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Martinique (Territorial Collectivity, France)

Last modified: 2020-02-01 by ivan sache
Keywords: martinique |
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French national flag - Image by Željko Heimer, 22 September 2001

See also:

Administrative data

Code: 972
Area: 1,128 km2
Population (2014): 383,911 inhabitants

Préfecture: Fort-de-France
Sous-préfectures: Le Marin, Saint-Pierre, La Trinité
Subdivisions: 4 arrondissements, 34 municipalities.

Status of Martinique

Martinique is officially known as the Collectivité Territoriale de Martinique (CTM), established on 1 January 2016.
The status of Martinique is prescribed by Law No. 884, adopted on 27 July 2011 and published the next day in the French official gazette, No. 173, p. 12,821 (text).

Article 3.
To Part 7 of the General Code of Territorial Collectivities shall be added Book II, written as follows:

Book I. Territorial Collectivity of Martinique.
Title 1. General prescriptions.

Article L 7211-1. Martinique forms a Territorial Collectivity of the Republic, as prescribed by Article 73 of the Constitution, which exercizes the competences assigned to an Overseas Department and to an Overseas Region, as well as all competences granted by the Law to account for its specific characteristics and constraints.
Article L 7211-2. The Territorial Collectivity of Martinique succeeds the Department of Martinique and Region Martinique in all their rights and duties.

Article L 7221-1 prescribes the organs of the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique as the Assembly of Martinique [made of 51 members] and its President, the Executive Council of Martinique and its President, assisted by the Economical, Social, Environmental, Cultural and Educational Council.

On 10 January 2010, the update of the status of Martinique to an Overseas Collectivity was rejected by referendum. The official results, as given by the Ministry of Overseas, are:

Registered voters  296,802
Actual voters      164,198
Valid ballots      159,252
Voter turnout               55.32%
Yes                 32,954  20.69%
No                 126,298  79.31%

The same day, a similar proposal was also rejected in French Guiana.

On 25 January 2010, the merging of the General Council and of the Regional Council to form a single collectivity (without changing the status of DOM) was approved by referendum. The official results, as given by the Ministry of Overseas, are:

Registered voters  296,802
Actual voters      106,263
Valid ballots      101,256
Voter turnout               35.81%
Yes                 69,188  68.30%
No                  32,068  31.70%

The same day, a similar proposal was also accepted in French Guiana.

Ivan Sache, 5 June 2016

Flag of Martinique

The national flag in Martinique is the French national flag.

Ivan Sache & Pascal Vagnat, 31 January 2010

The "snake flag" of Martinique

[Flag]         [Flag]

The "snake flag" of Martinique, two versions - Images by Pierre Gay, 13 March 1996 (left) and Luc Baronian, 25 April 2005 (right)

The "snake flag" is a banner of the arms of Martinique, made of a blue field quartered by a white cross and with a white, L-shaped snake in each canton. Devereux [dev94] claims that this flag flies only with the French Tricolour. This is most probably a confusion or an erroneous generalization of the status of the French Polynesia flag, which is official and prescribed in association with the French Tricolore.
The snake flag was indeed the flag of the former French colony of Martinique and Saint Lucia. The L-shaped snakes recall the "L" of Lucia, because Martinique was administrated from St. Lucia before the British took that island. However, this flag never flew on St. Lucia.

The snake flag is locally considered as a "blazon" and not available locally. It is mainly, erroneously used as a courtesy ensign by yachtmen, who should hoist the Tricolore civil ensign instead.
The snake is thr Martinique lancehead - Bothrops lanceolatus (Bonnaterre, 1790) - a venomous speceis endemic to the island, very common in sugarcane and banana plantations. Since the ensign is a banner of arms, the particular design of the snake is not specified. The snake has a triangular head (as its French name, trigonocéphale, derived from ancient Greek, says it) and a forked tongue. In the drawing shown beside the original text of the historical Edict translated below, the artist misinterpreted the snake name and represented it with a triangular tongue instead of head. According to that drawing, the relation between the snake shape and the L of (St.) Lucia seems very dubious. Most "blazons" seen on stickers and postcards, however, show the "standard" snake, as drawn above by Pierre Gay (left). A L-shaped snake is shown in the the Guide Michelin Guadeloupe - Martinique - Petites Antilles and on the CIA Factbook, as drawn above by Luc Baronian (right).
[Léon Nyssen. Le drapeau de la Martinique, Vexillacta [vxl], No. 9, September 2000]

