Le Lamentin, Martinique
Lamentin, the doorway to Martinique!
Although it is located in the middle of the island it is the port of entry into the island.
The majority of visitors arrive by plane via Aime Cesaire airport. Created in 1949, it covers 337 hectares and can accommodate up to 2 and a half million travelers per year. It is the 12th listed French airport with 1,864,582 passengers annually. It ranks third among the French overseas states after Guadeloupe and Reunion airports. At the airport families eagerly await long lost family members. This is often referred to as the “arrival from Paris” whether someone arrived from Paris or not. At a certain point in history, citizens of Martinique would go to the French mainland in search of work and not be able to return home often. Therefore, when they did return albeit for a short time this would always be a cause for celebration. Welcoming one’s return would be not only a family affair but a neighborhood affair as well. All one large welcoming party! Oftentimes the returning passengers would be more exhausted by the wait at the baggage claim than the from jetlag. Once the welcome party is done everyone leaves the airport. The passenger is then greeted by the cricket sounds of frogs and an intense heat intoxicating you from head to toe as though you just drank a glass of rum.
Lamentin houses the Aime Cesaire airport, but that’s not the only thing it’s known for…
Lamentin is the heart of the economic center of the island. The city is 63 square km with a population of approximately 40,000 people. There are 5 industrial zones, 2 economic development zones , 2 shopping centers, and an oil refinery that serves as base for oil transport in Martinique. The city also hosts majors central offices for Social Security, CAF.and the Chamber of Agriculture. There are also 22 schools ranging from elementary to high school, and 84 educational institutions encompassing cultural, sports, and professional activities. The city is looking towards the future! This is a good thing as birth rates surpasse death rates. Unfortunately as with many cities in the French overseas departments unemployment rate is about 21.3% while that of poverty in general is about 26% according to the 2016 INSEE figures. Some other figures allowing one to appreciate the commercial dynamics of Lamentin, there are 8362 companies located within the city limits of which 76% are businesses and service oriented companies. Agriculture is only one percent of the city’s economic activity. Lamentin also has a media library, cultural office, three cultural centers and even a racetrack. The Carrere racetrack hosts 16 horseracing days each year , it can seat up to 1,000 people. A modern city in full swing welcomed the opening of a public transportation hub on the 13th of August 2018. The purpose of this transportation hub was twofold : 1) reduce congestion and 2) transport people on public transportation in an orderly fashion. The project was in the works for almost 30 years the TCSP was the “holy grail” of Martinique. Often talked about put never fully worked on or completed. All good things come to those who wait! Today there are 18 stops serviced between Carrere and Pointe Simon in Fort-de-France.
Nature and Culture
Nature has reclaimed its rights in Lamentin. The river La Lézarde crosses the city and is the longest river in martinique at 36 km. It originates from the Piton de Carbet and flows into the Caribbean sea. The area drained by the river is 116 km the largest of its kind on the island. In 2015 a crocodile was discovered on its banks situated near the airport. His presence was first signaled by local fishermen. They were not believed until it was officially cited by national police flying over the zone in helicopters. The crocodile has been given the name of Georges. He is actively sought out however has not been caught to date. Rumor has it that he has founded a family which leads one to suspect he has a partner who is nicknamed Georgette! Stay tuned! It may be that the reptile has taken refuge in the mangrove.
The mangrove is a marine marsh system composed of specific trees acclimated to salty environments. It extends over 1800 hectares including 1,000 near Lamentin. It has a fundamental role in preserving the environment, protecting many animal species , birds, crustaceans, and fish etc all various amphibians. It is a mangrove forest located in the middle of the sea and land. It is amazing to see whether by kayak or boat. Make sure to protect yourself from mosquitoes like in all tropical places!
The Chateau Aubery house is in the district of Croix Rival . Built by the family of the same name from 1928 to 1930. The original owner welcomed guests to his home proudly displaying his mosaic floor marked by his initials. The castle follows an art deco style the creation and design of Germain Olivier and Italian designer Giuseppe Volpi. Mr. Volpi was an orphan and survived by exporting tobacco from Montenegro and reinvesting the money into Italian electricity. He was both a Musseleni supporter and a freemason two things that seem to not go together. He would later become the president of the equivalent of the french MEDEF (Confindustria) and the minister of finance. He was also one of the original creators of the Venice film festival. The trophies awarded to the winners of the festival are called the Volpi cups. During the fascist period he was relieved of his duties and later died from complications linked to Alzheimer’s.
Germain Olivier was a french architect from the city of Montauban. He designed both the Aubrey Castle and the prefecture of Martinique. A student of fine arts he graduated DPLG in 1903 at 34 years old. Appointed the architect of hospices of Montauban he also designed beautiful villas in cities such as Hendaye,France and Irun,Spain. Other designs were some palaces in Belgium as well as villas in the African countries of Senegal and the Ivory Coast. He redrew the plans of a Franco-Chinese bank of the city of Hanoi, Vietnam without even being present in the country. In 1923, one of his friends Henri Richard who was appointed the governor of Martinique commissioned him to design the building formerly known as the government’s palace today known as the prefecture hotel of Fort-de-France. During one of his voyages to martinique he was introduced to Eugene Aubery who later commissioned him to build the Aubery Castle. His brilliance earned him the following awards and posts : Legion of Honor, Imperial Order of the Dragon of Annam,commander of the black star of Benin, and the grand medal of honor of historical monuments. Although he created many governmental public monuments such as schools, barracks, academic hospitals. He flourished in the private works he was commissioned for. He liked to work with reinforced concrete ,which at the time, was avantgarde and new. He enjoyed leaving the concrete visible. His fame came about from his six transitory appearances in international European expositions. He created colony flags, french empire showcases, many of which were well received by the french press.
The castle was an example of luxury and the fortune of the Aubery family. By commissioning the original designer and architect of the prefecture the Aubery family showed their power and wealth within the island. The steel structures and reinforced concrete came from France as well as the stucco designs and the furniture. Many of the designs and sculptures were made by sculptor Camille Garnier. The house is huge and sumptuous. Inside there are a living room, a dining room, a smoking room , ten bedrooms, their own private dressing rooms, bathrooms, a gazebo, terraces, an outhouse with five bedrooms, four independent apartments, a large garage for six cars and a pool. After the death of the Auberys the castle went into decline. It was renovated and registered as an historical monument in 1992 then became known as a heritage site of the 20th century in 2015.
Lamentin earned its name because manatees would often be spotted on the banks of the river Lézarde. Manatees are large herbivores who are peaceful and who like to swim in waters more than 20°C. They are considered to be the cows of the sea as they can way more than 500 kilos. They are now extinct from the shores of Martinique. A statue in their memory stands in front of the city hall today.