Even if a French crew originally in search of Eldorado, landed on Guiana in1500, just after Christopher Columbus had already been there, it wasn’t until1644 that a genuine European commercial establishment really began. The Amazonian tribes, the Wayanas, Arawaks, Emerillons and the Galibis were then very endangered. With sla- very, the ‘creolitude’ of Guiana began to increase.
… and traditions
Nowadays, a visit to Cayenne and the isolated villages reveals the cultural wealth. The festive spirit is everywhere, particularly with the bals tradition, which is hosted by the Touloulous. Craftwork distinguishes each commu- nity’s specialities: wickerwork for the Amerindians, and carved-wood for the ‘Black-browns’. Embroidery is also practiced by the Amerindians and the‘Browns’, who weave beads, belts or tablecloths. The inhabitants, mainly those on the banks of the Maroni river, pass on their messages through their decorative work of the Tembé Art.In a beautiful Creole house, in Cayenne, the Museum of Guiana Culture displays ethnographic collections that concern the main cultural groups present in French Guiana. Gold eldorado, Guiana is also known as a kingdom for all jewellery lovers.
Known for being the launch site of the Arian Five rocket, the Kourou space centre is spread over 650 km of the coast and visitors are able to see its futuristic domain free of charge. Here, one can see the enormous equipment used for the Arianne launcher, the Space Museum, the Russian and Italian booster rockets, Soyuz and Vega. With a little luck, you might even see a launch from the Carapa observation site or from Pim Poum beach.
Did you know?
Cayenne, the story of a penal colony
The Guianese Penal Colony symbolised the harshness of punishment after 1852. 80,000 prisoners were sent tocamps in and around Saint Laurent du Maroni to cut wood in the forests, or to smash rocks on the Iles du Salut(Salvation Islands) off the coast of Kourou.
There was a penal colony specifically for women on Ilet la Mère (or Mother Islet). The stories of famous prisoners(such as Dreyfus, Papillon, Seznec) denounced the camps for their treatment, but it wasn’t until 1946 that they wereclosed. From Kourou sailing boats take you to the islands to explore what remains of these prisons.
The Guiana Carnival is known for its length (1 to 2 months depending on the calendar) and the presence of a character: the Touloulou. Dressed up with magnificent costumes, women host the masked balls that take place every Saturday night during this festive time. They are the ‘Queens’ of a roleplaying game in which they can invite any man to dance, an invitation which cannot be refused! It is a colourful show, led by the rhythm of some very special music (piké, djouk, mazurka…).