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French Guiana is not its own country, but is actually an overseas department of France—in fact the largest one. The official language has always been French, though Hakka, Haitian, Creole, Spanish, Dutch, and English are also spoken, thanks to the country's long and rather uneventful history.
Today, much of the economy is driven by the Guiana Space Centre, but when successful French colonization began, it was used as a prison, mainly on Isle du Diable (Devil's Island). Attempts to settle the coast in 1763 failed due to inability to adapt to the climate, along with rampant disease. It wasn't until 1852 that the prison, named after the island, was established on Devil's Island, to which over 56,000 prisoners were sent. Only 10% of those sent to the island survived their sentences; those who did were given forced residencies on other islands and eventually along the coast again. The territory eventually encompassed the coast, Devil's Island, and two other islands.
In 1809, the English and Portuguese joined forces to take the territory for Portugal, only for it to be returned to France in 1814 thanks to the Treaty of Paris. The Portuguese, however, stuck around until 1817. The country continued to have a legacy of being populated by those who were rejected, even after the prison closed in 1953. With the end of the Vietnamese war and the withdrawal of French presence from Asia, many Hmong refugees were resettled in French Guiana to save them from ethnic persecution back home. Even in protected habitats, such was wetlands and rainforests, the country has some of the poorest soil in the world.