Government of Saint Lucia

Go to Homepage


[Site Map]

[Contact Us]

Search this Site

Searching for our Roots in Cayenne! - February 07, 2005

horizontal rule

Governor General
Prime Minister
The Cabinet
The Senate
House of Assembly
Overseas Missions
The Constitution
The Staff Orders

National Television Network
Watch NTN Live

Saint Lucia Gazette
Press Releases
About Saint Lucia
Frequently Asked Questions
Web Links
Government Directory
Browse by Agency
Site Help

Searching for our Roots in Cayenne!


It is good to be back with you after the Christmas and New Year holidays. There will be much to discuss and talk about as the year progresses. Today, I want to chat a little about my recent visit to French Guiana.

During the last week of January, I led a delegation on an official three-day visit to French Guiana. The delegation included External Affairs Minister, Senator Petrus Compton, and St. Lucia’s Consul General to the French Antilles, Mr Cass Elias. Also on the team were representatives of the Ministry of External Affairs and the Cultural Development Foundation, as well as the Government Information Service (GIS).

I was invited to visit French Guiana -- a year ago -- by the President of the Regional Council, Mr Antoine Karram. St. Lucians in French Guiana had urged him to invite me to meet with them, to help them reconnect with their homeland and discuss how to strengthen the historical ties between St. Lucia and “Cayenne.” (Actually, Cayenne is the Capital of the territory of French Guiana, which is an Overseas Department of France located on the North-Western shoulder of South America.)


The visit began on January 24th and ended on January 26th. During that time I met with the political leaders of the territory, including the Presidents of the Regional and General Councils, as well as the Mayors of Cayenne, Kourou and Matoury. I also met with representatives of the Chamber of Commerce.

During our meetings with the administrative and municipal authorities, we discussed exchanges in areas of business, sports and culture, and the general strengthening of ties with the local St. Lucian communities.

With the business leaders, we discussed the possibilities of developing commercial ties such as joint ventures between investors in French Guiana and Saint Lucia.

Our delegation visited the Guiana Space Complex at Kourou, from where some of the world’s major satellites are launched by the European Space Agency. This is a massive, state of the art space exploration complex serving the European Union. It is indeed something to see.


Of all my encounters, the best were those with St. Lucians in their various communities -- whether in the urban centres like Cayenne, or in the Amazonian river areas such as Kourou, or in the deep, hinterland areas such as Saul (pronounced Sayel), a land-locked mining community in the centre of French Guiana founded in the last century by St. Lucians.

But I will never forget the welcome reception at the Rochambeau Airport. Apart from the official welcome by our hosts at the airport, the St. Lucian associations in French Guiana organized a genuine St. Lucian welcome, featuring women decked in our national colours, men beating conga drums, children waving our national flag and the entire crowd singing and dancing to the beat of lively indigenous music. Naturally, I joined them!

Likewise, I will not forget the superb performance of the Gwan Won and other dances of our twin flower festivals, La Woz and La Magwit, put on for the visiting delegation – and in which we also participated. Indeed, it was a most memorable St. Lucian experience outside St. Lucia.


Through our meetings and in numerous radio, TV and newspaper interviews, I updated the St. Lucians in French Guiana on issues such as the banana industry, developments in secondary education, investments in tourism, developments in the telecommunications sector, road construction, water and electricity and the plans for the construction of the two new hospitals, as well as our continuing fight against crime.

Invariably, in their questions and comments, St. Lucians said they appreciated that my visit was the first official visit by a St. Lucian Prime Minister to meet and talk with them. They all welcomed the historic opportunity to establish official ties with their homeland.


There were also those touching moments that underlined the historicity of the ties between St. Lucia and French Guiana.
Most touching of all was the experience of Miss Linda Brice, a Foreign Service Officer at the Ministry of External Affairs, who was in charge of the protocol arrangements for the St. Lucia delegation. Miss Brice knew she had a sister in Cayenne, but she’d never met her. All she had was an old picture. She happened to mention this fact in a radio interview and within a day of our arrival someone who heard her on the radio went out and found her sister. They cried tears of joy as they hugged for the first time.

