French Guiana

French Guiana

Overseas department of France, northeastern coast of South America. Area: 32,253 sq mi (83,534 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 231,000. Capital: Cayenne. It is bounded by Brazil to the south and east, by Suriname to the west, and by the Atlantic Ocean to the northeast. Most of French Guiana is low-lying, with mountains in the south and a swampy coastal plain. The Maroni River forms the border with Suriname. French Guiana's population is mostly Creole. The principal languages are French (official) and creole; nine-tenths of the people are Roman Catholic. Originally settled by the Spanish, French, and Dutch, the territory of French Guiana was awarded to France in 1667, and the inhabitants were made French citizens after 1877. By 1852 the French began using the territory for penal settlement; the penal colony at Devils Island was notorious. French Guiana became a department of France in 1946; the penal colonies were closed by 1953.


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