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Saint Pierre and Miquelon, A Bit of France Just Ten Miles From North America

Historical Facts | July 5, 2021

Saint Pierre and Miquelon. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

The last remaining vestige of France's colonial empire is a couple of small islands just a quick ferry ride away from Canada. Despite its close proximity to North America, Saint Pierre and Miquelon remain a little slice of France off the southern coast of Newfoundland.

Where Is Saint Pierre And Miquelon?

Saint Pierre and Miquelon is actually a collection of eight small islands totaling about 242 square miles, which is slightly larger than Chicago, about 10 miles south of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic. The French islands and the Canadian province are actually two of the few regions of the world with their own time zones. At half an hour ahead of Newfoundland, Saint Pierre and Miquelon has the earliest time zone in the world, making them the first to welcome the new year.

Saint Pierre in 1921. (Bibliothèque nationale de France/Wikimedia Commons)

Fish And Rum

As the islands are near the Grand Banks, one of the most prolific fishing grounds of the North Atlantic, fishing is big business in Saint Pierre and Miquelon. In fact, it's the center of France's Atlantic cod fisheries. Its location also makes it a perfect hideout for anyone not wanting to be seen by anyone but some fishermen, including some high-profile (if low-repute) Americans. The infamous American mobster Al Capone lived at the Hotel Robert for a time, and during Prohibition, rum runners smuggled liquor from Saint Pierre and Miquelon into the U.S.

Aerial view of Saint Pierre. (Fybert/Wikimedia Commons)

Comme Les Francais

Although control of Saint Pierre and Miquelon volleyed back and forth between France and Britain for more than 100 years after the latter attacked the former's settlements on the islands in 1713, the territory is decidedly French today. French is the official language, the people eat French food and wear French fashion, and like France, most of them are Roman Catholic. In fact, the islands are partially named for the Catholic saint of fishermen, Saint Peter. Miquelon, meanwhile, is a Basque variation of the name "Michael." The first time that the name "Saint Pierre and Miquelon" appeared on a map was in 1579, but at various times, it has been spelled "Micklon," "Micquelle," and "Miclone." Today, its official name is the Territorial Collectivity of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

Tags: Canada | colonial america | france

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.