Afternoon in a Saint-Pierre Café


Above: Saint-Pierre, Martinique (all photos by CJ)

By Alexander Britell

SAINT-PIERRE — IN THE shadow of the volcano, St Pierre is silent.

It is 3 o’clock in this corner of Martinique, once a bright cosmopolitan light of the West Indies.

The storefronts and snacks are closed; few walk the streets. The sun is strong.

It was once loud here – the “Little Paris of the Caribbean,” a centre of culture, of commerce.

In May 1902 it all changed. when the towering green titan called Pelee awoke, sending 30,000 to their end.

Above: Mount Pelee

Today, it is a village. Where the town was once active, it is now dormant.

The sounds are the familiar ones of a French village — a second floor radio, the clack of plates in a nearby cafe.

But it is quiet. Not the energetic bustle of Fort de France or the hum of the sands of Salines or the crushing waves of Tartane.

It’s just me and six empty red tables at Le Zinc du Nord, taking a Ti Punch, as anyone should in the French West Indies at 3 PM.

Above: Le Zinc du Nord

It rather well washes down a lunch of Fricasee de Lambi at La Vague, a waterfront cafe a few blocks down.

Out in front the fishing boats rock in the Caribbean Sea, taking their daily nap.

The present here is calm, but among the lava-dark ruins, the hollowed churches, the past is loud.

St Pierre is silent.

And that’s what makes it beautiful.


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