Last modified: 2017-08-07 by ivan sache
Keywords: reunion |
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French national flag - Image by Željko Heimer, 22 September 2001
Area: 2,511 km2.
The former dependencies of Reunion, known as Outlying Islands (Iles éparses) were placed under the authority of the Ministry of the Overseas (Ministère de l'Outremer) on 1 April 1960. Since the Decree of 19 September 1960, the Outlying Islands were administrated by the Prefet of Reunion. A Decree signed on 3 January 2005 has transfered the administration of the Outlying Islands to the Prefet, Higher Administrator of the Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF).
Population (2003): 753,812 inhabitants
Around 95,000 natives of the island live in European France. Every year the island is visited by more than 420,000 tourists.
Sous-préfectures: Saint-Benoît, Saint-Paul, Saint-Pierre
Subdivisions: 4 arrondissements, 39 cantons, 185 municipalities.
The ethnical composition of Reunion is very diverse. There is no native
population since the island was uninhabited before the French
The Malbars (or Malabars) represent 25% of the population. They are descended from the Indian workers imported to Reunion after the abolition of slavery. Most of these workers came from Calcutta and the Coast of Coromandel, where the former French counters Madras, Pondichéry, Karikal and Mahé are located. About 85,000 Indians were brought to Reunion and 25,000 of them eventually stayed on the island.
The Zarabes (a local form of the French les Arabes) represent 2% of the population. They are descended from the Muslim Indians imported in the XIXth century.
The Chinois (Chinese) represent 3% of the population. Most of them came at the end of the 19th century from Canton and specialized in food trade. The Chinese immigration increased in the 1930s with the Chinese-Japanese war and the introduction of Communism in China.
The Zoreilles (a local form of the French les oreilles, the ears) represent 6% of the population. They are the people of French European origin. It seems they got the name of Zoreilles because they had to listen very carefully (in French, tendre les oreilles) when the Creoles spoke their own language.
The Caffres are descended of the African slaves who were imported for sugarcane cultivation.
The Creoles represent 40% of the population. They are defined in reference to the other categories.
Ivan Sache, 18 July 2004
Like its neighbour Mauritius, Reunion was probably visited but not colonized by Arab, Malay, Chinese and European sailors in the XIIth century. The formal discovery of the island (1507-1512) is credited to the Portuguese Admiral Pedro de Mascarenhas. The group of islands made of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues is called Mascarene, after the Admiral's name. Reunion was firstly called Santa Apolónia.
In 1638, the ship Saint-Alexis landed on the island and its captain
took possession of the island in the name of Louis XIII, King of
France. The island was called Mascarin. The King officially claimed his
rights on the island in 1649, and the island received the new name of
Bourbon. The first settlers were abandoned on the island in 1654; they
were 14 mutineers expelled from Fort-Dauphin (today, Faradofay), the
French counter in Madagascar. They stayed in a cave located near
Saint-Paul for three years and left the island with the ship
Thomas-Guillaume on 28 May 1658.
The adventurer Louis Payen, from Vitry-le-François (Champagne), was the first voluntary settler on the Bourbon island. He settled near Saint-Paul in November 1663 with a French friend and ten Madagascan servants, including three women. The Madagascan fled to the mountains where they were the root of the first native population.
On 5 August 1665, Étienne Regnault was sent to Bourbon by the
Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales, which had a royal monopole
on French trade in the Indian Ocean since 1664. Regnault was appointed
Governor of Bourbon by Colbert. The twenty men who came with him were
the first official colonists in Bourbon. In March 1667, a fleet commanded
by de Mondevergues called at Bourbon on its way to Fort-Dauphin. Five
women were disembarked and Regnault was given Colbert's instructions
for colonisation of the island.
A French military squadron, commanded by Lieutenant-General de la Haye, reached the island on 7 April 1671. De la Haye issued on 1 December 1674 a decree prescribing the organisation of the colony. Hunting was forbidden ("because it would made the colonists lazy") and every colon had to rear two oxen, 400 poultries and twelve pigs and to grow rice, grains and vegetables. In 1685, the Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales took the control of Bourbon, then settled by 260 colonists, and expelled the pirates who overran the coasts of the island.
