Martinique belongs to the French Antilles and it is a well-known pit stop for many (especially French) sailors and cruisers on the Trade Winds route who like to drop their anchors in the many bays the island offers to restock on water, food, fresh croissants and baguettes!
The economy of the island strongly depends on a few agricultural crops such as bananas (first employer of the island) and sugar cane, used to produce the famous rhum agricole the one and only in the world to hold an AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). Right after comes tourism, especially dense and developed in the south of the island where Tres Hombres lands.
It highly relies on mainland France for many resources. Landing in Martinique means also entering French territory, in all meanings. The most consumed and appreciated fruit of this tropical paradise is….the apple. But be sure there is not even one single apple tree growing on the whole island. We won’t dwell here on the post-colonialism issues and consequences that many islands in the Caribbean area still suffer nowadays, but it is essential we keep this awareness well sharp in mind.
Even street markets can be very expensive, many products are imported and the average tourist consumerism is one of the greatest sources of income for the local community. Once a pineapple grower, who also owned a stall at the local market, told us that she had to sell her pineapples very expensive in Martinique because she had to give most of her production to France. She cannot really set a fair price for it. So what remains of her harvest can then be sold freely in the market, but this is the only situation where she is able to choose the price of her fruits herself and to compensate for the little she earns by dealing with the mainland, the local market prices are skyrocketing.
Marie Galante, a little island southwest of Guadalupe, is a true pearl and offers a different experience. Definitely more rural than its bigger sisters, Marie Galante still conserves some of its real wild and authentic beauty. Still pretty untouched by the invasive mass tourism and the wicked private construction which ravaged many of the other islands, the time seems to have stopped here. The local community is still very attached to its customs and tradition, animal traction is still widely preferred to mechanical labor of the soil. More oxen and less tractors!
We love this island and try to respect it as best as we can.
I was in such a daze stepping on land for the first time in three weeks when I went to the first little market in Saint Anne that I think I may have got a little ‘done’. I remember thinking that the kilo price for the bananas seemed high, but I was so scrambled and overwhelmed by being off the boat I didn’t properly clock it. Luckily it was only a quick little shop I did there with not too much money wasted.
At the next market in Le Marin, I was a bit more on it, although definitely feeling hindered by not speaking French. The ladies there were businesswomen and know how to hustle. I definitely bought some unintended pineapples as a result of this! However the food was good and I was keen to stock up the dry store after the crossing, especially as I wasn’t sure if we would be able to go ashore in Barbados because of Covid rules. I bought breadfruit at the market and once it got soft and sweet I fried up like plantain. Most of the people on board had not eaten it before. When I provision it’s important for me to find unusual local items and for the food we eat to evolve and change with our surroundings.
Such a tiny, tiny little island. Marie Galante has a population of 10,000 and only three small villages. In the village we were closest to there were two little veg stalls. With the help of Cami, our Bosun and native French speaker, we managed to organize a larger order of vegetables through one of these stalls. They were quite happy about it, so we got offered to pick up any old veggie that couldn’t be sold, for free. The average tourist cares a bit too much about the sexiness of the fruits and veggies. The first night of picking up a BIG vegetable soup was made!
Do you enjoy reading our crew’s adventures? Imagine being there when you enjoy our products at home!