Cass Elias, our Consul General, told us that when he first visited in 1999, he met his father and he also met three brothers and a sister for the first time. Cass introduced one of his younger brothers to us in Kourou.

Kerwin Xavier, the GIS cameraman and reporter on our delegation, was surprised to have met a cousin in Cayenne.

A representative of the Chamber of Commerce of Cayenne was eager to meet Mrs Barbara Du Boulay, the representative of the CDF, because his mother is a Du Boulay from Chaussee Road in Castries.

Significantly, most of the important personalities we met had St. Lucian roots or connections. The mother of the President of the Regional Council is from Vieux Fort. The President of the General Council is married to a Tobierre – one of the prominent families from Vieux Fort – and their daughter is married to prominent Vieux Fort businessman, Brian Daher.

I met St. Lucians who are councilors in municipal authorities and who are leading political personalities in their communities.

I met people from Babonneau, Choiseul, Laborie, Soufriere – in fact, from every corner of St. Lucia. I met a blind lady who made her way to our first meeting with St. Lucians to inquire about Thecla Deterville, Fred Walcott and Felix Finnisterre. And my Press Secretary begged for some time off to visit his wife’s aunt.

Truly, our roots run deep in French Guiana and throughout the 90,000 square miles of that French Antillean territory in South America.


But I must share with you my own thoughts on what to me was one of the most enlightening and enjoyable overseas trips I have ever made.

First of all, it was an important step towards reconnection with the St. Lucians and descendants of St. Lucians in French Guiana. Our people first migrated to that distant territory in the 1900s -- as they did to other parts of the region like Panama, Cuba and Guyana – in search of new opportunities. Like the trek to Guyana, they went to Cayenne in search of gold. Many remained to build another life.

Equally enthralling were the sentiments expressed by the people of French Guiana about St. Lucians and their role in building the territory from scratch. They will tell you, with a deep and visible sense of gratitude “C’est St. Lucienne ki bati Cayenne; c’est St. Lucienne ki bati Guiane!”

Indeed, on my visit to Saul (pronounced Sayel), where I met the descendants of the earliest St. Lucian gold miners, I was also told of the neighbouring community called Saint Elie, which was also originally established by St. Lucians mining gold in the very centre, the heart of French Guiana.

I am most proud of the gratitude of the local French Guinese population for the role of St. Lucians in building their country. St. Lucians can be found today in every single area of activity in French Guiana – from the highest levels of administrative decision-making, to the Civil Service and the Municipal bodies; from the commercial sector, to the agricultural sector; from the Space Centre at Kourou, to the Municipal Market in Cayenne. Our influence in French Guiana is really disproportionate to our size.

Indeed, in French Guiana, St. Lucians stand tall and proud, wave their flag, beat their chest and proclaim from the highest peaks to the lowest valleys: “Mwen c’est un Ste. Lisienne!” “I am St. Lucian -- and proud of it!”


What we have begun in French Guiana is a continuation of this Government’s policy of reaching out to St. Lucians in the French Antilles just as we have done over the years with St. Lucian communities in other parts of the world.

This policy of reaching out to St. Lucian nationals in the French Antilles began several years ago, when I held discussions with President Jacques Chirac of France. Those discussions resulted in the decision by the French Government to abolish the need for visas by St. Lucians traveling to the French Antilles. Subsequently, the French Government agreed to devolve power to the local administrative bodies in the French Antilles, to allow them to develop closer economic, commercial, cultural and sporting ties with St. Lucia and the English-speaking Caribbean. Since those decisions, the movement in trade and people between Martinique and St. Lucia has blossomed.


The resurrected links with our people in French Guiana is a priority for this Government. But most of all, each and every one of us with relatives in French Guiana must re-establish ties and maintain those ties. Let us therefore negate the neglect of the past and reach out to re-establish links with a land that our people have shaped!

Until next week, God Bless -- and do have a nice day.


horizontal rule

Home ] Up ] Office of the Prime Minister Site Map ] [Site Help]

© 2012 Government Information Service. All rights reserved.

Read our privacy guidelines.