To the Arawak, Martinique was their treasured "isle of flowers." Lying in the Lesser Antilles between Dominica and St. Lucia, the island is a tropical paradise of dense rain forest, rolling savanna and stunning beaches. The rich volcanic soil nourishes banana plantations and pineapple fields as well as mangoes, papayas, lemons, limes, and West Indian cherries. Little wonder that Columbus praised Martinique as the "best, most fertile, most delightful, and most charming land in the world." Martinique's cultural heritage is as rich and bountiful as its soil. The island has been governed by France for over three centuries. Today an overseas department of France, the island boasts a culture that is a unique and zesty blend of French, Caribbean, African and Middle Eastern influences, resulting in that spicy combination called Créole. Créole culture is reflected in Martinique's architecture, cuisine, language, and music. For years the mayor of Fort-de-France was the internationally acclaimed Créole poet Aimé Césaire. Five centuries after Columbus made his landfall, Martinique remains a rare flower in the Caribbean.