Undiscovered for a long time: Mauritius
Arab seafarers discovered the island as early as the 10th century, but they did not settle there. It was not until 1510 that a Portuguese navigator named Pedro Mascarenhas rediscovered the islands. He named them after himself: Mascarene. But actually the islands were not on the Portuguese sea route to India, so that they were forgotten again.
Who was the namesake of Mauritius?
It was only the Dutch, whose sea routes crossed with the islands, that colonized the archipelago. At the end of the 16th century they gave the island of Mauritius its name. The namesake was a prince named Maurits (Moritz) of Orange.
40 years later they also established their first settlements. But another hundred years later, in 1710, they left the islands again, mainly because of the danger of pirates.
Pirates in Mauritius
In the meantime, however, a large part of the rainforest’s forest areas had been destroyed. The location of the islands was ideal for the pirates, they had access to the large trading ships that were on their way from Europe to East Asia.
Since France in particular suffered damage on its trade routes, the French intervened and made the islands a colony. The island of Mauritius was named Île de France, which means “island of France”.
Settlement did not begin until 1721. The French created large sugar cane plantations and brought mainly slaves from Africa and Madagascar into the country for their cultivation. They also founded the capital of Mauritius: Port Louis. In 1767 Mauritius became a French crown colony. But French rule did not last long.
From 1810 the British took Mauritius, which they renamed again, and shortly afterwards made the islands a British crown colony. Only the island of Réunion remained with France.
In 1835 slave labor was abolished, but workers continued to be needed for the plantations. These have now been brought from India and China. The population grew rapidly as a result. In 1871 the Indians were forbidden to come further into the country because the Indian proportion of islanders had meanwhile increased. Even today, the Indians make up the majority of the population in Mauritius.
1869 was a turning point, because in that year the Suez Canal was built, which considerably shortened the trade routes to India. So you no longer had to pass the small islands. Since the company had also completely relocated to the sale of sugar cane, a falling price for this product had significant economic consequences. Attempts were made to become independent from sugar cane and to open up new branches of the economy, but unfortunately this did not succeed at that time. During the Second World War, Mauritius was a base for British airmen.
A new electoral law
From 1947 there was a new electoral law in Mauritius, so that Mauritians who had learned to read and write and were over 21 years old could vote. The Mauritians, who originally came from India and made up the largest proportion of the population, gained more power. Different parties emerged.
Mauritius gained independence on March 12, 1968, but remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The first Prime Minister of Mauritius was called Seewoosagur Ramgoolam. He held office until 1982. At the beginning of independence, the Mauritius economy was not doing so well. However, this situation should improve over time when attempts were made to develop other sources of income such as tourism in addition to sugar cane and the textile industry. But there were always political scandals.
Nevertheless, as a country located in Africa according to extrareference, Mauritius developed into a relatively stable democracy and is therefore one of the African model states today. So people can vote, the press is free and the health system works. Many diseases such as malaria and polio have been eradicated through vaccination campaigns and education.
The state knows about the environment that is worth protecting and so there is less emphasis on mass tourism. The population is involved in environmental protection and the children are informed about the importance of protection at school. Nevertheless, climate change does not stop at these islands either.
Prithvirajsing Roopun has been the new head of state of Mauritius since December 2019.
Celebrations with a religious background
Many festivals in Mauritius have a religious background. Since the people here belong to different religions, there are also many different religious festivals. The Chinese New Year coincides with Catholic pilgrimages and Tamil processions. There are Muslim holidays as well as Hindu holidays. In addition, there is the national holiday in Mauritius, which is always celebrated on March 12th.
Music is in the air
Music is very important to the Mauritians. The Sega, a song of the slaves who were abducted to the islands and sang of their bad fate, is well known. Traditional instruments are used here and women perform an accompanying dance. This music combines the traditional folk music of the region with European dance music. The style of music is reminiscent of the European polka. Sega music is very typical for Mauritius, but has meanwhile also spread to the Seychelles, the Comoros and Madagascar. Opera is
very important to Mauritius. The Mauritius Opera Festival takes place at the end of October and beginning of November.