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TOPIC: martinique


Cancel Napoleon? French West Indies Decry Emperor For Slavery Role

As France and its overseas departments mark 200 years since Napoleon's death, his role in spreading slavery to the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique is prompting more and more to reverse his heroic legacy.

FORT-DE-FRANCE — TV reports, radio talk shows, columns in local dailies... On the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique as in mainland France, the upcoming bicentenary of Napoleon's death isn't going unnoticed. But that doesn't mean that people in the overseas départements are eager to celebrate as May 5, the anniversary of the famed emperor's passing, draws near.

On the contrary, more and more opinions on his legacy are hostile here in Fort-de-France, capital of Martinique, and the rest of what are collectively known as the French West Indies. "We are completely opposed to this commemoration," says Eric Caberia, a member of the Martiniquan Duty of Remembrance Committee, a memorial association founded in 1997. "(His supporters) say we want to erase Napoleon from history, but this is a bad-faith attitude. Spain doesn't formally commemorate Franco's death, yet he remains an important figure in Spanish history."

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Home Is Where The Mailbox Is

Some 7,000 kilometers away from my neck of the woods in eastern France, Martinique feels like home. In this French overseas region in the Lesser Antilles, people speak French, pay in euros ... but perhaps the most strikingly familiar feature is the unmistakably French yellow mailboxes across the island.

Enough Rum For Everyone

On the French island of Martinique, the La Mauny distillery is one of the biggest in the Lesser Antilles. About 30,000 tons of sugarcane are ground there every year, to produce three million liters of rum. Cheers!

France Facing Demons Of Its Own Slavery History

SAINT-DENIS - Those going through the Legion d'Honneur Square, not far from the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis, in the northern Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, will perhaps wonder about the presence of a globe-shaped monument in the middle of a flower bed.

As they come closer, they will see that names, surnames and numbers have been etched onto colorful medallions. A plaque at the foot of the monument will tell them that these are the names of former slaves, along with their identification number. There are precisely 213 of them. And if they read to the end, they will learn that these names are also the names of French West Indians, who added their ancestors – found through genealogy – to the list.

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