Guadeloupe is a French-owned region in the Caribbean consisting of six islands: La Désirade, Grande-Terre, the Îles des Saintes, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre, as well as many other outcroppings and uninhabited islands. Its top three cities are Les Abymes (pop: 55,000), Baie-Mahault (31,000), and Le Gosier (27,000). As of 2019, Guadeloupe has a population of 448,869.
Because French censuses do not keep a record of its population's ethnicity, estimates of the percentages of Guadeloupe ethnic composition can vary. Most Guadeloupians are primarily of African heritage, mixed with some French ancestry. The CIA’s World Factbook in 2006 estimated the ethnic composition of Guadeloupe as:
- 75% Black/Mulatto
- 11% White
- 9% Tamil/East Indian
- 3% Lebanese/Syrian
- 2% Chinese/Other
There are also a small number of immigrants from other Caribbean islands such as Dominica and Haiti.
French is the official language of Guadeloupe. There is, however, a local Creole dialect, Patois, which is also widely used.
Venezuelan Arawak Indians were the first to settle on Guadeloupe around 300 BCE. The majority of the Arawak were, however, pushed out around the time of the 8th century by Carib Indians, also from Venezuela.
In 1493, on his second voyage to the Americas, Christopher Columbus discovered the island, naming it “Santa María de Guadalupe de Extremadura.” Due to two failed attempts in the 1500s to settle on the islands, the Spanish abandoned Guadeloupe. These failures are attributed to the Caribs' fierceness. At the time, the Caribs were the dominant group in the Caribbean, which is named for them. In 1635, the French took Guadeloupe, driving away most of the Caribs Indians after a great loss of life caused by European infectious diseases. By the end of the 17th century, Guadeloupe had been annexed to France.
Throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, the island fell into the hands of the British. It returned back to French hands when France agreed to forfeit its claims in Canada in return for control of the islands, only to lose it again to the British twice, and briefly to Sweden in 1813. French control was finally returned for good in 1815 at the signing of the Treaty of Vienna.