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Department of Guadeloupe, Région Guadeloupe
Département de la Guadeloupe  (French), Région Guadeloupe  (French)
Guadeloupe in France 2016.svg
Location of Guadeloupe
Country France
 • President of the Regional CouncilAry Chalus
 • Total1,628 km2 (629 sq mi)
Area rank16th region
Highest elevation1,467 m (4,813 ft)
 • Total395,700[1]
Time zoneUTC-04:00 (AST)
ISO 3166 code
GDP (2014)[1]Ranked 25th
Total€8.1 billion (US$10.3 bn)
Per capita€19,810 (US$25,479)

Guadeloupe (/ˌɡwɑːdəˈlp/; French: [ɡwad(ə)lup] (About this soundlisten); Antillean Creole: Gwadloup, [ɡwadlup]) is an archipelago and overseas department and region of France in the Caribbean.[2] It consists of six inhabited islands—Basse-Terre, Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, La Désirade, and the two inhabited Îles des Saintes—as well as many uninhabited islands and outcroppings.[3] It is south of Antigua and Barbuda and Montserrat, and north of Dominica. The region's capital city is Basse-Terre, located on the southern west coast of Basse-Terre Island; however, the most populous city is Les Abymes and the main center of business is neighbouring Pointe-à-Pitre, both located on Grande-Terre Island.[2]

Like the other overseas departments, it is an integral part of France. As a constituent territory of the European Union and the Eurozone, the euro is its official currency and any European Union citizen is free to settle and work there indefinitely. As an overseas department, however, it is not part of the Schengen Area. The region formerly included Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin, which were detached from Guadeloupe in 2007 following a 2003 referendum.

Navigator Christopher Columbus was the first European to see Guadeloupe, where he landed in 1493, and gave the island its name. The official language is French; Antillean Creole is also spoken.[2][3]


Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe, after whom the island gets its name

The archipelago was called Karukera (or "The Island of Beautiful Waters") by the native Arawak people.[2]

Christopher Columbus named the island Santa María de Guadalupe in 1493 after the Our Lady of Guadalupe, a shrine to the Virgin Mary venerated in the Spanish town of Guadalupe, Extremadura.[2] Upon becoming a French colony, the Spanish name was retained though altered to French orthography and phonology. The islands are locally known as Gwada.[4]


Pre-colonial era[edit]

Ancient petroglyph in Baillif

The islands were first populated by indigenous peoples of the Americas, possibly as far back as 3000 BC.[5][6][7] The Arawak people are the first identifiable group, but they were later displaced circa 1400 AD by Kalina-Carib peoples.[2]

15th–17th centuries[edit]

Christopher Columbus was the first European to see Guadeloupe, landing in November 1493 and giving it its current name.[2] Several attempts at colonisation by the Spanish in the 16th century failed due to attacks from the native peoples.[2] In 1626, the French under Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc began to take an interest in Guadeloupe, expelling Spanish settlers.[2] The Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique settled in Guadeloupe in 1635, under the direction of Charles Liénard de L'Olive and Jean du Plessis d'Ossonville; they formally took possession of the island for France and brought in French farmers to colonise the land. This led to the death of many indigenous people by disease and violence.[8] By 1640, however, the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique had gone bankrupt, and they thus sold Guadeloupe to Charles Houël du Petit Pré who began plantation agriculture, with the first African slaves arriving in 1650.[9][10] Slave resistance was immediately widespread, with an open uprising in 1656 lasting several weeks and a simultaneous spate of mass desertions that lasted at least two years until the French compelled indigenous peoples to stop assisting them.[11] Ownership of the island passed to the French West India Company before it was annexed to France in 1674 under the tutelage of their Martinique colony.[2] Institutionalised slavery, enforced by the Code Noir from 1685, led to a booming sugar plantation economy.[12]

18th–19th centuries[edit]

During the Seven Years' War, the British captured and occupied the islands until the 1763 Treaty of Paris.[2] During that time, Pointe-à-Pitre became a major harbour, and markets in Britain's North American colonies were opened to Guadeloupean sugar, which was traded for foodstuffs and timber. The economy expanded quickly, creating vast wealth for the French colonists.[13] So prosperous was Guadeloupe at the time that, under the 1763 Treaty of Paris, France forfeited its Canadian colonies in exchange for the return of Guadeloupe.[9][14] Coffee planting began in the late 1720s,[15] also worked by slaves and, by 1775, cocoa had become a major export product as well.[9]

The Battle of the Saintes was fought between France and Britain in 1782.

