The Caribbean, one of the most important Native American peoples, spread from the South American continent to the nearest Caribbean islands. They called the largest of the Little Antilles “Madinina”, which in the colonial period was called Martinique which became a country of Central America. See COUNTRYAAH for all countries in Central America listed by population.
The sparse population and the almost complete absence of precious metals meant that the French only began economic activities a century and a half after the occupation in 1635. This occupation was interrupted by brief periods of English rule.
In the second half of the 17th century, cultivation of sugar cane transformed the natural landscape and put an end to the collectors’ era. There were changes in the production system and the labor employed on the sugar cane plantations, with natives being replaced by African slaves. Since then, monoculture has been decisive for Martinique’s role in the international division of labor, strengthening the colonial relationship that still exists in France.
The dominance of the European minority – 12,000 owners of mills, plantations and trading companies – and over 93,000 slave laborers, created a myriad of conflicts called marronuage (the collective rebellion of the slaves that formed truly liberated areas within the colony itself). Historians of the time record the existence of quilombos (autonomous resistance communities under the leadership of the slaves. See also Brazil) in 1811, 1822 and 1833, just to mention the uprisings that shook Martinique in the 19th century.
In the early 19th century, the crisis of capitalism led to abandoning the traditional type of plantation on the island that could not transfer capital to industry. It led to unprecedented social upheaval.
In 1937 Martinique’s professional union was founded and became an organizational expression of social agitation on the island. But it is probably from the end of World War II that a political consciousness is developing on the island, expressed in Franz Fanon’s writing. His orientation was Martinique-Algerian, and he was an ideologist for the anti-colonialist struggle of the 1960’s.
In 1946, the French government reformulated relations with the colonies, and in 1948 created a department (similar to a Danish county) for overseas possessions. From the beginning, Martinique’s middle class was up to the League with the French, but other positions within the anti-colonialist movement postponed the unit. To this day, the progressive organizations are divided between those who seek increased self-government and others who think in the fight for complete independence.
France has tried different approaches to counteract Martinique’s independence: in the economic sphere, the colonies were involved in the development of high technology, and in the cultural sphere they tried to imprint on the population a pattern of consumption as in French society.
In 1992, the creation of the EU single market further aggravated the economic difficulties. In the elections this year, there was a deadly race between the right wing on the one hand and independence supporters – or self-governing people – and the left wing on the other. In the referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, three-quarters of voters abstained and showed hostility or at least inaction towards further integration of the island into the European Union (EU).
Another sign of hostility to the EU was the banana growers’ demonstrations in protest against the opening of the European banana import market from Africa and Latin America, the fruits of which are cheaper than those of the “French” Antilles. The crisis worsened in 1994, when unemployment rose 20% and business investment fell noticeably.
The island’s future gave rise to disagreements between the various parties at Martinique and was hotly debated in 1995-96. While the Communist Party advocated for increased autonomy without aiming for independence, Martinique’s Independence Movement (Mouvement de l’Indépendence de Martinique, MIM) demanded negotiations for full independence.
In 1997, US pressure to favor Central America’s banana production over the Caribbean continued. Groups of Caribbean banana growers, including the most important ones from Martinique and Guadaloupe, demanded from the EU a price adjustment that was proportionate to the increased production costs.
Social tensions rose in early 1998. Unemployment affected 40% of the working population, which is a historical record for the country. Strikes and demonstrations, initiated especially in the health and transport sectors, followed one another with demands for work, wage increases and better working conditions.
Claude Lise of Martinique’s Progressive Party was re-elected in March 1998 as chairman of the “Conseil Général”, one of Martinique’s parliamentary chambers. Nevertheless, the elections progressed to MIM, which now has a majority in the “Conseil General”.
In March 2000, French President Jacques Chirac visited the island. Here he was met with the demand of the island’s residents to, on the one hand, greater trade with the colonial power, and, on the other, greater autonomy that could enable increased trade with neighboring countries in the Caribbean.
In July 2000, Michel Cadot assumed the post of prefect of Dominique Bellion.
As in colonial France, the euro began to circulate as currency in Martinique from 1 January 2001.
In 2002, the French daily Le Parisien characterized the conditions under which the hotels in Martinique and Guadeloupe operated as a natural disaster. The director of the Accor hotel chain, Gerard Pelission, informed the French president of the aggressive attitude among the hotel staff in Martinique that carried out strikes and hurt the hotels productivity and reputation. This has so far resulted in a loss of 1500 jobs in 15 hotels.
On December 7, France conducted a referendum in its Caribbean colonies on governance. The result turned out quite differently. At St. Martin and St. Barthélemy, with 95.6% and 76.1% of the votes respectively, decided to implement a reform that granted them the status of the Collectivités d’Outre-mer (COM). In Guadeloupe and Martinique, on the other hand, it was decided by 72.9% and 50.4% to continue with the existing system – administration through a General Council and a Regional Council.
The crisis in the banana industry worsened in 2004, when the producers declared that they were no longer able to pay social security taxes and taxes. They demanded that the French Government respond to the situation.
In August, a plane from the Colombian airline West Caribbean Airways crashed into Venezuela and everyone was killed. All passengers were from Martinuque, which triggered country grief.
In 2006, the government wanted to implement labor market reforms, but this encountered massive resistance in the population and had to be abandoned.
The general strike in Guadeloupe in January 2009 spread to Martinique in February. The strike was triggered by the right living costs, low wages and lack of work. After a 3-month strike, the Sarkozy government in Paris agreed to raise the wages of the lowest paid by 200 euros a month. The general strike made the ethnic, racial and class tensions in the French colonies clear. Despite the pay raises, the basic problems remained unsolved.
Martinique’s Independence Party in coalition with the high wing won the local elections in Martinique in December 2015 and got 33 out of the 51 seats in the local assembly. The leader of the Independence Party, Alfred Marie-Jeanne, was then elected chairman of the local assembly.