Port of Guadeloupe
Review and History

Guadeloupe is one of France’s overseas departments, and it includes a group of islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea’s Lesser Antilles chain. Its closest neighbors are Montserrat, a British territory northwest of the islands, and the Dominican Republic to the south. The French overseas department of Martinique is about 120 kilometers south of the Port of Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe is made up of two larger islands (Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre) and the smaller islands of Marie-Galante, La Desirade, and the Saintes Islands.

The Autonomous Port of Guadeloupe includes five ports on the islands: Jarry Baie-Mahault, Pointe-a-Pitre, Basse-Terre, Folle-Anse a Marie Galante, and Bas-du-Fort. While Basse-Terre is the capital of the Port of Guadeloupe, Point-a-Pitre is the largest city, port, and economic center. Because it’s part of France, the Port of Guadeloupe is part of the European Union.

Port History

On his second voyage to the Americas, Christopher Columbus first stepped on the Port of Guadeloupe in 1493 looking for drinking water. The islands were not settled, however, until 1635, when France took possession and almost made the indigenous Carib peoples extinct. In 1674, the islands were annexed into the Kingdom of France. For the next hundred years, the French and British forces struggled for ownership of the islands.

The Port of Guadeloupe’s sugar business brought wealth to the islands. In fact, it was so valuable to France that the country gave up its claims to territory in Canada for recognition from the British of France’s sole possession of the Port of Guadeloupe.

The Port of Guadeloupe’s wealthy classes tried for independence in 1790 when they would not adopt the French Republic’s new laws for equal rights for free colored citizens. Years of violent struggle followed. As much as a third of Pointe-a-Pitre was burned. Those who wanted independence (the monarchists) fought those who supported the revolution (the republicans), and the monarchists prevailed, declaring independence in 1971. A 1793 slave rebellion forced the monarchists to go to Britain for help.

The British, seeing an opening in the chaos of the French Revolution, tried to take the Port of Guadeloupe and held it for about six weeks in 1794. However, French troops commanded by Victor Hugues retook the island and freed the slaves who, in turn, attacked the sugar plantations’ slave-owners. When they threatened American interests on the islands, Napoleon’s forces re-established slavery, killing about 10 thousand Guadeloupeans.

The Anglo-Swedish alliance tried again to take the island in 1810. While the island was ceded to Sweden in 1813, the British maintained control until the 1814 Treaty of Paris returned the islands to France. The Treaty of Vienna finally recognized French control of the Port of Guadeloupe in 1815. In 1848, slavery was abolished for the second time in the Port of Guadeloupe. Much of the modern population is of African descent, while there are important populations of European and Indian peoples.

The 20th Century brought several devastating hurricanes to the Ports of Guadeloupe. A 1928 hurricane killed thousands, and the 1964 Hurricane Cleo destroyed much property and killed 14. In 1966, Hurricane Inez again ravaged the islands and killed 14 in Grande Terre, bringing Charles de Gaulle for a visit and declaration of a disaster area. In 1984, Hurricane Hugo left over 35 thousand people homeless, destroyed ten thousand homes, destroyed 60% of the sugarcane crop, and destroyed the year’s banana crop. In the late 1990s, the islands were struck by five cyclones.

In 2007, Guadeloupe lost over four percent of its land area and more than eight percent of its population when the islands of Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthelemy were separated into their own administrative territory within the French Republic.

The modern Port of Guadeloupe’s economy is largely dependent on France for subsidies and imports; however, it has active economics sectors that include tourism, light industry, agriculture, and services. Tourism is the most important industry. Over four-fifths of all tourists come from France, and 11% come from other European countries. Every year, more cruise ships call on the Port of Guadeloupe.

The economy’s historic staple, sugarcane, is being replaced by a variety of crops that include bananas (now about 50% of all exports), fruits and vegetables, and flowers. The islands depend on France for much of the food for the local population. Light industries in the Port of Guadeloupe include production of rum, sugar, and solar energy. The islands import most of their fuel and manufactured goods.

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