Culture in Guadeloupe
Take a break from soaking up the sun in Guadeloupe and soak up some culture!
A true melting pot of cultural influences,
Guadeloupe is home to a vibrant and diverse local scene. The culinary, musical, and artistic flavors of France, India, Africa, and of course the Caribbean all link together in Guadeloupe to form a colorful tapestry of sights and sounds.
Guadeloupe has a long and troubled history, beginning around 700 B.C., when the first Amerindians arrived from Venezuela. Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1493, naming it Santa Maria de Guadeloupe, and the island was later invaded by the French and the English. Guadeloupe also went through a long period of commerce with the West Indies, Africa, and Europe, during which time millions of black slaves were sent off to work on plantations. Today, visitors can find reminders of Guadeloupe’s history in the form of historical sites scattered across her islands.
Fort Napoleon overhangs the Bay of les Saintes on the Saintes Islands archipelago’s Terre-Haut island. Destroyed by British forces in 1809 and rebuilt during the Napoleonic era, the fort is now a museum celebrating the history of Les Saintes. There is also an exotic cactus garden featuring cacti from all over the world, but most notably several indigenous species. The Schoelcher Museum in Point à Pitre is also a great spot to learn about the history of Guadeloupe. This first museum to open on the island is dedicated to the life of Victor Schoelcher, who led the movement for the abolition of slavery in Guadeloupe.
La biguine, a blend of polka and the traditional Creole bélé, provides the cultural soundtrack in Guadeloupe. Locals also favor the “Gwo ka la base” and the “zouk” for dancing at night clubs, in the streets, and anywhere else the music is in the air.
Local handcrafts play a huge role in the culture of Guadeloupe. Wood work (in Pointe Noire), the sculpturing of coconuts (in Saint François), and embroidery (at La Broderie de Vieux-Fort) are all practiced on Guadeloupe, and local artisans produce beautiful, souvenir-worthy work. You can find take-home versions of Guadeloupe's art in any of its local markets, or head to one of the area's many historical museums for a look at its best crafts and paintings.
Of course, you can’t experience the culture of Guadeloupe without indulging in the food. Here, fresh seafood is always on the menu: Clams, lobsters, crabs, and fish are infused with Creole flavor and served with vegetables fresh from local gardens. Meat spiced with curry, red beans and rice served on the side of many dishes, and exotic fresh fruits like papaya and coconut on the menu for dessert also serve to remind you of the melting pot that exists not only in Guadeloupe’s culture, but in its kitchens.
Guadeloupe is known as one of the largest consumers of champagne of any of the French departments, but more traditional beverages are also ubiquitous. Punch made from fresh fruits, locally produced rum, or Ti-punch (a mixture of rum, lime, and sugar) will help you wash down your (often spicy) meals.
Agriculture also plays a huge part in the culture and history of Guadeloupe. Throughout these islands you’ll find museums dedicated to everything from bananas (Maison de la Banane), to cacao (Maison du Cacao), to coffee (Musée de Café), to rum (Musée de Rhum). Sugar-cane fields, coffee plantations, and banana orchards can all be seen on a drive through the islands.