Region: Central America and the Caribbean
Population: 401,000 (2011 estimated, UN Data)
Surface area: 1,128 sq km
Also known as the island of flowers, Martinique was discovered by Christopher Colombus in 1502. Introduced in 1640 to supply Europe, sugar cane has played a major role in the island’s history. Today, it is the island’s second largest crop after the banana in terms of the area cultivated. The island is mountainous, especially in the north, where two volcanoes are located – Mount Pelée and the Carbet Mountains.
As it is located in the heart of the Caribbean archipelago, Martinique is one of the Windward islands in the Lesser Antilles group. The island is subtropical tempered by trade winds and on average experience devastating cyclones every eight years. Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France.
Its eastern coastline borders the Atlantic Ocean while its western coast is flanked by the Caribbean Sea. The island is 4 350 miles away from France, 1 950 miles from New York and 275 miles from the closest South American coastline. The closest neighbouring islands are to the north: Dominica, 16 miles away, Guadeloupe, 75 miles away, and to the south: Saint Lucia, 23 miles away. Martinique is equidistant from the coasts of Venezuela and Haiti/Dominican Republic (497 miles).
Approximately one quarter of the population resides in the administrative capital, Fort de France. Numerous religious denominations are present in Martinique. The official language is French, with most people also speaking Creole, a language that is a blend of Old French, English, and African languages, as well as surviving Amerindian terms.
Tourism is an important industry with arrivals of 497,000 arrivals in 2011, up from 478,000 in 2010. While agriculture is an important industry, in 2011, only 4% of the population was employed in the agricultural sector. The industrial sector is relatively young and thus not at an advanced stage.
In 2003 Martinique’s GDP was 5.496 billion euros. In 2000 its per capita GDP was 14,283 euros. In that year services constituted 82.2% of GDP, while industry represented 8.6% and agriculture 3.5%. In 2002 the island exported 26 million euros-worth of goods, primarily fruit, beverages and refined petroleum products. It imported 486 million euros-worth of goods, including vehicles, furniture, medicine and raw petroleum (used in the island’s refinery).
Major Industries: petroleum refining, rum, cement, tourism, sugar
Major Export Commodities: fruit, beverages, refined petroleum products
Life Expectancy at Birth: 77.3 (males) 83.7 (females) (UN data 2010 – 2015)
Martinique.org. Information on background of Martinque: http://www.martinique.org/overview/ (accessed 20/11/2013)
UN Data: http://data.un.org/CountryProfile.aspx?crName=Martinique (accessed 19/11/2013)
CIA World Factbook. Information on Background and Economy Overview: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fr.html (accessed 20/11/2013)
France.fr Information on Background of Martinique: http://www.france.fr/en/regions-and-cities/martinique-island-flowers (accessed 20/11/2013)
In-west-indies.com. Information on economy of Martinique. http://www.in-west-indies.com/martinique/discover/economy.htm (accessed 20/11/2013)
Image of flag and map; copyright of Wikimedia Commons
Updated November 2013