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Lamentin:  Quality of Life

Whether diving into the past to the time of the old plantations, or exploring the present through encounters with an active, enterprising population, visitors to this serene, artistic commune will feel as if they have entered a sweet, waking dream. On the strength of its natural beauty and commitment to public art, Lamentin has embarked on a well-organized path to becoming a noted cultural tourism destination, supported by the entire population and the development of a host accommodation infrastructure fully integrated into its surroundings. Recreation areas and restaurants may be found throughout the commune, with numerous opportunities to sample “ouassou,” (a local crustacean), crayfish, and many other local delicacies.
Separated from Baie-Mahault to the east by an unnamed Ravine, and from Sainte-Rose to the northwest by the Grande Rivière à Goyaves river, Lamentin, which encompasses 65.5 km2, boasts a unique natural environment. Enter its charming valleys, shaded by enormous mango and breadfruit trees, where the remnants of plantations bear witness to a rich sugar-growing past, and visitors can travel over cane fields on winding paths to the hamlets of Chartreux, Bagatelle, and Castel. Pause at each stage of the emblematic “Karuptures” itinerary to admire monumental open-air sculptures by contemporary artists. Explore further, to the heights of the commune, to see old colonial homes tucked away among beautiful villas surrounded by flowering gardens. Travel the Guyonneau forest road along the river to discover various species of trees and scenic waterfalls. Situated 110 m above sea level, the thermo-playful space René Toribio in the site of “Ravine Chaude“ recently renovated, is enjoyed by Guadeloupians and tourists alike, who come here to rest, relax, and benefit from spa treatments.
From the D1 national highway, arrive at the former Grosse Montagne sugar factory, monument to the area’s rich sugar-growing past. The road leading to the town of Lamentin passes by La Rosière school on the Karuptures itinerary, home to the stone sculpture “La Madone et l'enfant“ (“Mother and Child”), by Argentinian artist Léopoldo Maler. Continue on D1 toward Bréfort bridge, where further works are displayed on either side of the highway: “Il faut plus qu'une fois“ (“Once Is Not Enough”), by Guadeloupian artist Joël Girard; and “Coucher de soleil“ (“Sunset”), a linear flexible metal sculpture by Puerto Rican artist Pablo Rubio (May 1994). Another work greets visitors at the entrance to town: “Lumi-Naissance“ (1999), by Guadeloupian artist Pierre Chadru. In front of the Parc de Verdure, a recreational and community gathering place, a sculpture entitled “Physiochromie,” by Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz Diez (1998), catches the light by means of chromatic strips.
North of town sits the Blachon quarter overlooking the Grand cul de sac Marin. The mouth of the Grande Rivière à Goyaves empties into this 15,000-hectare bay, surrounded by mangroves, bayou forests, and herbaceous marshes, which play an essential role in the ecology. The body of water is perfectly suited to numerous marine activities. The fishing port is picturesque, and the old town still features a few wooden houses in the colonial style.
Arriving at the Rue de la République, with its central square, visitors will discover a number of buildings in the style of Ali Tur, the architect dispatched to Guadeloupe by the French government following the devastating hurricane of 1928. In the center of the square stands a six-meter Totem, by Colombian sculptor Edgar Negret (1994). Just past the stadium, at the Médiathèque media library, “L'envol“ (“Taking Flight)”, by sculptor Ruth Richard, may be seen mirrored above a reflecting pool. And, although much of the Karuptures itinerary gives free reign to playfulness and creativity, the monumental sculpture featured at the Théâtre de Verdure, “Hommage à l'abolition de la servitude“ (“Homage to the Abolition of Servitude”), by Swedish artist Erik Dietman (March 1996), is a more serious work, created to awaken our consciences. The Ciné-Théâtre and social hall are located nearby. In Lamentin, art and culture are an integral part of daily life. This circuit, featuring artists from around the world, culminates, in the courtyard of Vincent school above the national highway, in “La chauve-souris dans l'oreille d'un chat“ (“Bat Flying Out of a Cat’s Ear”), by American artist Dennis Oppenheim.

