French Guiana is a French overseas department and an overseas region of France, located on the northern coast of South America. It borders Brazil to the east, Guyana to the west, Suriname to the north and northeast, and Venezuela to the south.
The capital city is Cayenne. By land area only slightly smaller than Uruguay or Texas, it is one of France’s largest departments with a total area of 83,534 km² (32,200 sq mi). As much as 90% of its population lives in urban areas such as Cayenne or Matoury.
Its natural resources include gold, coal, honey, logs for furniture making, fish flakes which are dried after being caught in shrimp processing plants at sea. Many mining companies are operating in French Guiana.
The crystalline massif of the Guiana Highlands is geologically represented by French Guiana’s rock formation. The mountain has been largely eroded by rivers, which flow mostly northeast to the sea. Most of French Guiana is low-lying as a result of erosion caused by water.
The French Guiana–Suriname border is formed by the Maroni River in the west and the Oyapock River in the east. The Tumuc-Humac Mountains are located in the south, reaching a height of 2,300 feet (700 meters).
The region south of Cayenne is notable for its alluvial deposits, which have formed a marshy coastal plain to the southeast. Older alluvial formations are found in the savanna west of Cayenne. Outside the coastal plain, dense tropical forests (predominantly hardwoods) cover more than nine-tenths of the land area.
Between December and July, heavy rains fall in French Guiana, with annual rainfall reaching 150 inches (3,800 mm) around Cayenne and dropping toward the northeast. On average, temperatures are quite warm in Cayenne, with monthly readings varying between 77 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 and 27 degrees Celsius). Tapirs, caimans, ocelots, sloths, great anteaters, and armadillos are among the species that live there.
French Guiana has an extremely low population density of just 3 inhabitants per square kilometer (7.8/sq mi), making it the third-least populated administrative region of France. Half of its 296,711 people in 2018 lived in Cayenne alone.
The earliest settlers on Guiana were indigenous Americans. They were hunter-gatherers and arrived between 8000 BCE and 3000 BCE. Their technology involved only stone tools, but they also used wood and bamboo woven baskets for trapping fish from the rivers, hunting from boats, and storing food in woven bags.
The next wave of migration came from the Caribbean around 300 CE with warbands. They brought with them the Arawak language and culture. There was an island Carib presence in Guiana, though their numbers were greatly reduced after tribal warfare and diseases from Christopher Columbus’ crew. They called the area “Karukera,” which is roughly translated as “island of beautiful waters” or “beautiful coast.”
The majority of inhabitants are Creole (mixture ancestry, also known as Guianese Mulatto), with minorities of metropolitan French, Haitians, Surinamese, Antilleans, Chinese, Brazilians, South Asians, and other nationalities.
The most widely spoken languages are French (official), Guianese Creole French, several indigenous languages, including Wayampi, Carib, and Emerillon, as well as the numerous immigrant communities’ languages. The most widespread religion is Christianity, which is followed by almost four-fifths of the population.
The majority of the population is found in and around Cayenne, which is the largest city, with a few pockets of habitation further out along the coast. The interior is largely uninhabited, as are demographic rates in developing countries. Beginning in the late 20th century, there was immigration from Southeast Asia, Haiti, and the French Caribbean islands.
Culture of French Guiana
French Guiana is an overseas region of France, and its culture is tied closely to French culture. The French State is heavily involved in the cultural aspects of the department: it funds a large number of museums and promotes the arts through organizations such as CREDAC (Centre régional des écritures et des cultures d’Amé)
There is also a large number of cultural events such as the annual Festival de le Guyane which takes place in Maripasoula. It showcases traditional and creole music and dance.
Since its independence in 1960, French Guiana has evolved to have a market economy based on that of metropolitan France and bolstered by financial aid and technological help from Paris. The economic importance of Kourou, which is utilized by the European Space Agency, accounts for about one-fourth of the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP).
Oil and gas account for over 50% of the economy, with industry, finance, and real estate closely following. The main sectors of the economy are oil and gas production, services, manufacturing, and construction. South America’s GNI per capita is among the highest in the world.
