June 15 – Martinique's First Pigs and Goats

Posted on June 15, 2018

Europe's first exploration of the Caribbean Islands was, of course, carried out by Christopher Columbus. He charted the island he called Martinica (we now call it Martinique) in 1493, on his first voyage. On his fourth voyage, on this date in 1502, he finally landed there.

Columbus and his crew needed fresh water after crossing the Atlantic, and they took advantage of the island's fresh water to bathe and wash clothes as well.

But a hurricane seemed to be brewing, and Columbus wanted to reach the Spanish colony at Hispaniola before the hurricane hit, so after just three days, he ordered his crew to repack, and they sailed on.

Pretty much the only thing they left behind were some pigs and some goats.

You can see from this map that there are a few largish islands in the Caribbean, and Martinique (part of the Lesser Antilles on the right side of the map, with the label "Martinique (France)" in black at the right-hand edge) is certainly NOT one of the largest islands.

Because of the island's small size, Spaniards weren't all that interested in Martinique. More than a century after Columbus briefly landed on the island, a group of 150 French settlers landed and "claimed" the island for France.

The peoples who had lived on Martinique before the French settlement included Arawaks, Caribs, and Taínos. These native peoples had conquered and displaced one another, and possibly intermarried and assimilated with one another in some cases, but the historical articles I consulted left me confused about just which native group did what, to who, when. Whatever happened between the native groups, though, it is certain that the native peoples fought against the French settlers...but ended up losing the fight, and the island.

Here's what the Spaniards passed on, the Caribs and Taínos lost, and the French won:

Also on this date:

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