Guadeloupe, a land of cultures and flavours
A land of blending and ethnic diversity as a result of its history, Guadeloupe exhibits an extraordinary array of flavours and cultures. Our creole cuisine’s attractiveness derives from traditional dishes prepared with luscious tropical products and beautiful combinations of tastes and colours. Culture-wise, our archipelago displays generalised vitality and profusion, in music and painting or even literature. In fact, many Guadeloupean artists have contributed to its international fame. As for our built heritage, its peculiar blend of tradition and modernity makes it just as appealing.
A thousand flavours
A generous tropical region, Guadeloupe is filled with products whose extremely varied scents and tastes may be found in many local traditional dishes. Our cuisine, dampened by Caribbean, African, European and Indian influences, is characterised by colourful dishes, rich in tastes and aromas.
These fundamentals include spices, notably “colombo” — also called “massalé” —which is a curry-like mix of pepper, saffron, coriander, cumin and garlic.
Some of the most famous traditional Guadeloupean dishes include: accras, bokits, blood sausage, “colombo” curry; “dombrés", crab soup, callaloo soup, blaff (court-bouillon), bébélé (tripe soup), cod chiquetaille, avocado feroce, vegetable gratins, congo soup, conch fricassée and grilled lobster.
These are often complemented with “dog sauce”, a very popular Caribbean dressing.
Sweet foods include: sorbets, pies called “love grief” from Les Saintes, cassava cakes , blancmange, coconut candy, “doucelette” candy or yet “chodo” custard.
Each year at the beginning of August, our Creole cuisine is specifically honoured during the Festival of the Cooks held in honour of Saint-Laurent, their patron saint. Dressed in their best attire, which includes madras scarves and traditional jewels, the cooks go to the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church of Pointe-à-Pitre in order to attend traditional mass and have their baskets full of various dishes and utensils, blessed. Afterwards, they march in the city’s streets in front of a large audience.
An international reputation
Guadeloupe is internationally known for the quality of its brown sugar and rums, which represent a strong economy dating back to several centuries. Indeed, the first sugar cane plantations emerged during the XVIIth century.
Until 1939, our region still possessed about sixty distilleries.
Only nine remain to this day: six on continental Guadeloupe and three in Marie-Galante.
Two types of rums are produced: traditional and agricultural (which may be white, aged or dark). Recognised for their quality, many of our Guadeloupean rums have been awarded in national and international competitions.
Finally, one cannot but mention the famous ti’ punch, which blends white rum, sugar and lime and is enshrined in our region’s traditions — yet should be drunk in moderation.
Music and dance
In Guadeloupe, preferred musical styles are plenty. Traditional genres include gwoka, which uses the famous “ka” drum, biguine, quadrille (squares dance) and Creole waltz. Salsa, reggae or Haitian kompa are also very popular.
A true musical lab, Guadeloupe saw the emergence of popular musical genres whose success went far beyond national borders. For instance, since the 1980s, Caribbean-borne zouk was exported around the world by bands like Kassav or Zouk Machine. Our archipelago also experienced other original musical expansions, such as that of ragga and dancehall.
Thus, both music and dance are fundamental pillars of our culture. Many events (festivals, traditional musical gatherings, balls, etc…) are held throughout the year and constitute as many perfect opportunities for showcasing our talents and sounds.
Carnival, which starts in January and lasts for about two months up to Ash Wednesday, is the archipelago’s key cultural event. Over that period, our entire land is celebrating — with huge parades taking place in several cities, as well as masquerades and theme parties. In the streets or in front of their screens, thousands of Guadeloupeans and temporary visitors watch those bright, colourful and extremely lively parades.
Setting the pace for parades, music plays a key role and some bands have as a result become quite famous: Akiyo, Voukoum (“Skin”-based bands), Guimbo All Star, Matamba (snare drums bands) or Mass Moul Massif (“Mask”-based band).
Another major cultural event category includes the “chanté nwèl” or Christmas carols, which unfold in December across the territory. On evenings and in the midst of traditional dishes, Guadeloupeans gather to sing Christmas carols and spend quality time.
In Guadeloupe, French is the official language. However, Creole, a regional language born in the XVIIIth century out of a blend of several European, African and Amerindian idioms, remains widely used by the population.
Creole is taught at school since a Secondary School Teaching Certificate (CAPES) was created for Creole languages and cultures in 2001.
Guadeloupe’s cultural cross-fertilisation can be found in many literary works. Marked by Creoleness, imprinted by modernity and full of creativity, our literature has managed to seduce a large audience. Many works have thereby been published in several languages by important national publishers.
Some of the most famous Guadeloupean authors include Saint-John Perse, Ernest Pépin, Maryse Condé, Gisèle Pineau, Guy Tirolien, Max Rippon, Simone Schwarz-Bart and Gerty Dambury.
Guadeloupean literature and, more generally speaking, Caribbean literature are showcased during the International Congress for Caribbean Writers, a key event held in Guadeloupe.
Guadeloupe exhibits remarkable buildings that are as many testimonies of our history. Colonial architecture is strongly represented, with former sugar, banana or coffee plantations (i.e. Comté and La Grivelière dominions), colonial houses (Zévalos, Saint-John Perse Museum), strongholds and centre-cities. The region also counts two slave ports (Pointe-à-Pitre, Le Moule) as well as slave cemeteries.
Traditional creole houses referred to as “cases”, which housed former slaves after slavery was abolished in 1848, have been modernised but remain highly present in our region.
The archipelago also counts numerous public buildings from the 1930s and devised by architect Ali Tür, whose original style and modern technique were extremely popular back then.
Such buildings include the governor’s palace, present day prefecture, the General Council hall and the Basse-Terre courthouse.
Furthermore, our built heritage and expertise are showcased through various museums and houses spread across the territory.
The Guadeloupe Regional Council promotes culture and heritage
As a land of blending that mingles tradition and innovation, Guadeloupe exhibits incredible cultural, historical and patrimonial riches. This diversity is a true asset for our territory’s attractiveness and development, and asserts it as an actual lab for the new world. In order to grow its residents’ potentialities and increase Guadeloupe’s radiance, the Guadeloupe Region promotes our culture and heritage based on two lines of action: promoting and showcasing our talents, but also restoring and enhancing our heritage.
In many fields — music, painting, literature — numerous artists have produced works that appealed to large audiences, locally, nationally and even internationally. In view of preserving this cultural proliferation, the Guadeloupe Regional Council supports several fields and their expansion endeavours: from visual arts to audiovisual and cinematographic production, from live entertainment to edition, etc… It aspires to providing the cultural industry with sufficient means and amenities for it to shine.
As for our built heritage, it is a vibrant testimony of our history, traditions and evolution. It must be preserved and promoted, via investments but also by raising awareness about its significance among the population.
In view of promoting culture and heritage, the Guadeloupe Regional Council supports key players, invests in cultural projects and holds major events. The regional authority implements the Regional Plan for Cultural Development it embraced in 2008. This benchmark document defines the main strands of regional cultural policy over a 40 years time period.