French Guiana

French Guiana

[gee-an-uh, gee-ah-nuh]
French Guiana, Fr. La Guyane française, officially Department of Guiana, French overseas department (2005 est. pop. 195,000), 35,135 sq mi (91,000 sq km), NE South America, on the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Guiana region, it is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the north, Suriname on the west, and Brazil on the south and east. Cayenne is the capital and largest city. The Oyapock (Oiapoque) River on the east and the Tumuc-Humac Mts. on the south separate it from Brazil. The Maroni River on the west forms the border with Suriname.

French Guiana has two districts (arrondissements): Cayenne, the coastal region, where more than 90% of the population is concentrated; and the larger interior district of Saint Laurent-du-Maroni. The population is largely of mixed African and European descent, but there are also minorities of blacks, whites, indigenous peoples, Chinese, and South Asians. French is the official language, but Creole and other languages and dialects are spoken as well. The population is predominantly Roman Catholic.

French Guiana is largely dependent on subsidies and imports from the mother country. Fishing and forestry are the prime industries, and timber, shrimp, and rum made from local sugarcane are the chief exports. Rice, corn, bananas and other fruits, vegetables, and manioc are grown for subsistence. There are gold (discovered in 1855), petroleum, and other mineral deposits; exploitation, however, has been hindered by inadequate transportation and scarcity of labor. The Plan Vert (Green Plan), adopted in the late 1970s to increase production in agriculture and forestry, met with only partial success.

The department (also one of 26 official regions of France) is represented in the French National Assembly and Senate. It is governed by a prefect and an elected council.

History

French settlement dates from 1604. In the Dutch wars of Louis XIV, Cayenne was captured (1676) by the Dutch but was later retaken. The Portuguese and British occupied it during the Napoleonic Wars, but the Congress of Vienna (1815) restored French authority. French Guiana was used as a penal colony and place of exile during the French Revolution, and under Napoleon III permanent penal camps were established. Devils Island, one of the Îles du Salut, off the coast, became notorious. The penal colonies were evacuated after World War II.

In 1947, French Guiana became an overseas department of France, and in 1974 it also became an administrative region. A rocket-launching base at Kourou, established in 1968, is used by the European Space Agency for communication satellites. Economic problems and divisions between the white European elite and the Creole majority persisted into the 1990s, accompanied by increasing local demands for autonomy. A proposal, however, for an unspecified increase in French Guiana's autonomy was rejected in a referendum in 2010.

French Guyane Française

Overseas department (pop., 2002 est.: 172,000) of France, northeastern coast of South America. It has an area of 33,399 sq mi (86,504 sq km) and is bounded by Brazil to the south and east, by Suriname to the west, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast. The capital is Cayenne. Most of French Guiana is low-lying, with mountains in the south and a swampy coastal plain. The Maroni River forms the border with Suriname. French Guiana's population is mostly Creole. The principal languages are French (official) and creole; nine-tenths of the people are Roman Catholic. Originally settled by the Spanish, French, and Dutch, the territory of French Guiana was awarded to France in 1667, and the inhabitants were made French citizens after 1877. By 1852 the French began using the territory for penal settlement; the penal colony at Devils Island was notorious. French Guiana became a department of France in 1946; the penal colonies were closed by 1953.

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French Guiana (Guyane française, officially Guyane) is an overseas department (French: département d'outre-mer, or DOM) of France, located on the northern coast of South America. Like the other DOMs, French Guiana is also an overseas region of France, one of the 26 regions of France. It is an integral part of France, and its currency is the euro.

History

French Guiana was originally inhabited by a number of indigenous American peoples. Settled by the French during the 17th century, it was the site of penal settlements from 1852 until 1951, which were known in the English-speaking world as Devil's Island. A border dispute with Brazil arose in the late nineteenth century over a vast area of jungle, leading to the short-lived pro-French independent state of Counani in the disputed territory and some fighting between settlers, before the dispute was resolved largely in favour of Brazil by the arbitration of the Swiss government. In 1946, French Guiana became an overseas department of France. The 1970s saw the settlement of Hmong refugees from Laos. A movement for increased autonomy from France gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s. Protests by those calling for more autonomy have become increasingly vocal; demonstrations in 1996, 1997 and 2000 all ended in violence.