Tour of Lamentin

The Caribbean natives who occupied this land named this place for the manatee, a brown, herbivorous marine mammal that still lives near the mouths of rivers in certain tropical areas. Once considered a strategic site due to the exceptionally wide mouth of the Grande Rivière à Goyaves, and considered by many, including the famous Père Labat, to be the perfect location for a major port, Lamentin nevertheless chose a more agrarian path early in its history. From the beginnings of colonialism, coffee, cacao, tobacco, manioc, and various subsistence crops formed the basis of Lamentin’s economy, and today many families still keep a Créole garden where they grow yams, sweet potatoes, soup vegetables and aromatics. In the late 18th century, the commune, then home to 20 sugar plantations, 95 coffee plantations, and 30 cotton plantations, relied essentially on agriculture and sugar cane processing. Harvests were transported to the factories by river and, later, rail. The region reaped the benefits of the plantation economy for over a century. Unfortunately, the many sugar factories began to disappear, one after another, after the depression of 1890. The Grosse Montagne factory, which milled up to 250,000 tons of cane a year, is the most visible remnant of this intense industrial activity. And yet, its closing in 1996 marked a new beginning for the commune, whose location at the crossroads of the island’s major economic hubs, only minutes away from air and sea ports, affords it many new possibilities. Better-structured agricultural operations have re-purposed the cane fields for diversified production (“bottle” pineapples, watermelon, eggplant, root vegetables). The growth of artisanal craft businesses (aquaculture, culinary specialties, building trades) and, in particular, the Jaula industrial park, which covers over 30 hectares, have transformed the economic fabric of the region, leading to the development of residential areas.
The town of Lamentin has played an indispensable part in this transformation. The parish of Lamentin was established in 1730 in the marshy area along the river that empties into the Baie de Blachon. A land registry testifies to the care taken to make of this place an urban center. Three churches were previously built where the current structure stands. During the reconstruction of various public buildings following the hurricane of 1928, the architect dispatched by the French government, Ai Tur, former student of Le Corbusier, was charged with planning the town’s entire urban core. He chose to base his design on the typical center of a Guadeloupian village. The church, town hall, former courthouse (now music school), and several other edifices all benefited from the expertise of this architect, who left his mark on the entire island, introducing a new type of architecture adapted to tropical climates. Lamentin, whose population today numbers nearly 16,000, thus enjoys an architectural ensemble whose careful protection and conservation serve to reinforce the commune’s artistic vocation.
An artistic and cultural destination, the birthplace of Ernest Pépin (major Guadeloupian author), and the adopted home of great statesman Hégésippe Jean Légitimus and many artists, Lamentin today offers many facilities that address the needs of young people both educationally and recreationally. In addition to the Karuptures itinerary, a potent symbol of the commune’s openness to world culture through art, Lamentin has a Médiathèque, which facilitates access to culture in all of its forms; a Ciné-théâtre, where savvy film-lovers and theater-goers gather from across north Basse Terre; the Ecole de musique music school, which enrolls nearly two hundred students; the Mahato music cafe; and a social hall, all of which actively nourish the commune’s cultural and artistic ambitions. Driving the activity, municipal services dedicated to culture and tourism play a central role in promoting the commune’s many events.
In this welcoming land of leisure, local residents work together to promote the common interests of people and the environment alike. The refurbishment of the Grosse-Montagne sugar factory, the development of the Blachon sailing center, the renovation of Ravine Chaude hot springs, with public pool and treatment facilities, and the development of forest hiking trails, cycling circuits and mangrove tours:  all are signs of the new direction the commune has adopted. The spirit of competition is also alive and well here. The bright pink jerseys of USL (Lamentin Sports Union) cyclists are extremely popular. Soccer and handball players at Lamentin stadium and championship titles in track and field (Claude Issorat and, more recently, the young Wilhelm Bélocian) testify to the local athletic heritage. The gymnasium, the magnificent Baie de Blachon, and the Circuit de Bellevue race track round out the list of facilities offered to communal sports lovers. The famous Pulling Bulls race is held each year. The local “Ambassadors” club faithfully represents the commune in departmental competitions. This part of the local heritage is a rural tradition that is being revived. Chemin Bleu tourist maps of Guadeloupe and city street maps are available at the Office of Tourism.

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