22 French Guiana Facts: Discovering the Hidden Gem of South America

Situated on South America’s northeastern coast, French Guiana is an overseas department of France.

With a population of 300,000, this country is the largest and most sparsely populated part of France. Though French Guiana is relatively small in size, it is home to a vast array of fauna and flora, including the rainforest of the Amazon, which covers over 90% of the territory.

This country is also famous for its indigenous people, diverse cultural heritage, and some other interesting facts. 

In this article, we will now discuss some amazing facts about this vital region of France called French Guiana.

Interesting French Guiana Facts.

French Guiana was first discovered by Christopher Columbus

French Guiana Facts

The first European, who discovered this country is, Christopher Columbus. This world-famous sailor found the coastline for the first time in 1498 and even named it the land of Pariahs.

Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, this region was occupied by the Arawak Indians, similar to lots of Caribbean islands and regions.

Though it is a region of France, it is still very far from France

French Guiana is actually located in South America. This small country is now an overseas department of France, and most part of this region is made up of tropical rainforest. 

The space center of French Guiana

Space Center Of French Guiana

In 1964, the government of France selected the location of the space center in the jungle near Kourou. There is actually little to no risk of any earthquake or hurricane in this region, and also no one lives in the vicinity. 

This space center is not only used by the French, but it is also a huge European center, and from this place, the famous Ariane rocket is launched.

For a very long time, French Guiana has been a part of France

French Guiana has been a part of France for a very long time. In 1503, the first French establishment was recorded, but it was not until 1643, Cayenne was founded by colonists, that the French presence was durable.

Unfortunately, it was initially a slave society up until the French Revolution and even the abolition of slavery in the colonies.

The leatherback turtle of French Guiana

Leatherback Turtle Of French Guiana

Not only the beaches of this country are pristine and an amazing sight to enjoy, but they are also home to lots of turtle nesting sites. Here you can see the largest sea turtle species, known as the leatherback turtle. 

It migrates across the world, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Due to fisheries bycatch and egg collection, the leatherback turtle is eventually becoming more and more endangered and now has officially ranked Vulnerable.

There are many rivers in this country

As French Guiana is not an island, the sea as a whole is actually less important in the culture compared to the other French colonies, such as Martinique or Guadeloupe.

However, there are still several vital rivers in this region, such as Tampoc, the Waki Camopi, Inini, Ouaqui, Sinnamary, Marowiny, etc. In the northern part of French Guiana, there is even a dam forming an artificial lake that can offer hydroelectricity.

The terrain of this region is very varied

St Joseph Island

Similar to most Caribbean regions, in French Guiana, you must feel like you are in heaven. This beautiful land is a perfect mix of hills, coastal plains, and mountains, all covered in dense rainforests. 

Moreover, the beaches of this region are surprisingly alluring, the sand is warm and bright, and the water is turquoise. Overall, French Guiana is nothing but one of the Caribbean paradises.

The significant commercial exports of French Guiana

Many years ago, the main export from French Guiana was gold; however, when it was depleted, several other industries rose up. 

Among them, some of the most notable ones are rosewood essence, shrimp, and rice. In addition, sugar, construction, and rum are also major in terms of exports.

The main consumers of these exports of French Guiana are the US, France, Japan, and the EU.

The art of French Guiana is a mixture of various traditions

Art Of French Guiana

The various nations that were in control of French Guiana left some important marks on the local culture of this specific region.

While talking about art, the strategies are nothing but the derivatives of the original methods of several other countries. The most famous and followed art forms are weaving, woodcarving, and painting.

The very famous Cayenne pepper

The Cayenne pepper, which got its name from the capital city of French Guiana, Cayenne, is very famous worldwide. 

This pepper is mostly used as a powder in spicy dishes, in some cases even in its whole form as well. Either dried or fresh, you may use Cayenne pepper in casseroles, egg dishes, stews and meats, hot sauces, cheese dishes, curries, and many more.

The climate of French Guiana

Climate Of French Guiana

In French Guiana, the climate is tropical, meaning it’s both humid and hot. However, from month July to November, the climate is decently dry and bearable.