In November 2001, only one copy of the snake flag could be seen on the island, hoisted near the Eruption Museum in Saint-Pierre, along with the flags of France, the European Union, Canada and the USA.

Pascal Vagnat, Roy Stilling, Olivier Touzeau and Ivan Sache, 20 November 2001

Often presented as "the local flag" or even "the flag of Martinique", this flag is not unanimuously accepted on the island. In January 2007, Claudette Duhamel, Secretary of the independentisy party MODEMAS sent an open letter (text) to all the candidates to the French presidential election. The letter states that the snake flag, prescribed by the French colonial authorities and used by the ships involved into slavery, is used now on "all the houses" of the descenders of the European colonists ("békés") and, as a coat of arms, on public buildings and shoulder patches of the Gendarmerie. Accordingly, the MODEMAS asks all the candidates to promise to remove all the snake symbols from Martinique if elected.
The wording of the letter is, indeed, very outrageous, comparing the snake to the Nazi Hakenkreuz and using strong words like "social apartheid" and "racist cast". However, the letter expresses the resentment of the slaves' descendants against the French Republic and the economical control of the island by a few béké families, which was the main cause of the riots that broke out in Martinique and Guadeloupe in spring 2009.

Ivan Sache, 16 May 2009

The snake flag was adopted as an ensign in 1766, being nothing but a variant of the civil ensign used by French vessels. According to an Edict by Colbert (1689, confirming a previous Edict of 1661), merchant vessels should hoist a blue ensign with a white cross. Such ensigns were also used in the French ports. When a civil ensign was used in a colony, a distinctive emblem was added in each of the four blue quarters (for instance, the fleur-de-lis for the ensign of Nouvelle-France, the current flag of Quebec).
[Léon Nyssen. Le drapeau de la Martinique, Vexillacta [vxl], No. 9, September 2000]

The Edict prescribing the Martinique and St. Lucia ensign is included in the Code de la Martinique (new edition by Durand Molaro, Saint-Pierre, 1807, Vol. 2, p. 487available at at the Schoelcher Library in Fort-de-France.

No. 359. - Edict of Messrs. the General and the Intendant, which requires any captain or owner of vessel, ship, schooner and boat of Martinique and St. Lucia to hoist a distinctive ensign [and which] set the ensign of these two Colonies. From 4 August 1766.
Since all places of the Kingdom and the Colony of St. Domingue have each of them a specific and distinctive ensign, so that one can identify from a distance to which harbour or country belongs the vessel that would like to enter any harbour or port of the French Colonies or approach the coast, We found necessary to prescribe an ensign for the Colonies of Martinique and St. Lucia, which shall be described below. [...]

Article 1. Any owner of vessel, ship, schooner and boat, depending on the Government of Martinique and St. Lucia, shall equip its vessel with a blue ensign with a white cross that shall quarter the ensign; in each quarter, and in the middle of it, a white snake will be featured, so that there will be four white snakes in the ensign, which shall be recognized as the ensign of Martinique and St. Lucia.

Article 2. When a captain or owner enters a port or harbour, or reach the coasts of this Government, of any other French Colony, or of the Kingdom of France, he shall order to hoist the ensign described above, so that it will be recognized as a vessel from Martinique and St. Lucia, and he shall hoist it the same way the captains of the other ports of the Kingdom hoist their ensign.

Article 3. Any owner of a vessel who, within the assigned time of three months after the release of the present Edict, will not have equipped himself with the ensign described above, shall be fined 300 pounds, to be allocated to the repairing of the Port of Fort-Royal [Fort-de-France].

