Cayenne kīĕn´, kāĕn´ [key], city and district (1990 pop. 41,659), capital of French Guiana, on Cayenne island at the mouth of the Cayenne River. The city has a shallow harbor, and deep-draft ships must anchor some distance out. Timber, rum, essence of rosewood, and gold are exported. Cayenne was founded by the French in 1643, but it was wiped out by a Native American massacre and was not resettled until 1664. Throughout the 17th cent. the city and its surrounding region were sharply contested by Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. It was occupied (1808–16) by both the British and the Portuguese. From 1851 to 1946 the city was the center of French penal settlements in Guiana, and part of its population is made up of prisoners' descendants. Cayenne's development has long been hindered by internal strife, a hot, wet climate, and the prevalence of disease. In the city are the Pasteur Institute, which specializes in the study of tropical diseases, and several buildings from the colonial period; there is an international airport. The city gives its name to cayenne pepper, a very sharp condiment found on the island in abundance.

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