Guadeloupe is a Caribbean island located in the Leeward Islands, in the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of 1,628 square kilometres (629 sq. mi) and a population of 400,000.It is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. As the other overseas departments, Guadeloupe is also an integral part of the Republic.
Guadeloupe formally relied on the growth and exportation of sugarcane, but when the sugar market became less profitable, the French island was forced to concentrate its efforts on other cash crops such as bananas, which bring in approximately 50 percent of the island's export earnings.
Spanish explorers paid little to no attention to the island of Guadeloupe during their exploration of the Caribbean region because it seemed too hostile for colonization. The first settlers on Guadeloupe were French farmers who came to the island from the Normandie, the Bretagne, or the Charente areas of France.
Guadeloupe was officially annexed by the King of France in 1674. As the island prospered, it became the scene of great battles between the French and the British, who occupied it from 1759 to 1763. That year it was restored to France in exchange for all French rights to Canada. But the tug-of-war continued on and off until 1815, when the Treaty of Paris designated Guadeloupe as French. In 1848, thanks to the efforts of Victor Schoelcher, slavery was abolished. Guadeloupe was represented for the first time in the French Parliament in 1871. It became a French Départment on March 19, 1946.
Christopher Columbus landed on Guadeloupe on November 4, 1493. Though originally called Karukéra (Island of Beautiful Waters) by the Carib Indians, Columbus named the island after the famous sanctuary of Santa Maria de Guadalupe de Estremadura. Lacking gold and silver, the island was not of great interest to the Europeans until the17th century. For a brief period the Spanish had tried to settle Guadeloupe but were stopped by the ferocious Carib Indians. Then around 1635, the French began to colonize the island. With the institutionalization of slavery in 1644, the trade of spices, sugar, tobacco and rum prospered between France, Africa and the Antilles.
The population is mainly of African or mixed descent and largely Roman Catholic. French and a Creole patois are spoken. The head of government is a commissioner appointed by France. The legislature consists of a 36-member, popularly elected general council and a regional council.
Tourism is the major industry, and the majority of people are employed in the service sector. Agriculture and sugar and rum production are also important. Basse-Terre, volcanic in origin and extremely rugged, is settled along the coasts and produces bananas, other tropical fruits and vegetables, coffee, cacao, and vanilla beans.
Agriculture revolves around sugar cane and bananas; the latter is troubled by regional competition and the phasing out of preferential European quotas.
Known to its one-time Carib indian population as "karukera", or "island of beautiful waters", the French territory of Guadeloupe is a centre of Caribbean Creole culture.
The annual rainfall in Pointe-à-Pitre is 180cm. February to April is the driest period, when measurable rain falls an average of seven days a month and the average humidity is around 77%. The wettest months are July to November, when rain falls about 14 days a month and the average humidity reaches 85%.
The euro is the island currency. Hotels, larger restaurants and car-rental agencies accept Visa, American Express and MasterCard.