As of March 2011, France now has five overseas départements instead of four. Mayotte was previously a collectivité d’outre-mer, but now it is officially a département d’outre-mer joining Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane and La Réunion – all of which also have the status of région.
So where is Mayotte? Geographically it is the 4th island in the Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean, between Mozambique and Madagascar. The nation Comoros consists of the other three islands, and still claims Mayotte as its own though it has never administered the island. Comoros voted for independence from France in 1974, but Mayotte refused and has been a collectivité until now.
France is more than just the hexagon on the European continent. In addition to the 96 départements en métropole including the island of Corsica, there are the 5 départements d’outre-mer mentioned above, as well as a few other collectivités and territoires around the world:
- La Polynésie Française, often called a pays d’outre-mer, is probably the most well-known thanks to the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. It is located in the Pacific Ocean, directly south of Hawaii though it covers a rather large and scattered area, with around 118 islands.
- La Nouvelle-Calédonie has a special status called une collectivité sui generis and will vote on independence from France sometime between 2014 and 2018. It is located not far from Queensland, Australia.
- Wallis et Futuna is also in the Pacific Ocean, though it is used usually called une territoire d’outre-mer.
- Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, une collectivité territoriale, is located next to Newfoundland, Canada, and it remains the only part of New France still under French control in North American.
- The two Caribbean islands, Saint-Barthélémy (commonly called St. Barts in English) and Saint-Martin (which shares half the island with the Dutch-controlled Sint Maarten), used to be a part of Guadeloupe, and therefore a département d’outre-mer. However, since their separation from Guadeloupe in 2007, they are known as collectivités d’outre-mer.
- Other islands include les terres australes et antarctiques françaises (TAAF) and l’île Clipperton.
As you have probably noticed, all of the DOM-TOMs are islands, except for Guyane in South America. For more information, check out the official L’Outre-Mer website. 2011 is also l’Année des Outre-Mer.
Dr. Wagner has a PhD in Linguistics and is dedicated to learning and teaching languages online and abroad. She has studied in Quebec and Australia, taught English in France, and is currently based in the US.