Colourful decay of overseas France: Martinique

Of the five islands on the route of our cruise, Martinique was the largest (population over 400 thousand) and most important in history and economics. On the other hand, unlike Antigua and others, it is not independent. Quite the opposite – it’s a department of the French Republic formally equal in rights and obligations to any other department. It does have an additional special status – département d’outre-mer, or DOM – which means “overseas department” in French. Among other things, it allows Martinique to benefit from rather substantial EU grants.

France keeps a whole laundry list of various tiny territories all over the world – remains of the former giant colonial empire. The French constitution groups them in various clusters, some of which overlap. This complex system was previously referred to as DOM-TOM (“overseas departments and territories”), but following recent reforms this abbreviation has become obsolete – now it would be DROM-COM, though in the corridors the old way is still used.

Welcome to this shard of France stuck in the middle of the Caribbean! Liberté égalité fraternité say hello!

Overall view from the sea of Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique:

A recently built Lumina Tower – the largest building in the Small Antilles.

The Catholic cathedral:

As you descend on the shore of an island in the Caribbean and suddenly you’re met by the perfectly Francophone locals citing prices in euros, you suddenly experience a cognitive dissonance.

The top sight of Fort-de-France is the Schœlcher library. Schœlcher was a French publicist who led the fight against slavery in the mid 19th century. He had visited French colonies in various continents and wrote a number of literary works based on his experiences. These works passionately denonunced slavery and became so influential that eventually Schœlcher was appointed minister and got to implement the project of his life – the abolition of slavery in French colonies. The law to that effect was passed in 1848. In Guadeloupe and Martinique Schœlcher is venerated as a true hero. The main streets are named after him, there are even towns, schools, museums and ships bearing his name. Schœlcher library is foremost known for its sophisticated architecture – it was initially created for the World Fare in Paris, subsequently disassembled and moved in pieces to Martinique, where it was rebuilt anew.

Must be quite a pleasure to spend time there drinking from the collective mind of the humanity. We also took a sip – in the form of free wifi.

Fort-de-France impressed me with its explosion of colours and its incredible colonial architecture with a French twist.

You can’t help noticing the traces of decay. The local legislature.

An abandoned cultural park. Giant posters next to it inform that the EU had financed its restoration – in 2007!

Somewhat menacing graffiti:

As we walked to the cultural park, we came across a municipal cemetery.

Paradoxically, a central bus station is organised around the cemetery. Buses arrive and depart like clockwork, electronic screens announce the timetable, brand new
A cemetery as a station of arrival and departure – I like the irony!

We visited the artisanal market:

I tried to decipher the Creole inscriptions using my French – sometimes with success!

The coconut punch is quite popular. Spices are everywhere too.

Especially cinnamon.

A very serious fortress, Fort-Saint-Louis, occupies the East of Fort-de-France.

The fortress is bordered by the La Savanne parque. In the middle of the park is the statue of Josephine, the wife of Napoleon. She was born in Martinique, but is not fondly remembered here – she was a supporter of slavery as her family owned a large estate here. Apparently she persuaded Napoleon to abandon his plans to abolish slavery.

To finish off the Martinique experience, we checked out the top local drink called “Ti’ punch”. It is rum with lime and sugar. In this heat even a small glass of course immediately makes you tipsy – that’s the idea!

Back to our ship!

The views of Martinique as we leave it behind.

All the posts about the cruise in the Caribbean:
Puerto Rico: Strange Spanish-speaking United States
A Denmark in the Antilles: Charlotte-Amalie of the US Virgin Islands
Blotch of Antigua with its 365 beaches of eternal sun
Colourful decay of overseas France: Martinique
Saint Lucia, the most authentic of the Caribbean islands
The last island of the Antilles: Grenada

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