Article 4. Any captain or owner who will not conform to the present Edict and will not hoist the distinctive ensign of the two Colonies when he approaches the coasts shall be fined 100 pounds, to be allocated as described above.

Ivan Sache, 28 September 2000

Flag of the Territorial Collectivity of Martinique


Flag of the CTM - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 14 May 2017

The flag of the CTM (photo) is white with the logo was created at the end of 2016.
A consultation for the design of the logo was announced on 1 August 2016 by the CTG. The consultation was open to all people of age living in Martinique. The proposed logo should be compliant with the following specifications:
- to reflect the Martinique identity;
- to allow a quick and easy to memorize identification of the institution, via the concept and the colour(s) - no more than four colours are allowed;
- to convey a dynamic image matching the competencies of the CTM;
- to include the writing "Collectivité Territoriale de Martinique" or "CTM";
- to propose an excellent visual and esthetic quality (style of drawing, colour, font, etc.).
A Technical Selection Committee was appointed to shortlist three proposals, to be submitted to the President of the Executive Council for the final choice of the logo.
The submission deadline was 15 September 2016.

The Committee validated 647 eligible proposals. The third prize (2,000 €) was awarded to Kathleen Lebrave while the second prize (3,000 €) was awarded to Francesca Duranty.
The first prize (8,000 €) was awarded to Stévy Desbonnes, a 22-years old computer graphics artist.
Based on a stylized map of Martinique, the logo includes diverse poetic and informative elements: a hummingbird taking flight, as a strong and poetic symbol of Martinique, two explicit colours: ochre orange, alluding to the local soil, and ocean blue, recalling the see and openness of mind to the world.
[Official press kit, 28 November 2016; CTM website]

Four species of hummingbirds (family Trochilidae), all native to the Lesser Antilles, are recorded in Martinique:
- the purple-throated carib - Eulampis jugularis (Linnaeus, 1766) -, the biggest of the local hummingbirds, mostly living in wet mountain forests (IUCN record);
- the Antillean crested hummingbird - Orthorhyncus cristatus (Linnaeus, 1758) -, the smallest of the local hummingbirds, living in all kinds of biotopes (IUCN record);
- the green-throated carib - Eulampus holosericeus (Linnaeus, 1758) -, living in dry areas (IUCN record);
- the blue-headed hummingbird - Cyanophala bicolor (Gmelin, 1788) -, living in mountainous areas (IUCN record);
[Les oiseaux de la Martinique]

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 8 October 2017

Provisional flag


Provisional flag of the CTM - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 14 May 2017

The CTM offices are located in the building of the former Regional Council building. In 2015, a provisional logo was created and used on a white flag, which could be seen in front of the building (photo, photo), together with the flags of France, European Union, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and the Association of Caribbean States.

Olivier Touzeau, 14 May 2017

Former entities

Region Martinique


Flag of Region Martinique - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 14 May 2017

The flag of Region Martinique (photo) was white with the logo of the Region in the middle.
The logo (presentation) features a long-beaked bird - most probably, a hummingbird - taking flight, In the bird's back / right, a circle, a symbol of plenitude, inscribes a stylized map of Martinique with the initials "CRM", for "Conseil Régional de la Martinique".

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 14 May 2017

Department of Martinique


Flag of the General Council of Martinique - Image by Pascal Vagnat, 30 December 2001

The flag of the former General Council of Martinique, once flown on the building of the General Council in Fort-de-France, was made of the logo of the General Council placed on a white background, without lettering.

Olivier Touzeau, 20 November 2001

Unidentified flag


Unidentified flag seen in Sainte-Marie - Photo by Olivier Touzeau, 20 November 2001

This photo was taken in Sainte-Marie, on the road to the Banana Museum. I saw those Tricolore flags with Muslim symbols flown near a rather isolated house. I suppose the house belongs to someone who fought during French decolonization in North Africa, but I may be wrong.

Olivier Touzeau, 20 November 2001

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