"Guadeloupe" is the name given to a group of four islands, which together are administered by the French government as the department of Guadeloupe. The main island of Guadeloupe is situated at 16° 15′ N and 61°30′ W, and the other three islands—Saint Barthélemy, Marie Galante, and Les Saintes—are located to the south and east. Geologically, Guadeloupe is a low-lying limestone formation with a total land area of 1,780 square kilometers.
The 1990 population of 342,175 was 90 percent Black, 5 percent White, and 5 percent East Indian, Lebanese, or Chinese. The languages spoken are French and a creole patois. Ninety-five percent of the population are members of the Catholic church, and the remaining five percent are Hindus or adhere to an African faith.
Guadeloupe was originally inhabited by Carib Indians, who called it "Karukera," or "island of beautiful waters." Columbus was the first European to see the island group, and it was he who gave it its modern name, after the Spanish Virgin of Guadalupe. The French settled the island beginning in 1635 and began to import slaves to work in the sugar industry in 1650. Following the French Revolution, there were riots leading to the killing of landowners and the abolition of slavery. The French reimposed slavery in 1802 to improve sugar production, and when slavery was permanently abolished in 1848, the island's economy faltered for lack of labor.
Today the economy is dependent on tourists, most of whom are French. The islands produce sugarcane, rum, flowers, and bananas, primarily for the French market.
The government is led by a prefect appointed by the federal government in Paris. There is also a popularly elected legislature of thirty-six members. Guadeloupe sends deputies and senators to the French parliament. The judicial system is French.
Bebel-Gisler, Dany, and Laennec Hurbon (1987). Cultures et pouvoir dans la Caraïbe: Langue creole, vaudou, secte religieuse en Guadeloupe et en Haiti. 3rd ed. Paris: L'Harmattan.
Bonniol, Jean-Luc (1980). Terre-de-haut des saintes: Contraintes, insulaires et particularisme ethnique dans la Caraïbe. Paris: Editions Caribéennes. Leiris, Michel (1987). Contacts de civilizations en Martinique et en Guadeloupe. Paris: Gallimard; UNESCO.
Moutoussamy, Ernest (1987). L a Guadeloupe et son indienité. Paris: Editions Caribéennes.