Pointe-à-Pitre

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Pointe-à-Pitre
Pointe-à-Pitre.JPG
Coat of arms of Pointe-à-Pitre
Coat of arms
Location of the commune (in red) within Guadeloupe
Location of the commune (in red) within Guadeloupe
Coordinates: 16°14′28″N 61°31′59″W / 16.2411°N 61.5331°W / 16.2411; -61.5331Coordinates: 16°14′28″N 61°31′59″W / 16.2411°N 61.5331°W / 16.2411; -61.5331
Country France
Overseas region and department Guadeloupe
Arrondissement Pointe-à-Pitre
Government
 • Mayor (2008–2014) Jaques Bangou[1]
Area
 • Land1 2.66 km2 (1.03 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 • Population2 17,541
 • Population2 density 6,600/km2 (17,000/sq mi)
Time zone UTC-4
INSEE/Postal code 97120 / 97110

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Pointe-à-Pitre (French: Pointe-à-Pitre, pronounced: [pwɛ̃tapitʁ]; Creole: Lapwent, [lapwɛ̃t]) is the largest city of Guadeloupe, an overseas région and département of France located in the Lesser Antilles, of which it is a sous-préfecture, being the seat of the Arrondissement of Pointe-à-Pitre.

Although Pointe-à-Pitre is not Guadeloupe's administrative capital (that distinction goes to Basse-Terre), it is nonetheless the region's largest city and economic capital, with a population of 171,773 inhabitants in its urban area as of 1999, of whom 17,541 live in the city (commune) of Pointe-à-Pitre proper. The inhabitants are called "Pointois".

Pointe-à-Pitre International Airport, Guadeloupe's main international airport, is located 3 km (1.9 mi) north of downtown Pointe-à-Pitre in the commune of Les Abymes.

Jacques Bangou is the current mayor of Pointe-à-Pitre.[2]

Name[edit]

Source for this section: L’origine toponyme de Pointe-à-Pitre in Guide de Pointe-à-Pitre (édition 2006-2007).

The name Pointe-à-Pitre, literally the "headland of Pitre", is often said to derive from a Dutch Jewish sailor/fisherman called "Pitre", meaning clown in French and creole, who settled in the 17th century on a promontory facing the Îlet à Cochon ("Hogs Islet"), just to the south of today's downtown Pointe-à-Pitre. The promontory came to be called "Pointe-à-Peter" (the "headland of the clown") and later "Pointe-à-Pitre".

A map from 1667 by Engineer François Blondel shows near today's downtown Pointe-à-Pitre a morne de Pitre ("Pitre hill") and a marigot de pitre ("Pitre swamp"). Other maps from the end of the 17th century show a îlet à Pitre ("Pitre islet") and a rivière à Pitre ("Pitre river") in the same area.

History[edit]

Ideally located at the junction of Guadeloupe's two main islands (Basse-Terre Island and Grande Terre), French colonial authorities had long thought about establishing a city on the current location of Pointe-à-Pitre, but several attempts around 1713-1730 failed due to the insalubrious swampy ground.

It is only during the British occupation of Guadeloupe (1759–1763) that a settlement appeared on a hill overlooking the swamps. After the return of Guadeloupe to France in 1763, the city of Pointe-à-Pitre was officially founded under governor Gabriel de Clieu in 1764 by a royal edict, and the swamps where downtown Pointe-à-Pitre stands today were drained in the following years, thus allowing the urban development of the city.

The development of the city was important and relatively rapid, partly thanks to the corsairs. Unfortunately, in 1780, a great fire entirely destroyed the city. Sixty three years later, in 1843, it was again destroyed by an earthquake. The history of Pointe-à-Pitre is marked by many disasters: the fires of 1850, 1871, and 1931, the earthquakes of 1851 and 1897, and the hurricanes of 1865 and 1928. The city also experienced several epidemics of cholera. Its ideal location and large sheltered port have nonetheless allowed Pointe-à-Pitre to become Guadeloupe's largest city and economic capital.

Geography[edit]

Pointe-à-Pitre is situated on the southwest portion of the island of Grande-Terre, facing the Caribbean Sea and is an ideal place in the center of Guadeloupe and is near the Rivière Salée ("Salt River"), which separates Grande-Terre from Basse-Terre Island. The town of Pointe-à-Pitre is surrounded by the communes of Les Abymes, Baie-Mahault and Le Gosier. Pointe-à-Pitre is on a limestone plateau, which was a factor for the construction of the city. The bay, Petit Cul-de-Sac Marin, offers a sheltered port.

Climate[edit]

Like any other Eastern Caribbean city, Pointe-à-Pitre experiences quite evenly spread rainfall during the year, with a wetter season between July and November which coincides with hurricane season. The city receives 1500–2000 mm of rainfall. Tropical heat is the norm, bringing steady highs of around 32°C (89°F) that drop to 20°C (68°F) at night.

