French Guiana

(redirected from Bellevue de l'Inini)
Also found in: Dictionary.

French Guiana

(gēăn`ə, –än`–), Fr. La Guyane française, officially Department of Guiana, French overseas department (2015 est. pop. 269,000), 35,135 sq mi (91,000 sq km), NE South America, on the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the GuianaGuiana
, region, NE South America. It faces the Atlantic Ocean on the north and east and is enclosed on the west and south within a vast semicircle formed by the linked river systems of the Orinoco, the Río Negro, and the lower Amazon.
..... Click the link for more information.
 region, it is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the north, Suriname on the west, and Brazil on the south and east. CayenneCayenne
, city and district (1990 pop. 41,659), capital of French Guiana, on Cayenne island at the mouth of the Cayenne River. The city has a shallow harbor, and deep-draft ships must anchor some distance out. Timber, rum, essence of rosewood, and gold are exported.
..... Click the link for more information.
 is the capital and largest city. The Oyapock (Oiapoque) River on the east and the Tumuc-Humac Mts. on the south separate it from Brazil. The Maroni River on the west forms the border with SurinameSuriname
, officially Republic of Suriname, republic (2015 est. pop. 553,000), 63,037 sq mi (163,266 sq km), NE South America, on the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Guiana region, it is separated from Brazil on the south by the Tumuc-Humac Mts.
..... Click the link for more information.

French Guiana has two districts (arrondissements): Cayenne, the coastal region, where more than 90% of the population is concentrated; and the larger interior district of Saint Laurent-du-Maroni. The population is largely of mixed African and European descent, but there are also minorities of blacks, whites, indigenous peoples, Chinese, and South Asians. French is the official language, but Creole and other languages and dialects are spoken as well. The population is predominantly Roman Catholic.

French Guiana is largely dependent on subsidies and imports from the mother country. Fishing and forestry are the prime industries, and timber, shrimp, and rum made from local sugarcane are the chief exports. Rice, corn, bananas and other fruits, vegetables, and manioc are grown for subsistence. There are gold (discovered in 1855), petroleum, and other mineral deposits; exploitation, however, has been hindered by inadequate transportation and scarcity of labor. The Plan Vert (Green Plan), adopted in the late 1970s to increase production in agriculture and forestry, met with only partial success.

The department (also one of 26 official regions of France) is represented in the French National Assembly and Senate. It is governed by a prefect and an elected council.


French settlement dates from 1604. In the Dutch wars of Louis XIV, Cayenne was captured (1676) by the Dutch but was later retaken. The Portuguese and British occupied it during the Napoleonic Wars, but the Congress of Vienna (1815) restored French authority. French Guiana was used as a penal colony and place of exile during the French Revolution, and under Napoleon III permanent penal camps were established. Devils IslandDevils Island,
Fr. Île du Diable, the smallest and southernmost of the Îles du Salut, in the Caribbean Sea off French Guiana. A penal colony founded in 1852, it was used largely for political prisoners, the most celebrated of whom was Alfred Dreyfus.
..... Click the link for more information.
, one of the Îles du Salut, off the coast, became notorious. The penal colonies were evacuated after World War II.

In 1947, French Guiana became an overseas department of France, and in 1974 it also became an administrative region. The Guiana Space Center, a rocket-launching base at KourouKourou,
town and commune (2007 pop. 25,918), N French Guiana, on the coast 26 mi (42 km) NW of Cayenne. A rocket-launching base, the Guiana Space Center, is mainly in the commune near the town; the Soyuz launch complex portion of the center is in neighboring Sinnamary commune.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Sinnamary, was established in 1968; it is used by the European Space Agency, Arianespace, and the French space agency. Economic problems and divisions between the white European elite and the Creole majority persisted into the 1990s, accompanied by increasing local demands for autonomy. A proposal, however, for an unspecified increase in French Guiana's autonomy was rejected in a referendum in 2010.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

French Guiana


(Guyane Française), a country in northeastern South America. Possession of France; since 1946, an overseas department of France. Borders with Surinam on the west, Brazil on the south and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on the north and northeast. Area, 91,000 sq km. Population, 48,000 (1969). French Guiana is administered by a prefect appointed by the French government. It has an elective body, the General Council, which is elected by the people for six years. The country has one deputy in the Senate and one in the National Assembly of the French parliament. Its administrative center is the city of Cayenne. Administratively, French Guiana is divided into two districts.

Natural features. French Guiana is situated in the northeastern part of the Guiana Highlands. The land surface essentially consists of a low plain with individual insular quaqua-versal massifs (elevations to 850 m), framed in the north by a narrow coastal accumulative depression. There are deposits of gold and, in the thick crust of weathering, bauxites. The climate is subequatorial—hot and humid. Average monthly temperatures in Cayenne are 28°-29° C. Precipitation is 3,210 mm a year, with the maximum in winter and spring. Autumn is droughty. The river network is dense, and rivers are deep but full of rapids and navigable only at their mouths. The largest rivers are the Maroni and the Oyapock, which run along the borders. There are dense evergreen forests (tropical rain forests) with valuable varieties of trees. In the northern and central portion of the country in leeward depressions (with respect to the moist northeast trade wind), there are patches of tall-grass savanna. The forests are inhabited by monkeys, tapirs, jaguars, lobbi (a kind of guinea pig), snakes, and many birds and insects. There are abundant fish in the rivers and many shrimp off the coast.


