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Identity Crisis To Be French in Caribbean C'est Crazy
[Home Edition]
Los Angeles Times (pre-1997 Fulltext) - Los Angeles, Calif.
Author: Meisler, Stanley
Date: Dec 28, 1985
Start Page: 1
Section: 1; Foreign Desk
Abstract (Document Summary)

Despite these similarities, the influence of French culture and the special relationship of the islanders with France do make Martinique and Guadeloupe different from the rest of the Caribbean. The career and attitude of the distinguished Martinique poet and politician, Aime Cesaire, probably illustrates this best.

The 72-year-old Cesaire, as a deputy from Martinique in the French National Assembly, mayor of Fort-de-France and president of the Martinique Regional Council, is the most powerful political leader on the island. Discovered as a poet a half-century ago by the surrealists of France, Cesaire and his friend, poet Leopold Senghor, the former president of Senegal, developed the philosophy of black consciousness known as "negritude" that helped spawn the independence movements in black Africa and the black-dominated islands of the Caribbean after World War II.

The French Revolution divided the future of the islands somewhat. The British took advantage of the revolution to occupy Martinique, an act that kept the settlers out of the revolutionary turmoil. The white and mixed-race leaders of [Guadeloupe], however, sided with the wrong faction in the revolution and were guillotined later in large numbers. As a result, a light-skinned, elite class continued to grow in Martinique while Guadeloupe had to develop new leadership.

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