Martinique’s capital city and the largest city in the French West Indies, Fort-de-France, proudly exhibits French and Creole heritage. Martinique remains a department of France and thus, as part of the EU (European Union), the local currency is the Euro.
Iron balconies festooned with bountiful floral displays evoke memories of New Orleans and the South of France. Snippets of conversations in melodious Patois and French fall pleasingly on the ear. The central park, Place de la Savane (Savane Park), contains a statue of Empress Josephine (Napoleon’s wife) who was born on the island.
Honoring the memory of Victor Schoelcher, a pivotal figure in freeing numerous individuals from the slave trade in the 19th century, Bibliothèque Schoelcher (Schoelcher Library)’s elaborate design was built and featured at the Paris Exposition of 1889, then shipped to Martinique piece-by-piece. One of the city’s most beautiful buildings, its design by Henri Picq features a Byzantine dome, Egyptian lotus-petal columns, turquoise tiles and other ornate features. Listed as an historical monument in 1993, it currently houses more than 300,000 volumes.
Christophine fruit (a local delicacy) is another name for chayote, an edible plant belonging to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae. It originated in South America and is grown widely in the region.
The Hotel de Ville (City Hall) is now Theatre Césaire and hosts live performances instead of being the seat of the city government. Aimé Fernand David Césaire, born in Basse-Pointe in 1913 was a Francophone and French poet, author and politician from Martinique. He considered himself of Igbo descent from Nigeria, and considered his first name Aimé a retention of an Igbo name. In 1936, Césaire began work on his long poem, “Cahler d’un retour au pays natal”, a vital and powerful depiction of the ambiguities of Caribbean life and the culture in the New World and is widely regarded as “one of the founders of the negritude movement in Francophone literature”. He was also an accomplished playwright. His works have been translated into many languages and continues to be studied in both political activism and popular theater.