The French Revolution brought chaos to Guadeloupe. Under new revolutionary law, free people of colour were entitled to equal rights. Taking advantage of the chaotic political situation, Britain invaded Guadeloupe in 1794. The French responded by sending an expeditionary force led by Victor Hugues, who retook the islands and abolished slavery.[2] More than 1,000 French colonists were killed in the aftermath.[13]

Bust of Louis Delgrès, leader of the 1802 slave rebellion

In 1802, the First French Empire reinstated the pre-revolutionary government and slavery, prompting a slave rebellion led by Louis Delgrès.[2] The French authorities responded quickly, culminating in the Battle of Matouba on 28 May 1802. Realising they had no chance of success, Delgrès and his followers committed mass suicide by deliberately exploding their gunpowder stores.[16][17] In 1810, the British captured the island again, handing it over to Sweden under the 1813 Treaty of Stockholm.[18]

In the 1814 Treaty of Paris, Sweden ceded Guadeloupe to France, giving rise to the Guadeloupe Fund. In 1815, the Treaty of Vienna acknowledged French control of Guadeloupe.[2][9]

Slavery was abolished in the French Empire in 1848.[2] After 1854, indentured labourers from the French colony of Pondicherry in India were brought in.[citation needed] Emancipated slaves had the vote from 1849, but French nationality and the vote were not granted to Indian citizens until 1923, when a long campaign, led by Henry Sidambarom, finally achieved success.[19]

20th–21st centuries[edit]

In 1936, Félix Éboué became the first black governor of Guadeloupe.[20] During the Second World War Guadeloupe initially came under the control of the Vichy government, later joining Free France in 1943.[2] In 1946, the colony of Guadeloupe became an overseas department of France.[2]

Tensions arose in the post-war era over the social structure of Guadeloupe and its relationship with mainland France. The 'Massacre of St Valentine' occurred in 1952, when striking factory workers in Le Moule were shot at by the Compagnies républicaines de sécurité, resulting in four deaths.[21][22][23] In May 1967 racial tensions exploded into rioting following a racist attack on a black Guadeloupean, resulting in eight deaths.[24][25][26]

An independence movement grew in the 1970s, prompting France to declare Guadeloupe a French region in 1974.[2] The Union populaire pour la libération de la Guadeloupe (UPLG) campaigned for complete independence, and by the 1980s the situation had turned violent with the actions of groups such as Groupe de libération armée (GLA) and Alliance révolutionnaire caraïbe (ARC).

Greater autonomy was granted to Guadeloupe in 2000.[2] Through a referendum in 2003, Saint-Martin and Saint Barthélemy voted to separate from the administrative jurisdiction of Guadeloupe, this being fully enacted by 2007.[2]

In January 2009, labour unions and others known as the Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon went on strike for more pay.[27] Strikers were angry with low wages, the high cost of living, high levels of poverty relative to mainland France and levels of unemployment that are amongst the worst in the European Union.[28] The situation quickly escalated, exacerbated by what was seen as an ineffectual response by the French government, turning violent and prompting the deployment of extra police after a union leader (Jacques Bino) was shot and killed.[29] The strike lasted 44 days and had also inspired similar actions on nearby Martinique. President Nicolas Sarkozy later visited the island, promising reform.[30] Tourism suffered greatly during this time and affected the 2010 tourist season as well.


Satellite photo of Guadeloupe
Lush forest on Basse-Terre
Detailed map of Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is an archipelago of more than 12 islands, as well as islets and rocks situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean.[2] It is located in the Leeward Islands in the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, a partly volcanic island arc. To the north lie Antigua and Barbuda and the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat, with Dominica lying to the south.

The two main islands are Basse-Terre (west) and Grande-Terre (east), which form a butterfly shape as viewed from above, the two 'wings' of which are separated by the Grand Cul-de-Sac Marin, Rivière Salée and Petit Cul-de-Sac Marin. More than half of Guadeloupe's land surface consists of the 847.8 km2 Basse-Terre.[31] The island is mountainous, containing such peaks as Mount Sans Toucher (4,442 feet; 1,354 metres) and Grande Découverte (4,143 feet; 1,263 metres), culminating in the active volcano La Grande Soufrière, the highest mountain peak in the Lesser Antilles with an elevation of 1,467 metres (4,813 ft).[2][3] In contrast Grande-Terre is mostly flat, with rocky coasts to the north, irregular hills at the centre, mangrove at the southwest, and white sand beaches sheltered by coral reefs along the southern shore.[3] This is where the main tourist resorts are found.[32]

Marie-Galante is the third-largest island, followed by La Désirade, a north-east slanted limestone plateau, the highest point of which is 275 metres (902 ft). To the south lies the Îles de Petite-Terre, which are two islands (Terre de Haut and Terre de Bas) totalling 2 km2.[32]

Les Saintes is an archipelago of eight islands of which two, Terre-de-Bas and Terre-de-Haut are inhabited. The landscape is similar to that of Basse-Terre, with volcanic hills and irregular shoreline with deep bays.