However, in the months from December to June, there is a lot of rain. Overall, no matter the time of the year here, the weather is very hot and humid.

The famous Devil’s Island

For the years 1852 to 1953, prisoners were exiled in French Guiana, or mainly the famous Devil’s Island, a prison located off the coast of the region.

It was said to be the most feared penal colony on the globe. Here, the prisoners received very harsh treatment, including being locked in a cell with just bars, and suffering from both the scorching sun and the tropical environment. 

French Guiana is not that small

French Guiana Land Area

French Guiana is really close to the equator, and as it is a neighboring region of Brazil, it actually looks really small.

In fact, French Guiana has a land area of 32253 sq mi or 83,534 kilometers square, which is a bit larger than Scotland.

This country was famous as the ‘prison of France’

Criminals were sent to South America, in French Guiana, from all around the French Empire. The most notorious prisoners are located in the place “Iles du Salut.”

Due to how harsh the environment is, this punishment for the prisoners was very cruel and even raised a lot of human rights controversies.

Today, these prisons are a significant part of the tourism of French Guiana, and most of the historical prisons can be visited.

French Guiana’s currency is Euro

French Guianas Currency

As you have already known that French Guiana is located in South America. However, what you might not know is that this region is entirely different from its neighbors.

Here not only is the official currency Euro, but French is also the main language, and also baguettes may be found on every table. French Guiana is truly a small part of France that is lost in South America, near the forest of Amazon.

The official language of French Guiana

French Guiana Language

There is no doubt that France has had the most important impact on the region called French Guiana. The main language that everyone understands and speaks in French. In addition to this, there are also some native languages.

The majority of the population uses Creole. However, you might even hear Spanish, English, Portuguese, and Dutch, though not any of them are spoken that widely.

The capital city of French Guiana

The capital city of French Guiana is Cayenne which is a very lively city. The motto of this city is “fert aurum industria,” meaning “work brings wealth.” It is located on the banks of the estuary of the Cayenne River on the Atlantic Ocean.

According to history, it was ignored by Spanish explorers, as they found the region too poor and hot to be claimed, but later a French settlement was established.

History of Cayenne

Cayenne City

Cayenne is not only the capital of French Guiana but also the main port on Cayenne Island’s northwestern tip. This island was created by the estuary of the Mahury and Cayenne rivers.

Initially known as La Ravardiere, this capital city was founded in 1664 by the French, though soon destroyed by Indians.

The reoccupation started in late 1664, and it took another century for La Ravardiere to become Cayenne in the year 1777.

The economy of French Guiana

French Guiana has a developing market economy that is modeled after that of metropolitan France and is helped by the technical assistance and subsidies of France.

The largest economic sectors are manufacturing, services, and construction, and this country’s per capita gross national income, or GNI, is among the greatest in entire South America.

The workforce in French Guiana

Workforce In French Guiana

The majority of the workforce here is employed in services and industry, with agriculture occupying only a small percentage.

Benefits and wages are regulated in a similar way they are in France. However, inflation and unemployment are both at high levels. 

Moreover, thermal power facilities, which utilize imported fossil fuels, usually generate all the electricity.

The cuisine of French Guiana

As French Guiana is made up of multiple cultures, the foods here are something you can look forward to. There are various kinds of local indigenous recipes and Asian and French cuisines.

The ingredients used in the dishes of this region are local and fresh, and the dishes are a combination of savory and sweet. Tasty tropical fruits always accompany them.

Arawak Indians were the first inhabitants

The first tribe known to occupy French Guiana is the Arawak Indians. It is believed that they lived in the Greater Antilles and the northern Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. 

Some other tribes, like the Caribs, joined them. Later, these tribes migrated from the Amazon and reached the islands of the West Indies.

So, French Guiana is a country as well as an overseas department of France that can easily surprise you with its interesting culture, history, wildlife, foods, natural beauty, and many more.

These facts offer us a clear picture of this unique region of France. To get some additional amazing facts, you can see our website.

French Guiana Facts
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