Many moons ago, in a far off distant land, there existed a complete buffoon who wrote bland witticisms under the guise of The Prattling Puymozacian. This pre-web blog was hacked together on an old LC, printed off and distributed free to a list of subscribers. These subscribers had not subscribed, showed no apparent enthusiasm for subscribing and were only fated to receive the aforementioned because they once knew me.
Times have changed and if you are reading this it's your own fault.
This blog emanates from the sulphurous outpourings of a fevered pustulant mind and a fevered pustulant isle. The isle is fevered and pustulant but in a nice tropical post cardish sort of way. The mind of the author is probably full of seething bile.
Let's begin with a bit of history. Now, history as you all well know is a load of bollicks that just happens to be written by those with the biggest sword. The pen may be mightier than the sword but not when it comes to writing history.
Some three million years ago R�union, as it is now labelled, popped up out of the sea in much the same way as its big sister , Mauritius did five million years earlier. This age difference between siblings explains the physical dissimilarities. Tropical islands tend to go all blond and wistful in their old age just like ads for sanitary products. R�union, even after three million years remains a spotty, enchanting, seductive and temperamental adolescent.
That is what you call geological history, not much chance for any ideological jostling there. The next bit is more fun - or just a sad reflection on the human condition - depending on your perspective.
Since recent and recorded history, many ships have bumped into this rock and partaken of the pleasure found here - for these ancient mariners this meant fresh water, the odd bit of fruit and some exotic birds. Before that, when myths were real and all men knew that God was a woman it was probably known and cherished, but the good people of this mist shrouded epoch didn't believe in real estate and had more respect for the land. In these days it was probably called after some divinity, worshipped as an alien and generally left to evolve in its own charming way.
By the 10th century, people began bumping into it more often. The texts state that the Arabs were the first and the island became known as "Dina Morgabin", or "Western Isle". As opposed to Mauritius, the "Eastern isle". Next came the Portuguese who christened this small family of islands as "Islas Mascarenhas" and then by 1512 'Santa Apollonia". The 17th century saw a veritable identity crisis as various European powers jostled to christen the smoking baby. 1613 - Blakewell decides to call it "England's Forest" at the same time his compatriot settled for "Pearl island". The French were having none of this and by 1649 it became known as "Ile Bourbon".
The French waged war against the indigenous population and like their European partners partook in the slaughter of most of the indigenous fauna - mainly birds. The fact that there is no evidence of prior human population is besides the point - colonisation is tough business and one has to show that there ain't no messing with a great imperial power. As there was no one to oppress, the French were obliged to import slaves from Madagascar and further afield. With an oppressed majority the French go down to some serious 'colonising' which mirrored the efforts of the Brits, Germans et al in other parts of the world
During the glorious age of Reason, or was that egoism, in France the island had something of an identity crisis. In 1806 it became known as "Ile Bonaparte". Due to a spot of Imperial strife the British 'invaded' the island along with Mauritius in 1810. R�union was to remain British for five years and the only thing they did of interest was to rename the island "Ile Bourbon". Of course, they could have abolished slavery, but naw! Too productive. It is said that it is the Brits who were responsible for the sugar plantations - probably, they had a lot of practice exploiting slave labour throughout the known world. By 1848 R�union became known as "Ile de la R�union". After one failed attempt the French eventually got around to abolishing slavery and R�union settled down to a life blissful ignored by the rest of the world.
In 1946, it became an overseas department of France and , in theory, a part of Europe. It was the first 'country' in Europe to get the Euro. But is it really a country? Are the people French? Does assimilation work? Whatever happened to 'alienation' and the movement for independence that one sees throughout the world.
The fact is, that R�union is small - but then so is Mauritius. R�union is an island of majestic landscapes, micro-climates and, until recently, an untouched nature mirroring in microcosm the beautiful depth and variety of the universe. Today, more and more, its destiny is being determined by the people who live here. They come from all four corners of the globe - which is in itself weird, as surely, the globe has no corners. It is the multicultural and racial nature of its people that gives hope for the future. Such a melange of creeds and races should not lead to an Island of Babel.
There is one epithet for the island that I had omitted - "Ile d'Eden" That was a long time ago and it still could be if�
Of course, if we are not careful the island could just get so pissed off that it erupts big time and tears this particular human leaf from the tree of its evolution.
I am writing this blog because I have a love for the island and in the past two years have developed a deep affinity with it. I have great respect for the friends I have made here and am saddened by the voracious development and consumerism that is rife. R�union has, and is, an opportunity to present to the world a model of sustainable development with a respect and a humility before Nature. Its communities can be seen as representative of most of the planet - its landscapes likewise.
Whether this becomes a interesting personal perspective, a rant, or a piece of well needed therapy, time will tell. Comments welcome.
For a more rational - if that's your thang baby! - approach to the history of the island. Well, search the web. Much of the information is in French but I will happily translate short pieces if accompanied by a personal request. I have provided an English translation for one site - ilereunion.com - but have yet to see it in place. The Reunion tourist board also had a translation - but I wouldn't believe all that waffle - still a good place to start.
For a good read try:
Daniel Vaxelaire "Chasseur de Noirs" isbn 9 782080 680129 - I have yet to find a translation but it is an excellent fictionalised account of one aspect of the island's early history.
Cl�lie Gamaleya "Filles d'Heva" isbn 2 907064 10 X - A short book again in French, but easy enough to read as it is captivating. Recounts the three centuries of women on R�union. A good, if brief insight into slavery and repression both racial and sexual.
I have to add to this brief and introductory list Aldous Huxley's "Island". Why? Becasue it is an island and everyone here should read it. Everyone there as well.