Of volcanic origin, the island is rugged and mountainous, reaching its greatest height in Mt. Pelée. The mainly Roman Catholic population is largely of African or mixed descent. French and a creole patois are spoken.
Most agriculture occurs in the hot valleys and along the coastal strips; a large part of this area is devoted to sugarcane, which was introduced from Brazil in 1654 and which provides one of Martinique's chief exports, rum. Bananas and pineapples are also important agricultural products. The island's industries consist mainly of petroleum refining, sugar and rum production, and pineapple canning. Tourism, which has eclipsed agriculture as a source of foreign exchange, constitutes a major sector of the economy, and the majority of the people work in the service sector or administration.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.