There are numerous other smaller islands, most notably Tête à l'Anglais, Îlet à Kahouanne, Îlet à Fajou, Îlet Macou, Îlet aux Foux, Îlets de Carénage, La Biche, Îlet Crabière, Îlets à Goyaves, Îlet à Cochons, Îlet à Boissard, Îlet à Chasse and Îlet du Gosier.


Basse-Terre is a volcanic island.[33] The Lesser Antilles are at the outer edge of the Caribbean Plate, and Guadeloupe is part of the outer arc of the Lesser Antilles Volcanic Arc. Many of the islands were formed as a result of the subduction of oceanic crust of the Atlantic Plate under the Caribbean Plate in the Lesser Antilles subduction zone. This process is ongoing and is responsible for volcanic and earthquake activity in the region. Guadeloupe was formed from multiple volcanoes, of which only La Grande Soufrière is not extinct.[34] Its last eruption was in 1976, and led to the evacuation of the southern part of Basse-Terre. 73,600 people were displaced over a course of three and a half months following the eruption.

K–Ar dating indicates that the three northern massifs on Basse-Terre Island are 2.79 million years old. Sections of volcanoes collapsed and eroded within the last 650,000 years, after which the Sans Toucher volcano grew in the collapsed area. Volcanoes in the north of Basse-Terre Island mainly produced andesite and basaltic andesite.[35] There are several beaches of dark or "black" sand.[32]

La Désirade, east of the main islands has a basement from the Mesozoic, overlaid with thick limestones from the Pliocene to Quaternary periods.[36]

Grande-Terre and Marie-Galante have basements probably composed of volcanic units of Eocene to Oligocene, but there are no visible outcrops. On Grande-Terre, the overlying carbonate platform is 120 metres thick.[36]


The islands are part of the Leeward Islands, so called because they are downwind of the prevailing trade winds, which blow out of the northeast.[2][3] This was significant in the days of sailing ships. Grande-Terre is so named because it is on the eastern, or windward side, exposed to the Atlantic winds. Basse-Terre is so named because it is on the leeward south-west side and sheltered from the winds. Guadeloupe has a tropical climate tempered by maritime influences and the Trade Winds. There are two seasons, the dry season called "Lent" from January to June, and the wet season called "winter", from July to December.[2]

Climate data for Guadeloupe
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 29.1
Daily mean °C (°F) 24.5
Average low °C (°F) 19.9
Average precipitation mm (inches) 84
Average precipitation days 15.0 11.5 11.5 11.6 13.6 12.8 15.4 16.2 16.6 18.1 16.6 15.7 174.6
Mean monthly sunshine hours 235.6 229.1 232.5 240.0 244.9 237.0 244.9 248.0 216.0 217.0 207.0 223.2 2,775.2
Source: Hong Kong Observatory[37]
Grande Anse Beach

Tropical cyclones and storm surges[edit]

Located in a very exposed region, Guadeloupe and its dependencies have to face many cyclones. The deadliest hurricane to hit Guadeloupe was the Pointe-à-Pitre hurricane of 1776, which killed at least 6,000 people.[38]

On September 16, 1989, Hurricane Hugo caused severe damage to the islands of the archipelago and left a deep mark on the memory of the local inhabitants. In 1995, three hurricanes (Iris, Luis and Marilyn) hit the archipelago in less than three weeks.

Some of the deadliest hurricanes that have hit Guadeloupe are the following:

In the 20th century: September 12, 1928: hurricane Okeechobee; August 11, 1956: hurricane Betsy; August 22, 1964: hurricane Cleo; September 27, 1966: hurricane Inez; September 16-17, 1989: hurricane Hugo; September 14-15, 1995: hurricane Marilyn.

In the 21st century: September 6, 2017: hurricane Irma; September 18-19, 2017: hurricane Maria.


The Guadeloupe woodpecker is endemic to the islands.

With fertile volcanic soils, heavy rainfall and a warm climate, vegetation on Basse-Terre is lush.[31] Most of the islands' forests are on Basse-Terre, containing such species as mahogany, ironwood and chestnut trees.[2] Mangrove swamps line the Salée River.[2] Much of the forest on Grande-Terre has been cleared, with only a few small patches remaining.[2]

Between 300 and 1,000 m of altitude, the rainforest that covers a large part of the island of Basse-Terre develops. There we find the white gum tree, the acomat-boucan or chestnut tree, the marbri or bois-bandé or the oleander; shrubs and herbaceous plants such as the mountain palm, the balisier or ferns; many epiphytes: bromeliads, philodendrons, orchids and lianas. Above 1,000 m, the humid savannah develops, composed of mosses, lichens, sphagnum or more vigorous plants such as mountain mangrove, high altitude violet or mountain thyme.