Agriculture accounts for only a small percentage of GDP. Cassava, rice, bananas, and cabbages are the staple crops in this type of subsistence farming. The majority of tiny farms are run and owned by families, although some big estates specialized in commercial crops, particularly for export to metropolitan France.
The heavily wooded region contains important commercial species. The state reserves some forestland, but the bulk is open to exploitation. Most of the timber cut is used for industrial purposes and about two-fifths exported.
Cattle, pigs, and chickens are the main inhabitants of pastures. Meat and milk production is limited, as well as the importation of large amounts. Shrimps account for a significant proportion of the yearly fish catch.
Fossil fuels and metallic minerals are imported into French Guiana, which is a minor producer of minerals. Mineral exploitation is of little consequence, and France must import fossil fuels and metallic minerals. Gold and clays are the only minerals mined.
Cement, rum, and finished wood items are the primary industries. The majority of capital and consumer goods must be imported. Only thermal plants fueled by imported fossil fuels generate all of the country’s power.
Agriculture employs a tiny portion of the workforce, with the majority working in services and industry. Wages and benefits are set at rates comparable to those in France. Joblessness and inflation levels are severe.
Although roughly two-fifths of the country’s roads are paved, the interior road infrastructure is underdeveloped. The principal ports are Dégrad des Cannes, Larivot, Saint-Laurent du Moroni, and Kourou. Some of the nation’s waterways are suitable for small oceangoing boats.
The trade balance is chronically unfavorable, with exports vastly outweighing imports. Imports are primarily made up of machinery, food and agricultural products, and refined petroleum, whereas motor vehicles and their parts, gold, electrical machinery and electronics, fish, and shrimp are the main exports. France (including the French Antilles), European Union member states other than France.
Government and society
French Guiana is a French territorial collectivity governed by the principles of the French constitution as a dependent territory and, as such, forms an essential component of the French Republic. It sends two deputies to the National Assembly and two to the Senate. The prefect and a 51-member Assembly are responsible for local governance.
There is a regional appeals court. The Guianese Socialist Party and the Union for a Popular Movement are the main political parties. The Movement for Decolonization and Social Emancipation, the Guiana Democratic Forces, and Walwari, a left-wing party led by Christiane Taubira that served as justice minister in France.
French Guiana’s social-security system is based on that of France. It covers compensation for work injuries, unemployment, and maternity as well as family allowances and old-age, disability, and survivor pensions. The general health situation is excellent. The most common causes of death are cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and infectious and parasitic diseases.
The Pasteur Institute in Paris maintains a research center in Cayenne, French Guiana, that studies tropical and endemic local illnesses.
Between the ages of six and sixteen, education is free and required. The majority of eligible children attend school. Private colleges and teacher-training institutions exist, as well as universities in the University of the Antilles and Guiana at Cayenne and Kourou, France, or the French Antilles.
The media are not subject to direct government control, yet subsidies and licenses encourage a great deal of self-control. La Presse de Guyane is the main newspaper in Cayenne.
In 1530, Spaniards sailed along the Guiana coast and established Cayenne in 1503. In 1624, Rouen merchants established a trading post at Sinnamary on the coast, followed by others from Rouen or Paris who founded Cayenne in 1643. France obtained sovereignty over the territory under the Treaty of Breda.
In 1852, as a result of the Anglo-French Convention, inhabitants of the province were granted French citizenship and given seats in the French Parliament. The French had, however, begun using the region as a penal colony since 1851, when deported convicts were imprisoned in harsh circumstances on Devils Island off Newfoundland’s coast.
More than 70,000 French convicts were deported to French Guiana between 1852 and 1939; the penal colony on Devils Island was closed only after a scathing exposé by the French investigative journalist Albert Londres in the 1920s.
Anne-Marie Javouhey, mother superior of the community of Saint Joseph of Cluny, was an early French Guyanese settler who established a pioneering community in Mana (1827–46). In the spirit of French Roman Catholic humanism, she developed one of the first educational systems for freed black slaves and women.
There are a lot of fun things that you can do in French Guiana. It has an appealing culture that you should learn more about by reading this article. The people and their way of life might just surprise you.