Christopher Columbus was the first European to see Guadeloupe, landing in November 1493 and giving it its current name. Several attempts at colonisation by the Spanish in the 16th century failed due to attacks from the native peoples. In 1626 the French under Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc began to take an interest in Guadeloupe, expelling Spanish settlers. The Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique settled in Guadeloupe in 1635, under the direction of Charles Liénard de L'Olive and Jean du Plessis d'Ossonville; they formally took possession of the island for France and brought in French farmers to colonise the land. This led to the death of many indigenous people by disease and violence. By 1640, however, the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique had gone bankrupt, and they thus sold Guadeloupe to Charles Houël du Petit Pré who began plantation agriculture, with the first African slaves arriving in 1650. Slave resistance was immediately widespread, with an open uprising in 1656 lasting several weeks and a simultaneous spate of mass desertions that lasted at least two years until the French compelled indigenous peoples to stop assisting them. Ownership of the island passed to the French West India Company before it was annexed to France in 1674 under the tutelage of their Martinique colony. Institutionalised slavery, enforced by the Code Noir from 1685, led to a booming sugar plantation economy.
Guadeloupe is a melting pot of cultures. Its art, music, dance, and culinary traditions have been influenced by France, Africa, India, and its neighbors in the Caribbean. The majority of the locals are Roman Catholic, with a predominantly Evangelical Protestant minority. People on the island are informal and relaxed, making casual clothes appropriate. If you are going to a nightclub or dining out, though, consider dressing to impress. La biguine is one of the local genres of music you can enjoy in Guadeloupe, which is described as a combination of Creole bélé and polka. Zouk and gwo ka la base are also common in the streets and clubs.
Guadeloupe’s culture is defined by its artisans, who are very skilled at handicrafts. Pointe Noire is notable for its woodwork, while Saint Francois is known for its sculptures made from coconut. La Broderie de Vieux-Fort is the place to go to buy embroidered products. You cannot fully experience Guadeloupe’s culture without immersing yourself in local cuisine. Creole-style seafood is the staple on most menus, and is usually served with freshly harvested vegetables. Indian-inspired dishes such as meats with curry and rice, and exotic fruits like coconut and papaya are also part of the main island fare. Guadeloupe locals love their champagne as much as they love their traditional beverages, including fruit punches and ti-punch.