colonial villa with a majestic gallery, verandahs, and jalousied windows for ventilation and the vernacular dwelling (case créole ) of two or three rooms with a kitchen, yard, and garden. These wooden huts have been supplanted by hurricane-resistant cement houses of one or two stories. The traditional dichotomy between rural and urban landscapes has become less visible as cities and industrial zones expand and suburbs are created. Urban architecture has evolved over time from French military, ecclesiastical, and colonial administrative architecture in the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries to public works in the 1930s, postwar construction such as low-income public housing, and a modern style influenced by local architects who are adapting contemporary construction principles to a tropical environment.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Food reveals Amerindian, African, East Indian, and French cultural influences. Traditional foods include manioc flour, root crops, breadfruit, avocado, green bananas, peas and beans, okra, curried meats, salted codfish, fish, and tropical fruits. Creole cooking uses hot peppers and spices but has been influenced by French cooking and imported foodstuffs.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Special dishes for ceremonial occasions include pork, blood sausage, pigeon peas, rum punches (Christmas), salted codfish, crab calalou, rice (Easter and Pentecost), cakes and chaudeau (marriages, baptisms, First Communions), and curried goat on banana leaves (Indian ceremonies).

Basic Economy. Agriculture has declined significantly as a percentage of the gross domestic product. Commerce and services now represent 77.9 percent of the total economy. Agricultural productivity is constrained by natural calamities, by the absence of crop diversification, and by rural and agricultural exodus. The primary sector (agriculture and fishing) employs less than 8 percent of the active working population.

Land Tenure and Property. In 1996, 30 percent of the total land area was under cultivation, with sugarcane and bananas the main crops. While the majority of farms registered in 1989 were small, large farms comprise one-quarter of the total cultivated land. Most of the farms registered in 1989 were small. Agricultural land is owned individually or jointly, sharecropped, or rented, and the number of farmers and the amount of land under cultivation have declined consistently. Small farmers produce for the local market, and many people in the countryside maintain small gardens or fruit trees.

Commercial Activities. The weakness of the productive apparatus has caused a serious trade imbalance. In 1997, exports were only 7.4 percent of imports; this has been compensated by the transfer of public funds from France. Imports and exports circulate primarily within the French national territory, with the European union being a secondary partner. Guadeloupe exports principally agricultural products and processed food; most manufactured goods, equipment, and the majority of foodstuffs are imported.

Major Industries. Industrial production remains weak, essentially represented by small enterprises. The manufacturing sector involves primarily food processing and energy. Close to half of industrial production originates in building and public works.

Division of Labor. In 1997, the workforce consisted of 125,900 employed and 52,700 unemployed persons. Jobs are increasingly concentrated in the civil service sector. A major problem is youth unemployment, with persons aged fifteen to twenty-nine accounting for 43 percent of the unemployed.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Social differentiation is based on education, professional orientation, culture, and wealth. Income differentials have been aggravated by inflated civil service salaries that allow greater consumption of imported and luxury goods.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Status markers are linked to consumption patterns and include cars, the type and size of house, leisure activities such as travel abroad and sports, clothing style, and language.

Political Life

Government. Political authority resides in a prefect appointed by the French president, and two subprefects. The Minister for the Overseas Departments and Territories is attached to the French Ministry of the Interior. There are forty-three cantons (electoral divisions) from which legislative leaders of the two local assemblies are elected by direct universal suffrage. The Regional Council is the most important local assembly, and the influence of the General Council, or departmental assembly, has declined. Each commune has an elected mayor and a municipal council. Two senators and four deputies serve in the French National Assembly.

Leadership and Political Officials. Political parties are distinguished chiefly by their stands on national and social issues. Party orientation follows three main currents: anti-assimilationist/regionalist, autonomist, and independentist. Several parties are formally linked to traditional right-wing parties in France; others are local formations, while the far-left parties are Trotskyist. The anti-assimilationist left is split between a center left committed to autonomy and a far left committed to independence and "socialism." The debate on island status issue is focused on whether to merge the two assemblies into a single local assembly. In December 1999, the presidents of the Regional Councils of Guadeloupe, Martiniques, and French Guiana united in support of autonomy. Personality is important in politics, where patron-client and kin ties play key roles.

