Topic 3 European colonization: the triangular trade

  • Christopher Columbus discovered Martinique in 1502.
  • However, the first European settlement dates back to 1635. At that time, the triangular trade developed between Europe, Africa and the West Indies. In order to enrich the European colonial powers, slave ships set out to capture Africans in order to exploit them in the plantations of the West Indies.
  • Deprived of freedom, beaten, sometimes tortured and raped, enslaved Africans were considered property of the plantation owners. They were used to work in the fields, maintain homes, or trade for the master.
  • It is estimated that 216,000 people were enslaved in Martinique over the course of two centuries.

The birth of the Creole garden

The slaves’ houses, called « kaz » or« kay », were located not far from the settler’s house. The master allowed the slaves to cultivate a plot of land for their own subsistence. In this way, he reduced the cost of feeding the slaves. This small garden allowed a family to feed and care for themselves and to have access to materials.

Traditionally, the kitchen was located outside the house to avoid the risk of fire.

The import vegetales to fead the habitants.

  • At the same time, the colonists imported plants that could easily feed the slave population.
  • The « arbre a pain », native to Oceania, was introduced to the West Indies  in the 18th century by Captain Bounty. It produces a large fruit consumed as a savoury starch or used to make sweet cakes. It can be boiled or roasted

The coconut palm is also widely used for the consumption of coconut meat, coconut water (rich in minerals), for the manufacture of oil or weaving from the leaves. It originates from the Pacific Ocean and was imported to the West Indies in 1625.

Today, these foods are an integral part of Caribbean culinary traditions and the landscape of the Caribbean islands.

Indian and Asian emigration

Other plants were also introduced by people deported from Africa, India or Asia, notably through the contribution of seeds. These products were also integrated into Martinique’s culinary traditions and added to the Creole gardens.

Citrus – Origin: Asia

Turmeric – origin: Asia

Okra and coffee – origin: Africa