The dry forest occupies a large part of the islands of Grande-Terre, Marie-Galante, Les Saintes, La Désirade and also develops on the leeward coast of Basse-Terre. The coastal forest is more difficult to develop because of the nature of the soil (sandy, rocky), salinity, sunshine and wind and is the environment where the sea grape, the mancenilla (a very toxic tree whose trunk is marked with a red line), the icaquier or the coconut tree grow. On the cliffs and in the arid zones are found cacti such as the cactus-cigar (Cereus), the prickly pear, the chestnut cactus, the "Tête à l'anglais" cactus and the aloes.

The mangrove forest that borders some of Guadalupe's coasts is structured in three levels, from the closest to the sea to the farthest. On the first level are the red mangroves; on the second, about ten meters from the sea, the black mangroves form the shrubby mangrove; on the third level the white mangroves form the tall mangrove. Behind the mangrove, where the tide and salt do not penetrate, a swamp forest sometimes develops, unique in Guadeloupe. The representative species of this environment is the Mangrove-medaille.

A Jamaican fruit bats hanging from a tree
The Jamaican fruit bat can be found throughout the department


Few terrestrial mammals, aside from bats and raccoons, are native to the islands. The introduced Javan mongoose is also present on Guadeloupe.[2] Bird species include the endemic purple-throated carib, Guadeloupe woodpecker and the extinct Guadeloupe parakeet.[2] The waters of the islands support a rich variety of marine life.[2]

However, by studying 43,000 bone remains from six islands in the archipelago, 50 to 70% of snakes and lizards on the Guadeloupe Islands became extinct after European colonists arrived, who had brought with them mammals such as cats, mongooses, rats, and raccoons, which might have preyed upon the native reptiles.[39]

Environmental preservation[edit]

In recent decades, Guadeloupe's natural environments have been affected by hunting and fishing, forest retreat, urbanization and suburbanization. They also suffer from the development of intensive crops (banana and sugar cane, in particular), which reached their peak in the years 1955-75. This has led to the following situation: seagrass beds and reefs have degraded by up to 50% around the large islands; mangroves and mantids have almost disappeared in Marie-Galante, Les Saintes and La Désirade; the salinity of the fresh water table has increased due to "the intensity of use of the layer"; and pollution of agricultural origin (pesticides and nitrogenous compounds).[40]

In addition, the ChlEauTerre study, unveiled in March 2018, concludes that 37 different anthropogenic molecules (more than half of which come from residues of now-banned pesticides, such as chlordecone) were found in "79% of the watersheds analyzed in Grande-Terre and 84% in Basse-Terre." A report by the Guadeloupe Water Office notes that in 2019 there is a "generalized degradation of water bodies."

Despite everything, there is a will to preserve these environments whose vegetation and landscape are preserved in some parts of the islands and constitute a sensitive asset for tourism. These areas are partially protected and classified as ZNIEFF, sometimes with nature reserve status, and several caves are home to protected chiropterans.

La Soufrière Volcano crater and its fumaroles

The Guadalupe National Park was created on February 20, 1989. In 1992, under the auspices of UNESCO, the Biosphere Reserve of the Guadeloupe Archipelago (Réserve de biosphère de l'archipel de la Guadeloupe) was created. As a result, on December 8, 1993, the marine site of Grand Cul-de-sac was listed as a wetland of international importance.[41] The island thus became the overseas department with the most protected areas.

Earthquakes and tsunamis[edit]

The archipelago is crossed by numerous geological faults such as those of la Barre or la Cadoue, while in depth, in front of Moule and La Désirade begins the Désirade Fault, and between the north of Maria-Galante and the south of Grande-Terre begins the Maria Galante Fault. And it is because of these geological characteristics that the islands of the department of Guadeloupe are classified in zone III according to the seismic zoning of France and are subject to a specific risk prevention plan.[42]

The 1843 earthquake in the Lesser Antilles is, to this day, the most violent earthquake known. It caused the death of more than a thousand people, as well as major damage in Pointe-à-Pitre.