Social Problems and Control. Guadeloupe is subject to French law and is part of the French judicial system. There are municipal and national police as well as gendarmeries in each commune. In the past, crimes were limited to domestic or local disputes and frequently were handled out of court. Vandalism, burglary, and drug trafficking have become more common as a result of increased economic development and class differentiation. Informal methods of social control include gossip, public defamation, and the use of sorcery.

Military Activity. The French army maintains a presence, and there is a national guard.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The French government funds a comprehensive social security program that includes a minimum wage, pensions, family allocations, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, and health insurance.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

A variety of organizations operate in the villages, towns, and cities with a focus on sports, culture, carnival, social clubs, and labor unions.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. In the last few decades, the replacement of agriculture by a state-subsidized economy has been accompanied by a change in women's occupations. While women have entered the workforce in greater numbers, unemployment has disproportionately affected women and youth. With the collapse of the productive sector, most women work in administration, education, health, services, and commercial activities. Women's access to employment lags behind that of men, and women are more likely to be underemployed, to be compensated less, and to hold fewer managerial positions.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Gender, along with race and class, operates as an important index of status. Although women frequently are heads of households, they have little power outside the home. Continued male domination is manifested by weak political representation of women and their marginalization in the workforce. Feminism and women's reproductive rights have only recently gained a foothold with the formation of women's associations.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Domestic Unit. Family organization and the domestic unit are strongly influenced by socioeconomic status. In many domestic units the woman occupies a central position; the man is marginal or completely absent, and the mother-child bond strong. Unions are unstable, and sexual relations are often polygamous, with a high percentage of children born outside legal marriage. Coexisting with the matrifocal model is the Western model of the stable, nuclear family, frequently unified through marriage. While there is greater control over fertility and a decrease in adolescent mothers, other trends are also occurring: a decrease in marriage, an increase in divorce, a pattern of cohabitation occurring later in the life cycle, and a rise of single-parent families.

Inheritance. Inheritance follows French law, which distinguishes between legitimate children with full rights of inheritance, recognized children who are disadvantaged in inheritance if there are legitimate heirs, and "natural" children born of unmarried parents with no rights of inheritance from the father.

Kin Groups. Within the extended family, relations of blood and marriage create a wide circuit of social contacts, including grandparents, godparents (through baptism), cousins, aunts and uncles, half siblings, and neighbors.


Infant Care. From the moment of birth an infant is showered with attention and care by family members and extended kin. Frequently an older sibling, a grandmother, or another adult in the family is actively involved in the care of an infant, particularly if the mother works or is a single parent. Baptism occurs within the first few months after birth.

Child Rearing and Education. Child rearing varies with the type of family, the persons in the family, the relationships in the household, the socioeconomic class, and the social milieu. Children participate actively and very early in family life and have responsibilities that vary with age and gender. Being obedient, helpful, polite, and well dressed is valued, and strict discipline frequently is enforced with punishment. School is compulsory from ages two to sixteen. Education is highly valued as a means of social mobility. However, the school system is marked by high failure rates, repeating classes, and students who are below grade level.

Higher Education. The Université des Antilles-Guyane operates a campus in Guadeloupe. Many Antilleans undertake university education in France, which is considered prestigious.


Guadeloupeans are known for hospitality, with an emphasis on food, drink, music, and dancing. Casual conversations often are conducted in Creole. People greet each other by kissing or by shaking hands. The style of life favors multiple social contacts, and interaction is filled with conviviality and humorwith bantering and flirtation between the sexes. Traditional values emphasize "reputation" for men and "respect" for women.


Religious Beliefs. The Catholic Church is the dominant organized religion, with its own doctrine, rites, social organization, history, and calendar. Since World War II, Protestant sects such as Evangelists, Adventists, and Baptists have competed with the Catholic Church for congregations. Although the cosmology, myths, and theological systems from Africa did not survive, African magico-religious practices and superstitions are prevalent. Many people still believe in the forces of good and evil, spirits and supernatural creatures with powers. Hindu religious rituals are being reactivated among certain segments of the East Indian population.

Religious Practitioners. In the Catholic Church, metropolitan priests generally outnumber Antillean. Liberation theology is practiced by local priests, but most priests are conservative. Parishioners also frequent the services of quimboiseurs (sorcerers) for counsel in affairs of the heart and problems in social relations and in times of sickness. Marabouts (sorcerers from Francophone Africa) are active in urban areas.

Rituals and Holy Places. Each village, town, and city has its own church and cemetery where the dead are remembered on All Saints' Day (1 November). There is a Hindu temple in Capesterre Belle-Eau and smaller temples in the countryside.

