A historical and cultural melting pot in Reunion Island

  • Maloya in Réunion Island

    Maloya in Réunion Island

    © IRT E. VIRIN

  • Volcano in La Reunion

    Volcano in La Reunion

    © IRT Serge Gelabert

A historical and cultural melting pot in Reunion Island re

History…

As a trading post of the East India company from 1642, and the site of pirates landmarks, this  volcanic   mountain was brought to life as it rose  up out of the Indian Ocean,  which had  up to that point been uninhabited. From that point  on the  sugar cane  plantations shaped the face of Ile Bourbon. At Piton Saint  Leu, Stella  Matutina, a former  sugar refinery, tells the  story of the farm production which was the basis of the  fortune  of the  great  colo- nial families and a home of widespread slave labour.  At Saint Gilles-les-Hauts, the  Panon-Debassayns estate recalls the destiny of a dynasty and the horrors of slavery.  The Prefect  Sarda-Garriga, who was later  appointed director of the Cayenne penal colony, announced the end of slavery in 1848, setting two thirds of the population free.

Even before this, a large  number of slaves had  fled into  the  inaccessible mountains, setting up small  farming villages that clung to the steep slopes. 

… and traditions

Despite being  in the  most part Catholic, the  customs of the  Hindu community  are very present. At Saint- André in November, the celebration of Divali, the  festival of light,  serves as a reminder of the presence of a Tamil and  Indian  community, only recently arrived from India and  Sri Lanka. Musically, maloya is a  blues music born  from the beliefs of slaves, and Séga is a blend  of musical  traditions from Europe and Africa.