Politics

French Guiana, as part of France, is part of the European Union, the largest part in an area outside Europe, with one of the longest EU external boundaries. Along with the Spanish enclaves in Africa of Ceuta and Melilla, it is one of only three European Union territories outside Europe that is not an island. Its head of state is the President of the French Republic, who appoints a Prefect (resident at the Prefecture building in Cayenne) as his representative. There are two legislative bodies: the 19-member General Council and the 34-member Regional Council, both elected.

French Guiana sends two deputies to the French National Assembly, one representing the commune (municipality) of Cayenne and the commune of Macouria, and the other representing the rest of French Guiana. This latter constituency is the largest in the French Republic by land area. French Guiana also sends one senator to the French Senate.

French Guiana has traditionally been conservative, though the socialist party has been increasingly successful in recent years. Though many would like to see more autonomy for the region, support for complete independence is very low.

A chronic issue affecting French Guiana is the influx of illegal immigrants and clandestine gold prospectors from Brazil and Suriname. The border between the department and Suriname is formed by the Maroni River, which flows through rain forest and is difficult for the Gendarmerie and the French Foreign Legion to patrol. The border line with Suriname is disputed.

Administrative divisions

French Guiana is divided into 2 departmental arrondissements, 19 cantons (not shown here), and 22 communes:

 
 
Arrondissement of
Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni
Arrondissement of
Cayenne

  1. Awala-Yalimapo
  2. Mana
  3. Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni
  4. Apatou
  5. Grand-Santi
  6. Papaïchton
  7. Saül
  8. Maripasoula

  1. Camopi
  2. Saint-Georges
  3. Ouanary
  4. Régina
  5. Roura
  6. Saint-Élie
  7. Iracoubo
  8. Sinnamary
  9. Kourou
  10. Macouria
  11. Montsinéry-Tonnegrande
  12. Matoury
  13. Cayenne
  14. Remire-Montjoly

See also:

Geography

Though sharing cultural affinities with the French-speaking territories of the Caribbean, French Guiana cannot be considered to be part of that geographic region, with the Caribbean Sea actually being located several hundred kilometres to the west, beyond the arc of the Lesser Antilles.

French Guiana consists of two main geographical regions: a coastal strip where the majority of the people live, and dense, near-inaccessible rainforest which gradually rises to the modest peaks of the Tumac-Humac mountains along the Brazilian frontier. French Guiana's highest peak is Bellevue de l'Inini (851 m). Other mountains include Mont Machalou (782 m), Pic Coudreau (711 m) and Mont St Marcel (635 m), Mont Favard (200 m) and Montagne du Mahury (156 m). Several small islands are found off the coast, the three Iles du Salut Salvation Islands which includes Devil's Island and the isolated Iles du Connétable bird sanctuary further along the coast towards Brazil.

The Barrage de Petit-Saut hydroelectric dam in the north of French Guiana forms an artificial lake and provides hydroelectricity. There are many rivers in French Guiana.

Economy

French Guiana is heavily dependent on France for subsidies, trade, and goods. The main industries are fishing (accounting for three-quarters of foreign exports), gold mining and timber. In addition, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou accounts for 25% of the GDP and employs about 1700 people. There is very little manufacturing. Agriculture is largely undeveloped and is mainly confined to the area near the coast — sugar and bananas are two of the main cash crops grown. Tourism, especially eco-tourism, is growing. Unemployment is a major problem, running at about 20% to 30%.

In 2006 the GDP per capita of French Guiana at market exchange rates, not at PPP, was 13,800 euros (US$17,336), which was 48% of Metropolitan France's average GDP per capita that year.

Transport

French Guiana's main international airport is Cayenne-Rochambeau Airport, located in the commune of Matoury, a southern suburb of Cayenne. There is one flight a day to Paris (Orly Airport), and one flight a day arriving from Paris. The flight time from Cayenne to Paris is 8 hours and 25 minutes, and from Paris to Cayenne it is 9 hours and 10 minutes. There are also flights to Fort-de-France, Pointe-à-Pitre, Port-au-Prince, Miami, Macapá, Belém, and Fortaleza.