Death and the Afterlife. Funeral wakes are customary, and the deceased is celebrated with drumming, riddles, storytelling, and rum. Among East Indians, a funeral generally is followed by forty days of fasting.

Medicine and Health Care

Modern Western medical practices coexist with traditional healing methods and the use of medicinal plants. Popular discourse on the body and illness includes notions of "hot" and "cold." While people acknowledge that illness can be attributed to natural causes, there is also a belief in the supernatural causation of illnesses and unhappiness. Whereas in the past, people often used personal and family remedies, visited the local healer if there were no results, and only then resorted to the pharmacy, dispensary, or hospital, today people rely more on Western remedies.

Secular Celebrations

Each town or village observes its own annual fête patronale. Islandwide celebrations include French national holidays such as Labor Day (1 May), Bastille Day (14 July), and New Year's Day (1 January) as well as the local celebration of Carnival (linked to the religious calendar) and the anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery (27 May).

The Arts and Humanities

Artists and writers often receive support from the French state. There is a private school of music, and music pervades the culture. Local record labels promote Antillean bands. With the renewed interest in Creole, traditional oral culture is being revived; there are annual poetry competitions in French and Creole. A regional literature has developed that is receiving recognition overseas.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

At the Université des Antilles-Guyane campus in Guadeloupe, natural and biological sciences are taught along with juridical sciences and law. A number of research centers focus on Caribbean studies.


Abenon, Lucien-René. Petite histoire de la Guadeloupe, 1992.

"Antilles." Temps Modernes, vols. 441-442, AprilMay 1983.

Bastien, Daniel, and Maurice Lemoine, eds. "Antilles: Espoirs et déchirements de l'âme créole." Autrement, vol. 41, October 1989.

Bebel-Gisler, Dany. La langue créole force jugulée, 1976.

Benoit, Catherine. Corps, jardins, memoires: Anthropologie du corps et de l'espace á la Guadelupe, 2000.

Berthelot, Jack, and Martine Gaumé. Kaz antiyé jan moun ka rété/Caribbean Popular Dwelling/L'habitat populaire aux Antilles, 1982.

Burton, Richard D. E., and Fred Reno, eds. French and West Indian: Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana Today, 1995.

Centre d'Etudes de Géographie Tropicale du CNRS. Atlas des Départements Français d'Outre-Mer: III La Guadeloupe, 1988.

Dictionnaire encyclopédique des Antilles et de la Guyane, edited by Jack Corzani, 6 vols., 1992.

Encyclopédie antillaise, 6 vols., 19711973.

INSEE. "Guadeloupe: Une année en demi-teinte." Antiane Eco, 41, June 1999.

. Tableaux Economiques Régionaux de la Guadeloupe, 1997, 1998.

Lasserre, Guy. La Guadeloupe: Etude géographique, 1961.

Leiris, Michel. Contacts de civilisations en Martinique et en Guadeloupe, 1955.

L'Historial Antillais, 6 vols., 1981.

Schnepel, Ellen. Language, Politics and the Creole Movement in Guadeloupe, French West Indies, forthcoming.

Singaravélou. Les Indiens de la Guadeloupe, 1976.

Ellen M. Schnepel


views updated Jun 11 2018


Basic Data
Official Country Name:Department of Guadeloupe
Region:Puerto Rico & Lesser Antilles
Language(s):French, Creole patois
Literacy Rate:90%

Guadeloupe has been a French possession since 1635 and a department of France since 1946. In July 2000, the population was estimated at 426,493 people. The economy depends heavily on tourism but requires substantial aid from France. In 1998, the unemployment rate was 27.8 percent, and GDP per capita was estimated at $9,000 in 1996. Although French is the official language, the majority of the population speaks Creole, an important element in the cultural unity of Guadeloupe's society.

Because Guadeloupe is a department of France, the education system is the same as in France. Education is compulsory for 10 years from the ages of 6 to 16. The school year runs from the first week in September to the end of June. The school calendar includes the following holidays: one day at Mi-Carême (Mid-Lent) and at the Abolition de l'esclavage (the Abolition of Slavery Day) at the end of May, one week at La Toussaint (All Saints' Day) in early November and at Carnaval in late February, and two weeks at Noël (Christmas) and Pâques (Easter). French is the language of instruction.

Students may enter the école maternelle (preprimary school) at age two, and the école primaire (primary school) at age six. In 1998-99, there were 339 écoles maternelles et primaires with 63,609 students enrolled.

Secondary education begins at age 11 and lasts for 7 years; it is divided into a premier cycle (first cycle) completed in the collège and lasting four years, and a second cycle completed in the lycée and lasting three years. In the 1998-99 school year, there were 48 collèges enrolling 30,825 students and 31 lycées with 20,448 students.

The Guadeloupe campus of the Université des Antilles et de la Guyane has schools of exact and natural sciences, law and economics, sciences and techniques in physical and sporting activities, and medicine. Enrollment in 1998 was about 5,300 students with an academic staff of 130. The Institut Universitaire de Formation des Maîtres (University Institute for Teacher Training), affiliated with the university, has a center in Guadeloupe to provide teacher training. The licence (bachelor's degree) is required for admission. The program lasts two years, the first for further specialization in a discipline and the second for teacher training in that discipline. Continuing education and training is provided through the Centre National d'Enseignement à Distance (The National Center for Distance Education).

Starting in 1947, the school system was under the jurisdiction of the Recteur of the Académie de Bordeaux (the Bordeaux Academy). In 1974, an Académie des Antilles-Guyane was created for the departments of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Guyana. Since January 1997, the school system is headed by the recteur of the newly created Académie de la Guadeloupe.

The new Académie de Guadeloupe implemented a three-year plan in 1999 with a focus on important issues for the schools of Guadeloupe. One of the goals is to reduce the failure and dropout rates, especially in the first year of the lycée, where those rates have been significant. Another objective is the mastery of French: the goal is to improve the effectiveness in the teaching of French and in teaching other subjects in French in Guadeloupe's multilingual society. A final goal encourages teachers to develop activities on the theme of citizenship to include promoting non-violence and the teaching of the skills of democracy: civility, listening to others, and constructing reasonable arguments in support of one's ideas.


Académie de la Guadeloupe, 15 December 2000. Available from

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The World Factbook 2000. Directorate of Intelligence, 1 January 2000. Available from

Europa. The Europa World Yearbook 2000, Vol. 1. London: Europa Publications, 1999.

International Association of Universities. International Handbook of Universities, Fifteenth Ed. New York: Grove's Dictionaries Inc, 1998.

Michel, C., and G. Pigeon. "Guadeloupe and Martinique: System of Education." In The International Encyclopedia of Education, Vol. 6. Tarrytown, NY: Elsevier Science Inc., 1994.

UNESCO. Statistical Yearbook/Annuaire Statistique 1999. Lanham, MD: Bernan Press, 2000.

Université des Antilles et de la Guyane, 15 December 2000. Available from

Gilles Labrie


views updated May 29 2018


Overseas Department of France

  • Area: 687 sq mi (1,780 sq km) / World Rank: 173
  • Location: Northern and Western Hemispheres, in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, most northern of the Windward Islands
  • Coordinates: 16°15′N, 61°35′W.
  • Borders: 6.4 mi (10.2 km), all with Netherlands Antilles (on St. Maarten)
  • Coastline: 191 miles (306 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Soufriére, 4,813 ft (1,467 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 42 mi (67 km) E-W / 37 mi (60 km) N-S
  • Longest River: None of significant size
  • Natural Hazards: Hurricanes, volcanic activity
  • Population: 431,170 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 165
  • Capital City: Basse-Terre, on the southwestern coast of the island of Basse-Terre
  • Largest City: Les Abymes, 63,054 (March 1999), on Grand-Terre


Guadeloupe is an archipelago of nine inhabited islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. The main islands are between Antigua and Barbuda to the north and Dominica to the south, but there are also some islands further north near the Netherlands Antilles. It is a possession of France, which terms it an Overseas Department. The islands are mostly hilly or mountainous; some are volcanic in origin. Guadeloupe is on the Caribbean Tectonic Plate.


Soufriére, at 4,813 ft (1,467 m), is the highest point in Guadeloupe. Located on Basse-Terre island, Soufriére is an active volcano that last erupted in the 1800s. The islands of Les Saintes and Saint-Barthélemy are volcanic in formation, with high, rugged terrain. Grande-Terre features rolling hills and limestone plains. The island of La Désirade has hills with elevations reaching nearly 900 ft (270m).


Basse-Terre's mountains receive much rainfall and this feeds numerous small rivers on the island. The Riviére Salée, actually a narrow channel of flowing seawater, divides Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre. Mangrove swamps can be found on the islands, near the coastal regions.