A Provincial Council was created on 7 March 1711. In 1715, six Moka
coffee trees were imported from Yemen. Coffee became the main
production of the island and each colon had to grow 100 coffee trees.
This cultivation was extremely time and labour consuming, which caused
the introduction of slavery on Bourbon.
The regulation from 29 January 1727 stated that the Governor should stay alternatively six months in Île-de-France (Mauritius) and six months in Bourbon. On 27 December 1730, a decree appointed the first permanent Governor of Bourbon, Dumas. However, Ile-de-France was favoured, especially during the rule of its governor Mahé de la Bourdonnais (1735-1746). Most maritime activity was located on Île-de-France whereas Bourbon was used for staple food production.
In 1764, the King of France bought the Mascarene from the Compagnie Française des Indes Orientales, which was sold off in 1765. The colonists supported the French Revolution and set up a Colonial Assembly to administrate the island. In 1793, the island was renamed Reunion, to remember the union of the Marseillais volunteers and the National Guards during the seizure of the palace of Tuileries in Paris on 10 August 1792.
In 1806, the island was renamed Bonaparte and became a hot spot in the
struggle against England for the control of the Indian Ocean. England
seized the island in 1810 and introduced the cultivation of sugar cane.
Not really interested in the island, England retroceded it to France in
1815. The island was renamed Bourbon during the Restauration. The name
of Reunion was reestablished in 1848.
On 20 December 1848, General Commissioner of the Republic Sarda-Garriga proclaimed the abolition of slavery, freeing 62,000. Several Indian workers were imported to replace the former slaves and avoid an economical crisis.
The end of the 19th century was marked by the sugar crisis (1865), a
slaughter on 2 December 1868 and a severe economical crisis caused by
the opening of the canal of Suez in 1869.
The railway was inaugurated in 1882. The port of Pointe-des-Galets, whose building required 15,000 workers, was inaugurated in 1886.
On 26 November 1929, a Farman piloted by Marcel Goulette, René Marchesseau and Jean-Michel Bourgeois was the first plane to land on the island.
In June 1940, governor Pierre-Émile Aubert rallied the French State, the puppet state under German control. A commando of the Free French Forces took the control of the island in 1942.
Reunion became a DOM (Département d'Outre-Mer) in 1946, a Region in 1982, and a European Region in 1993.
Several famous people were born in Reunion or spent a significant part of their life of the islands. Among them are:
Ivan Sache, 18 July 2004
The only official flag on the Reunion island is the French national flag.
Ivan Sache, 18 February 2005
Coat of arms of Reunion - Image by Ivan Sache, modified after the Mi-aime-a-ou website, 18 July 2004
The coat of arms of Reunion was designed in 1925 by former Governor Merwart for the Colonial Exhibition, which took place in Petite-Île the same year.
Merwart attempted to give a global image of the history of the island on the coat of arms, with the following symbolics:
Ivan Sache, 18 July 2004
Flag of Region Reunion - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 15 May 2017
Since at least 2015, the Regional Council flies a flag (photo) with a a slightly modified logo. The motto under the main part of the logo has been replaced by five colored squares to show the equality and cultural diversity of the population of the island.
Olivier Touzeau, 15 May 2017
Former flag of Region Reunion
Left, as seen in 2009 - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 11 January 2009;
Right, as seen in 2004 and 2005 - Image by Ivan Sache, 13 March 2008
The website of the Regional Council once showed the previous logo of the Region
as white with a blue (island) and yellow (sun) emblem surmonting
"REGION REUNION (in black) / VALORISONS NOUS ATOUTS" (in light blue;
lit., "let us develop our trumps").
A photo (30 July 2004) shows, however, the flag without the "VALORISONS NOS ATOUTS" motto.
Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 11 January 2009
Flag of the General Council of Reunion - Images by Olivier Touzeau, 11 January 2009;
Left, current version;
Right, possible former version.
The building of the General Council displays a white flag with the logo of the institution, including its Internet address.
It is quite likely that an earlier version of the flag had the logo in its first version, without the Internet address. The drawing of the previous logo was slightly different; several versions of the logo existed with the word "Département" or the words "Conseil général".
Olivier Touzeau, 11 January 2009