French Guiana's main seaport is the port of Dégrad des Cannes, located on the estuary of the Mahury River, in the commune of Remire-Montjoly, a south-eastern suburb of Cayenne. Almost all of French Guiana's imports and exports pass through the port of Dégrad des Cannes. Built in 1969, it replaced the old harbour of Cayenne which was congested and couldn't cope with modern traffic.

An asphalted road from Régina to Saint-Georges de l'Oyapock (a town by the Brazilian border) was opened in 2004, completing the road from Cayenne to the Brazilian border. It is now possible to drive on a fully paved road from Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni on the Surinamese border to Saint-Georges de l'Oyapock on the Brazilian border. Following an international treaty between France and Brazil signed in July 2005, a bridge over the Oyapock River (marking the border with Brazil) is currently being built and is due to open in 2010. This bridge will be the first land crossing ever opened between France and Brazil, and indeed between French Guiana and the rest of the world (there exists no other bridge crossing the Oyapock River, and no bridge crossing the Maroni River marking the border with Suriname - there is a ferry crossing to Albina, Suriname.). When the bridge is opened, it will be possible to drive uninterrupted from Cayenne to Macapá, the capital of the state of Amapá in Brazil.

Demographics

French Guiana's population of 209,000 (January 2007 est.), most of whom live along the coast, is very ethnically diverse. At the 1999 census, 54.4% of the inhabitants of French Guiana were born in French Guiana, 11.8% were born in Metropolitan France, 5.2% were born in the French Caribbean départements (Guadeloupe and Martinique), and 28.6% were born in foreign countries (primarily Brazil, Suriname, and Haiti).

Estimates of the percentages of French Guiana ethnic composition vary, a situation compounded by the large numbers of immigrants (about 20,000).

Guianese Creoles (people of primarily African heritage mixed with some French ancestry) are the largest ethnic group, though estimates vary as to the exact percentage, depending upon whether the large Haitian community is included as well. Generally the Creole population is judged at about 60% to 70% of the total population with Haitians (comprising roughly one-third of Creoles) and 30% to 50% without. Roughly 14% are Europeans, the vast majority of whom are French.

The main Asian communities are the Hmong from Laos (1.5%) and Chinese (3.2%, primarily from Hong Kong and Zhejiang province). There are also smaller groups from various Caribbean islands, mainly Saint Lucia as well as Dominica. The main groups living in the interior are the Maroons (also called Bush Negroes) and Amerindians.

The Maroons, descendants of escaped African slaves, live primarily along the Maroni River. The main Maroon groups are the Paramacca, Aucan (both of whom also live in Suriname) and the Boni (Aluku).

The main Amerindian groups (forming about 3%-4% of the population) are the Arawak, Carib, Emerillon, Galibi (now called the Kaliña), Palikour, Wayampi and Wayana. As of late 1990s there was evidence of uncontacted group of Wayampi.

The most practised religion in this region is Roman Catholicism; the Maroons and some Amerindian peoples maintain their own religions. The Hmong people are also mainly Catholic owing to the influence of Catholic missionaries who helped bring them to French Guiana. The Bahá'í Religion is also present.

Historical population
1790
estimate
1839
estimate
1857
estimate
1891
estimate
1946
census
1954
census
1961
census
1967
census
1974
census
1982
census
1990
census
1999
census
2007
estimate
14,520 20,940 25,561 33,500 25,499 27,863 33,505 44,392 55,125 73,022 114,678 157,213 209,000
Official figures from past censuses and INSEE estimates.

Notable natives and residents

Bibliography

  • France's Overseas Frontier : Départements et territoires d'outre-mer Robert Aldrich and John Connell. Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0-521-03036-6
  • Dry guillotine: Fifteen years among the living dead René Belbenoit, 1938, Reprint: Berkley (1975). ISBN 0-425-02950-6
  • Hell on Trial René Belbenoit, 1940, Translated from the Original French Manuscript by Preston Rambo. E. P Dutton & Co. Reprint by Blue Ribbon Books, New York, 194 p. Reprint: Bantam Books, 1971
  • Papillon Henri Charrière Reprints: Hart-Davis Macgibbon Ltd. 1970. ISBN 0-246-63987-3 (hbk); Perennial, 2001. ISBN 0-06-093479-4 (sbk)
  • Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana Peter Redfield. ISBN 0-520-21985-6

See also

References

External links

General information

Further reading

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