The main islands in Guadeloupe are Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre. They are separated by the Riviére Salée, a narrow seawater channel. The islands of Marie-Galante, La Désirade, Îles des Saintes, and Îles de la Petite Terre lie nearby the main islands. Much further north are Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin, the last of which is divided between Guadeloupe and the Netherlands Antilles.

All of the islands are part of the Lesser Antilles, with the main islands in the Windward Islands chain and the northern islands in the Leeward Islands chain. The Guadeloupe Passage runs between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean to the north of the main islands; the Dominica Passage connects these bodies of water to the south.

Arrondissements – Guadeloupe
NameArea (sq mi)Area (sq km)Capital
SOURCE : Geo-Data: The World Geographical Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.



Guadeloupe is warm year-round, tempered by trade winds or alizés, but the evenings are coolest in winter (December to February). The temperature hovers around 75°F (23°C) in winter and 90°F (32°C) in summer; the average humidity is 77 percent.


Annual rainfall ranges from 39 in (99 cm) on the out-lying island of La Désirade to between 200–400 in (500– 1000 cm) on the mountains of Basse-Terre island. February to April are the driest months, with rain falling an average of seven days a month and the humidity keeping in the realm of the tolerable. The wettest months are July to November, which is also hurricane season.

Forests and Jungles

Forty percent of the land area of Guadeloupe is forest and woodland. Bamboo, mangrove, and tropical hardwoods are abundant.


Guadeloupe's population is concentrated on the two main islands. The vast majority of the inhabitants are descendants of Africans brought to the islands as slaves; they are predominantly Roman Catholic in faith.


Guadeloupe has no significant mineral resources. The economy is subsidized by France. The primary natural resources are tropical crops, especially bananas and sugar. The islands also have good beaches and a climate that fosters tourism.


The Civilized Explorer. Guadeloupe–The Civilized Island. (accessed April 3, 2002).

Guadeloupe. Cincinnati, OH: Seven Hills Book Distributors, 1994.

Pineau, Giséle. The Drifting of Spirits. Translated by Michael Dash. London: Quartet Books, 1999.

Sullivan, Lynne M. Martinique and Guadeloupe Alive! Edison, NJ: Hunter, 2002.


views updated May 17 2018


Basic Data

Official Country Name:Department of Guadeloupe
Region (Map name):Caribbean
Language(s):French, Creole patois
Literacy rate:90%

Guadeloupe, in the lesser Antilles, is an archipelago of nine inhabited islands in the Caribbean Sea. In 1493, Christopher Columbus became its first European visitor, and the French settled the islands in 1635. The country remains an oversees department of France; the French President is Guadeloupe's head of state, represented locally by a Paris-appointed Prefect. The country is headed by the President of the General Council and the President of the Regional Council. Both positions are elected by the membership of their respective councils. The official language is French, but many speak Creole Patois. The population of the islands is approximately 400,000, and the literacy rate is 90 percent. Guadeloupe's economy revolves around tourism, but agriculture and light industry such as sugar and rum production also play important roles. France also provides subsidies and imports much of Guadeloupe's locally consumed food. Sugar cane was once the most important crop, but it is being edged out in importance by bananas, eggplant, and flowers.

As a department of France, Guadeloupe enjoys the European country's press and speech freedoms. Guadeloupe's primary newspaper is its daily, the France-Antilles. Le Progrés Social is a popular weekly. There are two newspapers sponsored by the Communist Party, L'Etincelle, a weekly, and Combat Ouvrier, a bimonthly. Only Combat Ouvrier is available online.

There are 17 FM radio stations and one AM station serving 113,000 radios. Five television stations broadcast to 118,000 televisions. There are three Internet service providers.


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"Benn's Media 1999," Vol. 3, 147th Edition, p. 251.

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"Guadeloupe," CIA World Fact Book (2001). Available from

Jenny B. Davis


views updated Jun 11 2018

Guadeloupe French overseas department (since 1946), consisting of the islands of Basse-Terre (w), Grande-Terre (e), and several smaller islands in the Leeward Islands, e West Indies. Discovered in 1493 by Columbus, France settled Guadeloupe in 1635. Briefly held by Britain and Sweden, it reverted to French rule in 1816. The chief crops are sugar cane and bananas. Industries: distilling, tourism. Area: 1780sq km (687sq mi). Pop. (1999) 422,222.