[kahy-en, key-]
Cayenne, city and district (1990 pop. 41,659), capital of French Guiana, on Cayenne island at the mouth of the Cayenne River. The city has a shallow harbor, and deep-draft ships must anchor some distance out. Timber, rum, essence of rosewood, and gold are exported. Cayenne was founded by the French in 1643, but it was wiped out by a Native American massacre and was not resettled until 1664. Throughout the 17th cent. the city and its surrounding region were sharply contested by Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. It was occupied (1808-16) by both the British and the Portuguese. From 1851 to 1946 the city was the center of French penal settlements in Guiana, and part of its population is made up of prisoners' descendants. Cayenne's development has long been hindered by internal strife, a hot, wet climate, and the prevalence of disease. In the city are the Pasteur Institute, which specializes in the study of tropical diseases, and several buildings from the colonial period; there is an international airport. The city gives its name to cayenne pepper, a very sharp condiment found on the island in abundance.

Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana, an overseas région and département of France located in South America. The city stands on a former island at the mouth of the Cayenne River on the Atlantic coast.

At the 1999 census, there were 66,149 inhabitants in the urban area of Cayenne (as defined by INSEE), 50,594 of whom lived in the city (commune) of Cayenne proper, and the remainder in the neighbouring commune of Remire-Montjoly. The commune of Matoury (18,032 inhabitants in 1999), where the Cayenne-Rochambeau Airport is located, is also a suburb of Cayenne, but it wasn't included in the official definition of the urban area by INSEE in 1999. Including Matoury, the whole conurbation had 84,181 inhabitants in 1999. By 2007 the area's population may have exceeded 100,000.


Ignored by Spanish explorers, who found the region too hot and poor to be claimed, the region was not colonized until 1604, when a French settlement was founded. However, it was soon destroyed by the Portuguese, who were determined to enforce the provisions of the Treaty of Tordesillas. French colonists returned in 1643 and founded Cayenne, but were forced to leave once more following Amerindian attacks. In 1664, France finally succeeded at establishing a permanent settlement at Cayenne. Over the next decade the colony changed hands between the French, Dutch and English, before being restored to France. It was used as a French penal settlement from 1854 to 1938.

The city's population has recently grown dramatically, owing to high levels of immigration (chiefly from the West Indies and Brazil) as well as a high birthrate.


Cayenne is an important industrial centre for the shrimp industry. The city formerly also contained sugar refineries.


Cayenne is very ethnically diverse, with Creole, Haitian, Brazilian, European, and Hmong and other Asian communities. It is famous for its annual carnival which starts with the arrival of Vaval (the Carnival King) on the first Sunday after New Year's Day and continues with very popular all-night costume balls and Sunday afternoon parades every weekend until Mardi Gras.

Points of interest

Cayenne centres on its main commercial street, the Avenue Général de Gaulle. At the east end of the avenue near the coast is the Place de Palmistes and the Place de Grenoble (also known as the Place Léopold Héder). Most of the official buildings are located in this area: the Hôtel de Ville (the town hall) built by Jesuits in the 1890s, the Post Office, the Préfecture, residence of French Guiana's Préfect, and the Musée Départmental Franconie. To the west of this area lies Fort Cépérou, built in the 17th century, though now mostly in ruins. To the south lie the Place du Coq and Place Victor Schoelcher (named in honour of the anti-slavery activist) and a market.

To the south of this compact region is the Village Chinois (known as Chicago), separated from the rest of Cayenne by the Canal Laussat. It has a reputation for being a dangerous area.

Other buildings in the city include the Cathédrale Saint-Sauveur de Cayenne, municipal library, the municipal museum and a museum of French Guianese Culture (Musée des Cultures Guyanaise) and a scientific research institute (IRD or Institut de recherche pour le développement, formerly Orstom).

There are some beaches along the coast, like Montjoly and Montabo, and several promontories, though the waters contain sharks.


Cayenne is served by the Cayenne-Rochambeau Airport, which is located in the neighbouring commune of Matoury.

There are many hotels in the city: Central Hotel, La Bodéga, Hôtel Ajoupa, Hôtel Amazonia, Hôtel les Amandiers, Hôtel Neptima, Hôtel Novotel and Ket-Tai.


Cayenne is the chief town of six cantons:

  • The first canton (North West) has 3,935 inhabitants;
  • The second canton (North East) has 5,730 inhabitants;
  • The third canton (South West) has 8,017 inhabitants;
  • The fourth canton (Centre) has 5,955 inhabitants;
  • The fifth canton (South) has 9,750 inhabitants;
  • The sixth canton (South East) has 17,207 inhabitants

Cayenne in popular culture

The French folk song Cayenne (named after the main city of French Guiana) tells the story of a pimp who shoots a well-to-do client who grossly disrespected a prostitute, and is then convicted and transferred to the infamous penitentiary. The song has been covered in recent years by rock/punk groups such as Parabellum.

In The Hardy Boys #12: Footprints under the Window, The Hardys' investigations take them to Cayenne.

Porsche called its first SUV the Porsche Cayenne.

External links

Search another word or see cayenneon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature