Happy Independence Day Mauritius
10 Million Years Ago
Born from the sea floor of the Indian Ocean during a volcanic eruption, I became an isolated small island, remote from large land masses, but with unique curves and beautiful features. Life began to flourish on my skin when seeds and different flying and swimming species drifted till my feet, which evolved into distinct and unique specimen, that became endemic in my womb.
Arab sailors reached my shores… maybe the first humans to discover me… I was then jungle, an exotic indigenous forest, a beautiful virgin bathing under a tropical sun. They named me, Dina Arobi (abandoned island). From there on my name and position was visible on their map, which was reproduced by a Portuguese named, Alberto Cantina, in 1502. I then waited patiently, sleeping and dreaming of thee.
The Portuguese sailors visited me, because according to the Treaty of Tordesillas, I belonged to them. They renamed me “Ilha do Cisne” (Island of the Swan), after their ship the Cirné. But they didn’t find anything interesting about me, thus they left.
In the East, precisely in the place they named Grand-Port, Dutch sailors landed, and renamed me Mauritius, after their prince, Mauritz Van Nassau.
At last, Dutch settlers came to live on the island; I could then learn the language of humans. Though they came to exploit my Ebony trees, and eat the flesh of the flightless strange bird the Dodo, and giant tortoises, they also introduced sugarcane and tobacco that they cultivated on my fertile land; they also introduced deer, and other domestic animals. But what they didn’t know, was that it was already written in the stars that I would be inhabited by a nation of rainbow, that my dreams were meant to be colourful, plural, and multi-cultural. Thus I observed, learned, and waited patiently to be populated by the right indwellers… my inhabitants.
Then, as a consequence of cyclones, droughts, pest infestations, lack of food and illness, I was definitely abandoned by the Dutch in 1710.
France took control of the island. I was then a French lady. They named me isle de France. They settled in the North, and developed this area to become the capital of Mauritius, which is Port-Louis. But sadly, the blood and tears of innocent slaves started to drown this land of ours. I whispered in their ears, “wait, wait, time of greatness shall come, your sacrifice shall not be in vain, your descendants will own these lands, patience; fate had no other way to lead you here, to lead you to me.”
I belonged to the British after they won battle against the French. They renamed me again, Mauritius. They brought about rapid social and economic changes in the country.
Slavery was gradually abolished over several years after 1833, slaves who had been imported from Madagascar and Africa. And in 1834 the first indentured labourers (coolies) were brought from India to work in the sugarcane fields; between 1834 and 1921, around half a million indentured labourers were present on the island. They worked on sugar estates, factories, in transport and on construction sites. Additionally, the British brought 8,740 Indian soldiers to the island. Just like the slaves before them, their lives, too, weren’t easy, they had to fight hard for their lives to be able to survive, but I told them, “ be patient my dear ones, your descendants will help to grow a wonderful nation; fate had no other way to lead you here, to lead you to me.”
In the 1780s, a new wave of thousands of voluntary migrants set sail for Port Louis from Guangzhou on board British, French, and Danish ships; they found employment as blacksmiths, carpenters, cobblers, and tailors, and quickly formed a small Chinatown, the camp des Chinois, in Port Louis. Destiny was again at work.
From there on, I became so colourful, so uniquely rich and beautiful, a mixology that continues our way, propagating into every corners of the world, carrying everywhere my seed, seeds from Mauritius. I don’t fear to disappear, because I’ll forever live in the memory of life.
12 March 1968
Mauritius gains its independence, as well as my sister, Rodrigues. A beautiful song to glorify our nation is composed, while our red, blue, yellow, and green flag proudly dance in that same wind, which once upon a time carried you to me.