On November 21, 2004, the islands of the department, in particular Les Saintes archipelago, were shaken by a violent earthquake that reached a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale and caused the death of one person, as well as extensive material damage.[43]


Guadeloupe's population, 1961-2003

Guadeloupe recorded a population of 402,119 in the 2013 census.[44] The population is mainly of Afro-Caribbean or mixed Creole, white European, Indian (Tamil, Telugu, and other South Indians), Lebanese, Syrians, and Chinese. There is also a substantial population of Haitians in Guadeloupe who work mainly in construction and as street vendors.[45] Basse-Terre is the political capital; however, the largest city and economic hub is Pointe-à-Pitre.[2]

The population of Guadeloupe has been stable recently, with a net increase of only 335 people between the 2008 and 2013 censuses.[46] In 2012 the average population density in Guadeloupe was 247.7 inhabitants for every square kilometre, which is very high in comparison to the whole France's 116.5 inhabitants for every square kilometre.[citation needed] One third of the land is devoted to agriculture and all mountains are uninhabitable; this lack of space and shelter makes the population density even higher.

Major urban areas[edit]

Rank Urban Area Pop. (08) Pop. (99) Δ Pop Activities Island
1 Pointe-à-Pitre 132,884 132,751 Increase 0.1% economic center Grande-Terre and
2 Basse-Terre 37,455 36,126 Increase 3.68% administrative center Basse-Terre
3 Sainte-Anne 23,457 20,410 Increase 14.9% tourism Grande-Terre
4 Petit-Bourg 22,171 20,528 Increase 8% agriculture Basse-Terre
5 Le Moule 21,347 20,827 Increase 2.5% agriculture Grande-Terre


In 2011, life expectancy at birth was recorded at 77.0 years for males and 83.5 for females.[47]

Medical centers in Guadeloupe include: University Hospital Center (CHU) in Pointe-à-Pitre, Regional Hospital Center (CHR) in Basse-Terre, and four hospitals located in Capesterre-Belle-Eau, Pointe-Noire, Bouillante and Saint-Claude.[circular reference][48]

The Institut Pasteur de la Guadeloupe, is located in Pointe-à-Pitre and is responsible for researching environmental hygiene, vaccinations, and the spread of tuberculosis and mycobacteria[49]


Together with Martinique, La Réunion, Mayotte and French Guiana, Guadeloupe is one of the overseas departments, being both a region and a department combined into one entity.[2] It is also an outermost region of the European Union. The inhabitants of Guadeloupe are French citizens with full political and legal rights.

Legislative powers are centred on the separate departmental and regional councils.[2] The elected president of the Departmental Council of Guadeloupe is currently Josette Borel-Lincertin; its main areas of responsibility include the management of a number of social and welfare allowances, of junior high school (collège) buildings and technical staff, and local roads and school and rural buses. The Regional Council of Guadeloupe is a body, elected every six years, consisting of a president (currently Ary Chalus) and eight vice-presidents. The regional council oversees secondary education, regional transportation, economic development, the environment, and some infrastructure, among other things.

Guadeloupe elects one deputy from one of each of the first, second, third, and fourth constituencies to the National Assembly of France. Three senators are chosen for the Senate of France by indirect election.[2] For electoral purposes, Guadeloupe is divided into two arrondissements (Basse-Terre and Pointe-à-Pitre), and 21 cantons.

Most of the French political parties are active in Guadeloupe. In addition there are also regional parties such as the Guadeloupe Communist Party, the Progressive Democratic Party of Guadeloupe, the Guadeloupean Objective, the Pluralist Left, and United Guadaloupe, Socialism and Realities.

The prefecture (regional capital) of Guadeloupe is Basse-Terre. Local services of the state administration are traditionally organised at departmental level, where the prefect represents the government.[2]

Administrative divisions[edit]

For the purposes of local government, Guadeloupe is divided into 32 communes.[2] Each commune has a municipal council and a mayor. Revenues for the communes come from transfers from the French government, and local taxes. Administrative responsibilities at this level include water management, civil register, and municipal police.

