One hundred years of certitude: Saint-Pierre, the former capital city of Martinique located on the northern Caribbean coast of this French Caribbean island has forever imprinted the history of the Caribbean.
Once upon a time, Saint-Pierre…
Before 1902, Saint-Pierre was the first center of European trade and culture in the Caribbean. Not only a major economic and administrative center, the city boasted all the attires of the larger cities of the coast of France : a large theater, parks, fountains and statuary. It was a major port, not only as capital and major city of Martinique, but as a comfortable enclave of European civilization in this very different “new world”. Saint-Pierre was known as the “little Paris” of the West-Indies. A true cultural Mecca, the city was famous for its vibrant nightlife, its music, its fashion, its ideas, its Carnival, its people and the beauty of its women.
All this came to an abrupt end on the morning of May 8th, 1902, when Mount Pelée erupted, killing 30,000 people is a few minutes in a massive cloud of burning gases and a rain of rocks and ashes, sparing only one, a man named Cyparis.
Now dubbed “the little Pompeii” of the Caribbean, Saint-Pierre can be considered the historic capital of Martinique. In 1990, Saint-Pierre was proclaimed part of the French heritage and was designated the “101st City of Art and History”. Filled with ruins and historic monuments that recall the splendor of its past, Saint-Pierre is a quiet city of some 5,000 inhabitants, proud of its heritage, which welcomes more than 300,000 tourists a year.
Life under the volcano
Renowned Mount Pelée, one of the dozen volcanoes in the Caribbean, rises majestically 4,800 feet above sea level. Now dormant, it is monitored year round by vulcanologists. The 1902 eruption marked the onset of modern vulcanology studies. With a complex summit morphology, its slopes are covered with a hilly Eden of magnificent rainforest, ideal for hikers, botany buffs and travelers alike.