Climate data for Pointe-a-Pitre (Le Raizet Airport)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 29.1
(84.4)
29.1
(84.4)
29.4
(84.9)
30.1
(86.2)
30.7
(87.3)
31.3
(88.3)
31.5
(88.7)
31.6
(88.9)
31.5
(88.7)
31.2
(88.2)
30.5
(86.9)
29.6
(85.3)
30.47
(86.85)
Average low °C (°F) 19.9
(67.8)
19.9
(67.8)
20.4
(68.7)
21.7
(71.1)
23.1
(73.6)
23.8
(74.8)
23.8
(74.8)
23.7
(74.7)
23.3
(73.9)
22.9
(73.2)
22.1
(71.8)
20.9
(69.6)
22.13
(71.82)
Precipitation mm (inches) 84
(3.31)
64
(2.52)
73
(2.87)
123
(4.84)
148
(5.83)
118
(4.65)
150
(5.91)
198
(7.8)
236
(9.29)
228
(8.98)
220
(8.66)
137
(5.39)
1,779
(70.05)
Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN) [3]

The trade winds blow from the northeast and often temper the climate.

Demographics[edit]

The tiny commune (municipality) of Pointe-à-Pitre is the center of a larger urban area covering several communes. This urban area – with 171,773 inhabitants as of the 1999 census, representing 40% of the population - is the largest in Guadeloupe and one of the largest among French Overseas territories and departments. The seven communes making up the urban area of Pointe-à-Pitre, with their 1999 populations, are as follows:

  • Les Abymes: 63,054 (Les Abymes is the most populated commune in the urban area and indeed in Guadeloupe, and so the urban area of Pointe-à-Pitre is also often called the "Pointe-à-Pitre-Les Abymes" urban area)
  • Le Gosier: 25,360
  • Baie-Mahault: 23,389 (the location of the urban area's main seaport and largest industrial park in the Lesser Antilles)
  • Pointe-à-Pitre: 20,948 (the historic, commercial and administrative heart of the urban area; facing competition from its suburbs, the congested commune of Pointe-à-Pitre has been losing businesses and inhabitants in the past years)
  • Petit-Bourg: 20,528
  • Lamentin: 13,434
  • Goyave: 5,060

Economy[edit]

The city is the commercial capital of Guadeloupe, serving as the main port of call for cargo and passengers alike. The main seaport is the Port de Jarry located across the Bay of Cul-de-Sac Marin in the commune (municipality) of Baie-Mahault. It has one of the biggest container terminals in the Eastern Caribbean with a quay 600m[4] long. The main exports are food crops (bananas, cocoa, coffee and sugar), animal products (beef, milk, yogurt) and manufactured goods (refined petroleum, textiles and medicines). The extensive Zoning Industriel de Jarry, directly west of Pointe-à-Pitre is a major centre of commercial and light industrial activity, notably for warehousing and distribution. Agricultural production continues in the east of the area where cattle rearing, banana and sugarcane growing continues. The nearby suburb of Le Gosier is Guadeloupe's main seaside resort.

Seventy percent of residents of Pointe-à-Pitre reside in subsidized public housing as of 2009.[5]

Sights[edit]

A few colonial and modern buildings complement each other: white bungalows with red roofs are separated by tree-lined parks and a large market square. However, 20th century apartment blocks and condominiums form a high-rise backdrop over jerry-built shacks and industrial suburbs. The rather narrow central streets are jammed during the day with a colorful crowd that creates a permanent traffic jam. However, after sunset the town's central streets become eerily deserted creating a seedy atmosphere around the waterfront, except for the comparatively lively central square, Place de la Victoire.

Most visitors just drop into Pointe-à-Pitre for shopping. It's best to visit the town in the morning (you can easily cover it in half a day), taking in the waterfront and outdoor market (the latter is livelier in the early hours).

Shopping is a main attraction where you can buy perfumes and other luxury made-in-France products. Rosebleu and A La Pensee on Rue Frebault are among the most popular places to shop. Rues de Nozieres and Schoelcher also have shops carrying French imports as well as madras cottons, watches, silver and china. Centre Saint-John Perse, on the harbor front, showcases many specialty shops, a hotel and several restaurants.

Place de la Victoire at the town's center is a park shaded by palm trees and poincianas. Here you'll see some old sandbox trees said to have been planted by Victor Hugues, the mulatto who organized a revolutionary army of both whites and blacks to establish a dictatorship. In this square he kept a guillotine busy, and the death-dealing instrument stood here until modern times.

Musée Saint-John Perse is a museum on 9 Nozières Street and it occupies an attractive 19th-century colonial building with ornate wrought-iron balconies. The museum is dedicated to the renowned poet and Nobel laureate Alexis Léger (1887–1975), better known as St John Perse, who grew up just down the street at No 54. The house offers both a glimpse of a period Creole home and displays on Perse's life and work.

Musée Victor Schoelcher is a museum that dedicates to the life of Victor Schoelcher, who was the chief organizer against slavery in Guadeloupe. The visitor will find exhibits and artifacts of the slave trade housed in a pink and white colonial period building.

The Basilica of St Peter and St Paul (La Cathédrale Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul) on place Gourbeyre features arches constructed of riveted iron girders, reflecting the influence of past hurricanes and earthquakes.

In Bas du Fort district, between the city and Gosier, is the powerful 18th century hilltop fortress of Fort Fleur D`Épée built in solid Vauban style.[6] In the same area the Guadeloupe Aquarium allows visitors to contemplate a lot of fish.[7]

La Fete des Cuisinieres or the Festival of the Women Cooks occurs in early August. To honor their patron Saint Lawrence, brightly clothed women carry baskets of food in processions to the cathedral. Banquets and dancing occur in the evening.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]