Name Area (km2) Population Arrondissement Map
Anse-Bertrand 62.5 4,136 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Anse-Bertrand 2018.png
Baie-Mahault 46 31,193 Basse-Terre Locator map of Baie-Mahault 2018.png
Baillif 24.3 5,404 Basse-Terre Locator map of Baillif 2018.png
Basse-Terre 5.78 10,046 Basse-Terre Locator map of Basse-Terre 2018.png
Bouillante 43.46 6,935 Basse-Terre Locator map of Bouillante 2018.png
Capesterre-Belle-Eau 103.3 18,131 Basse-Terre Locator map of Capesterre-Belle-Eau 2018.png
Capesterre-de-Marie-Galante 46.19 3,293 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Capesterre-de-Marie-Galante 2018.png
Deshaies 31.1 4,033 Basse-Terre Locator map of Deshaies 2018.png
Gourbeyre 22.52 7,778 Basse-Terre Locator map of Gourbeyre 2018.png
Goyave 59.91 7,588 Basse-Terre Locator map of Goyave 2018.png
Grand-Bourg 55.54 4,941 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Grand-Bourg 2018.png
La Désirade 21.12 1,432 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of La Désirade 2018.png
Lamentin 65.6 16,536 Basse-Terre Locator map of Lamentin 2018.png
Le Gosier 45.2 26,692 Basse-Terre Locator map of Le Gosier 2018.png
Le Moule 82.84 22,315 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Le Moule 2018.png
Les Abymes 81.25 53,082 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Les Abymes 2018.png
Morne-à-l'Eau 64.5 16,875 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Morne-à-l'Eau 2018.png
Petit-Bourg 129.88 24,522 Basse-Terre Locator map of Petit-Bourg 2018.png
Petit-Canal 72 8,212 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Petit-Canal 2018.png
Pointe-à-Pitre 2.66 15,410 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Pointe-à-Pitre 2018.png
Pointe-Noire 59.7 6,069 Basse-Terre Locator map of Pointe-Noire 2018.png
Port-Louis 44.24 5,635 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Port-Louis 2018.png
Saint-Claude 34.3 10,659 Basse-Terre Locator map of Saint-Claude 2018.png
Saint-François 61 12,348 Basse-Terre Locator map of Saint-François 2018.png
Saint-Louis 56.28 2,421 Pointe-à-Pitre Locator map of Saint-Louis 2018.png
Sainte-Anne 80.29 23,767 Basse-Terre Locator map of Sainte-Anne 2018.png
Sainte-Rose 118.6 18,650 Basse-Terre Locator map of Sainte-Rose 2018.png
Terre-de-Bas 6.8 1,011 Basse-Terre Locator map of Terre-de-Bas 2018.png
Terre-de-Haut 6 1,526 Basse-Terre Locator map of Terre-de-Haut 2018.png
Trois-Rivières 31.1 7,991 Basse-Terre Locator map of Trois-Rivières 2018.png
Vieux-Fort 7.24 1,844 Basse-Terre Locator map of Vieux-Fort 2018.png
Vieux-Habitants 58.7 7,154 Basse-Terre Locator map of Vieux-Habitants 2018.png

Symbols and flags[edit]

As a part of France, Guadeloupe uses the French tricolour as its flag and La Marseillaise as its anthem.[50] However, a variety of other flags are also used in an unofficial or informal context, most notably the sun-based flag.[citation needed] Independentists also have their own flag.[citation needed]


Plage de Pompierre, one of the many beaches on Guadeloupe that draw in tourists
Banana plantations on Basse-Terre

The economy of Guadeloupe depends on tourism, agriculture, light industry and services.[3] It is reliant upon mainland France for large subsidies and imports and public administration is the largest single employer on the islands.[2][3] Unemployment is especially high among the youth population.[3]

In 2017, the Gross domestic product (GDP) of Guadeloupe was €9.079 billion, and showed 3.4% growth. The GDP per capita of Guadeloupe was €23,152.[51] Imports amounted to €3.019 billion, and exports to €1.157 billion. The main export products are bananas, sugar and rum. Banana exports suffered in 2017 from damages due to Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.[51]


Tourism is the one of the most prominent sources of income, with most visitors coming from France and North America.[3] An increasingly large number of cruise ships visit Guadeloupe, the cruise terminal of which is in Pointe-à-Pitre.[52]


The traditional sugar cane crop is slowly being replaced by other crops, such as bananas (which now supply about 50% of export earnings), eggplant, guinnep, noni, sapotilla, giraumon squash, yam, gourd, plantain, christophine, cocoa, jackfruit, pomegranate, and many varieties of flowers.[2] Other vegetables and root crops are cultivated for local consumption, although Guadeloupe is dependent upon imported food, mainly from the rest of France.[53]

Light industry[edit]

Of the various light industries, sugar and rum production, solar energy, cement, furniture and clothing are the most prominent.[2] Most manufactured goods and fuel are imported.



Guadeloupe's official language is French, which is spoken by nearly all of the population.[2][3] In addition, most of the population can also speak Guadeloupean Creole, a variety of Antillean Creole. Traditionally stigmatised as the language of the Creole majority, attitudes have changed in recent decades. In the early 1970s to the mid 1980s Guadeloupe saw the rise and fall of an at-times violent movement for (greater) political independence from France,[54][55] and Creole was claimed as key to local cultural pride and unity. In the 1990s, in the wake of the independence movement's demise, Creole retained its de-stigmatized status as a symbol of local culture, albeit without de jure support from the state and without being practiced with equal competence in all strata and age groups of society.[56][57] However, the language has since gained greater acceptance on the part of France, such that it was introduced as an elective in public schools. Today, the question as to whether French and Creole are stable in Guadeloupe, i.e. whether both languages are practised widely and competently throughout society, remains a subject of active research.[58]