Population. Negroes and mulattoes (creóles) make up as much as 80 percent of the population. About 2,000 of them are the so-called forest Negroes—descendants of fugitive slaves, who live in forests in the interior of the country. Indians (about 10 percent of the population) survive only in remote forest areas. The remainder of the population is made up of Europeans (primarily French) and émigrés from Asia (including Chinese). The official language is French. Most believers are Catholics; the forest Negroes and Indians retain vestiges of their ancient beliefs, and to some extent, they have kept their own languages. The official calendar is the Gregorian.

Population growth averaged 2.3 percent a year during 1963-69. The average density is 0.5 persons per sq km. In the coastal section, where over 90 percent of the population is concentrated, the density is about 3 persons per sq km. The economically active population is 18,000, of whom 30 percent are employed in agriculture (1968). The urban population is more than 50 percent. Cayenne is the major city (population, 24,500, in 1967); other cities are Kourou and St.-Laurent-du-Maroni.

Historical survey. The first French colonists appeared on the territory of present-day French Guiana in 1604. They founded the city of Cayenne in the first half of the 17th century. From the 17th to the early 19th century, there was a struggle for possession of the country among the Dutch, British, and French, who held the territory by turns. French power was finally consolidated in 1817.

Plantation farming, based on the exploitation of Negro slaves taken from Africa, began to develop from the end of the 17th century. Slavery was abolished in 1794 but was restored shortly thereafter, in the early 19th century. (It was abolished for good in 1848.) French Guiana was turned into a place of exile (the “dry guillotine”) from the time of the Great French Revolution. Many communards were exiled there after the fall of the Paris Commune of 1871.

French Guiana achieved the status of an overseas department of France in 1946. The fundamental demand of the progressive forces of French Guiana—who are united in the Union of the Guianan People (Union du Peuple Guyanais, founded in 1958), the Guianan Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste Guyanais), and other parties—is the granting of autonomy to the Guianan people. In addition to the local parties, there are branches of several French parties in French Guiana including the Union of Democrats for the Republic (Union des démocrates pour la République).


Economy. French Guiana is a backward agrarian country. Less than 0.1 percent of the land is cultivated (primarily on the coast); 0.6 percent is covered with meadows and pasture and 95 percent with forests, and other land amounts to about 4.4 percent. The main agricultural plantation crops are sugarcane (a yield of 3,000 tons in 1968), bananas (1,000 tons), and cacao. Rice (a harvest of 20 tons in 1968), corn (85 tons), cassava (6,000 tons), and vegetables are raised. Livestock raising does not satisfy the country’s demand for meat. In 1967-68, there were 2,000 head of cattle and 6,000 swine.

Gold (159 kg in 1968) and bauxites are mined. The output of electric power was 20.3 million kilowatt-hours in 1968. There is logging (about 100,000 cu m in 1968) and fishing (3,500 tons of fish and shrimp in 1968). Rum and essence of rose are produced. Shrimp are canned and frozen. The country has 272 km of roads. Hauling is done primarily by water. The seaport is Cayenne; a deepwater port is under construction in Mayuri (1971). Exports amounted to 17 million francs and imports 256 million francs in 1968. The main export commodities are gold, lumber, rum, and shrimp. The most important imports are foodstuffs, fuel, cloth, building materials, equipment, and rolled metal. Foreign trade is carried on with France (three-fourths of the country’s imports, by value), Surinam, the countries of the French West Indies (primarily Martinique and Guadeloupe), and the USA. The monetary unit is the French franc.

Education. The system of public education is based on French legislation. Instruction is in French. There is compulsory education for children six to 14 years old. There are five-year elementary schools. The secondary school program lasts four years in the incomplete schools (the collèges) and seven years in the complete schools (the lycées). Vocational training is essentially based on elementary school. There are no higher educational institutions or specialized secondary schools. During the 1967-68 school year there were 7,200 students in elementary schools, 1,500 students in secondary schools, and 786 students in vocational schools. In Cayenne there is a small library, a museum, and the Pasteur Institute, a scientific-research institute that deals with problems of tropical diseases. In 1968, French specialists completed construction of a major space research center in the vicinity of Kourou.



Gviana, Gaiana, Frantsuzskaia Gviana, Surinam. Moscow, 1969.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

French Guiana

a French overseas region in NE South America, on the Atlantic: colonized by the French in about 1637; tropical forests. Capital: Cayenne. Pop.: 183 000 (2004 est.). Area: about 91 000 sq. km (23 000 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
Full browser ?