About 80% of the population are Roman Catholic.[2] Guadeloupe is in the diocese of Basse-Terre (et Pointe-à-Pitre).[59][60] Other major religions include various Protestant denominations.[2] In 1685, the Black Code announced the Christian religion in its Catholic form as the only authorized religion in the French West Indies, thus excluding Jews and the various Protestant groups from practicing their beliefs, and imposed the forced conversion of the newly arrived slaves and the baptism of the older ones.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Guadeloupe

This was followed by a rapid fashion among the slaves, since this religion offered them a spiritual refuge and allowed them to safeguard some of their African beliefs and customs, thus marking the beginning of a religious syncretism.[61] Since the 1970s, new religions and groups have been 'competing' with the Catholic Church, such as the Evangelical Pentecostal Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Bible Students or Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormon Church.

Administratively, the territory of Guadeloupe is part of the Diocese of Basse-Terre and Pointe-à-Pitre, attached to the Catholic Church in France. The diocese includes the territories of Guadeloupe, St. Barthélemy and St. Martin and the number of faithful is estimated at 400,000. In 2020 there were 59 priests active in the diocese.[62] The episcopal see is located in Basse-Terre, in the cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Guadeloupe.

Hinduism, which accompanied the Indians who came to work in Guadeloupe in the mid-19th century, has expanded since the 1980s. The Indian community has its own tradition that comes from India. It is the mayé men, a distorted pronunciation of the name of the Tamil Indian goddess Mariamman. There are no less than 400 temples in the archipelago. Islam made its appearance in the French West Indies in the 1970s, first in Martinique.

According to the president of the Muslim association of Guadeloupe, there are between 2,500 and 3,000 Muslims in the department. The island has two mosques. Judaism has been present in Guadeloupe since the arrival of Dutch settlers expelled from the northeast of present-day Brazil in 1654. There is a synagogue and an Israelite cultural community.[63] Guadeloupeans of Syrian and Lebanese origin practice Catholicism in its Maronite form. Rastafarianism has been attractive to some young people since the 1970s following its emergence in the United States and Jamaica. The quimbois or kenbwa, practiced in Guadeloupe, refer to magical-religious practices derived from Christian and African syncretism.


Maryse Condé, historical fiction author

Guadeloupe has always had a rich literary output, with Guadeloupean author Saint-John Perse winning the 1960 Nobel Prize in Literature. Other prominent writers from Guadeloupe or of Guadeloupean descent include Maryse Condé, Simone Schwarz-Bart, Myriam Warner-Vieyra, Oruno Lara, Daniel Maximin, Paul Niger, Guy Tirolien and Nicolas-Germain Léonard.


Carnival of Guadeloupe

Music and dance are also very popular, and the interaction of African, French and Indian cultures[64] has given birth to some original new forms specific to the archipelago, most notably zouk music.[65] Since the 1970s, Guadeloupean music has increasingly claimed the local language, Guadeloupean Creole as the preferred language of popular music. Islanders enjoy many local dance styles including zouk, zouk-love, compas, as well as the modern international genres such as hip hop, etc.

Traditional Guadeloupean music includes biguine, kadans, cadence-lypso, and gwo ka. Popular music artists and bands such as Experience 7, Francky Vincent, Kassav' (which included Patrick St-Eloi, and Gilles Floro) embody the more traditional music styles of the island, whilst other musical artists such as the punk band The Bolokos (1) or Tom Frager focus on more international genres such as rock or reggae. Many international festivals take place in Guadeloupe, such as the Creole Blues Festival on Marie-Galante.[citation needed] All the Euro-French forms of art are also ubiquitous, enriched by other communities from Brazil, Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, Lebanon, Syria) who have migrated to the islands.

Classical music has seen a resurgent interest in Guadeloupe. One of the first known composers of African origin was born in Guadeloupe, Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, a contemporary of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and a celebrated figure in Guadeloupe. Several monuments and cites are dedicated to Saint-Georges in Guadeloupe, and there is an annual music festival, Festival International de Musique Saint-Georges, dedicated in his honour.[66] The festival attracts classical musicians from all over the world and is one of the largest classical music festivals in the Caribbean.[67]

Another element of Guadeloupean culture is its dress. A few women (particularly of the older generation) wear a unique style of traditional dress, with many layers of colourful fabric, now only worn on special occasions.[citation needed] On festive occasions they also wore a madras (originally a "kerchief" from South India) headscarf tied in many different symbolic ways, each with a different name. The headdress could be tied in the "bat" style, or the "firefighter" style, as well as the "Guadeloupean woman".[citation needed] Jewellery, mainly gold, is also important in the Guadeloupean lady's dress, a product of European, African and Indian inspiration.[citation needed]


Christine Arron, the world's fifth-fastest female 100-metre (330-foot) sprinter (10.73 sec)

Football (soccer) is popular in Guadeloupe, and several notable footballers are of Guadeloupean origin, including Marius Trésor, Stéphane Auvray, Ronald Zubar and his younger brother Stéphane, Miguel Comminges, Dimitri Foulquier, Bernard Lambourde, Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette, Thierry Henry, Lilian Thuram, William Gallas, Layvin Kurzawa, Mikael Silvestre, Thomas Lemar and Kingsley Coman.

The national football team were 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-finalists, defeated by Mexico.

Basketball is also popular. Best known players are the NBA players Rudy Gobert, Mickaël Piétrus, Johan Petro, Rodrigue Beaubois, and Mickael Gelabale (now playing in Russia), who were born on the island.

Several track and field athletes, such as Marie-José Pérec, Patricia Girard-Léno, Christine Arron, and Wilhem Belocian, are also Guadeloupe natives. Triple Olympic champion Marie-José Pérec, and fourth-fastest 100-metre (330-foot) runner Christine Arron.

The island has produced many world-class fencers. Yannick Borel, Daniel Jérent, Ysaora Thibus, Anita Blaze, Enzo Lefort and Laura Flessel were all born and raised in Guadeloupe. According to olympic gold medalist and world champion Yannick Borel, there is a good fencing school and a culture of fencing in Guadeloupe.[68]

Even though Guadeloupe is part of France, it has its own sports teams. Rugby union is a small but rapidly growing sport in Guadeloupe.

The island is also internationally known for hosting the Karujet Race – Jet Ski World Championship since 1998. This nine-stage, four-day event attracts competitors from around the world (mostly Caribbeans, Americans, and Europeans). The Karujet, generally made up of seven races around the island, has an established reputation as one of the most difficult championships in which to compete.

The Route du Rhum is one of the most prominent nautical French sporting events, occurring every four years.

Bodybuilder Serge Nubret was born in Anse-Bertrand, Grande-Terre, representing the French state in various bodybuilding competitions throughout the 1960s and 1970s including the IFBB's Mr. Olympia contest, taking 3rd place every year from 1972 to 1974, and 2nd place in 1975.[69] Bodybuilder Marie-Laure Mahabir also hails from Guadeloupe.

The country has also a passion for cycling. It hosted the French Cycling Championships in 2009 and continues to host the Tour de Guadeloupe every year.

Guadeloupe also continues to host the Orange Open de Guadeloupe tennis tournament (since 2011).

The Tour of Guadeloupe sailing, which was founded in 1981.

In boxing, the following athletes come from the island of Guadeloupe: Ludovic Proto (amateur; competed in the 1988 Summer Olympics in the men's light welterweight division), Gilbert Delé (professional; held the European light-middleweight title from 1989 to 1990, then won the WBA light-middleweight title in 1991, by defeating Carlos Elliott via TKO), and Jean-Marc Mormeck (professional; former two-time unified cruiserweight champion—held the WBA, WBC, and The Ring world titles twice between 2005 and 2007).


A road on Marie-Galante

Guadeloupe is served by a number of airports; most international flights use Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport.[2] Boats and cruise ships frequent the islands, using the ports at Pointe-à-Pitre and Basse-Terre.[2]

On 9 September 2013 the county government voted in favour of constructing a tramway in Pointe-à-Pitre. The first phase will link northern Abymes to downtown Pointe-à-Pitre by 2019. The second phase, scheduled for completion in 2023, will extend the line to serve the university.[70]


Guadeloupe is one of the safest islands in the Caribbean;[71] nevertheless, it was the most violent overseas French department in 2016.[72] The murder rate is slightly more than that of Paris, at 8.2 per 100,000. The high level of unemployment caused violence and crime to rise especially in 2009 and 2010, the years following a great worldwide recession.[73] While the residents of Guadeloupe describe the island as a place with little everyday crime, most violence is caused by the drug trade or domestic disputes.[71]

See also[edit]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Haigh, Sam – An Introduction to Caribbean Francophone Writing: Guadeloupe and Martinique.
  • Jennings, Eric T. – Vichy in the Tropics: Petain’s National Revolution in Madagascar, Guadeloupe, and Indochina, 1940-1944.
  • Noble, G. K. – The Resident Birds of Guadeloupe.
  • Paiewonsky, Michael – Conquest of Eden, 1493-1515: Other Voyages of Columbus; Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Virgin Islands.
  • Roche, Jean-Claude – Oiseau des Antilles. Vol. 1, The Lesser Antilles from Grenada to Guadeloupe.

External links[edit]