History of a Southern Belle
This island in the middle of the Indian Ocean seems to have provoked strong feelings within the sailors coming from afar to conquer it. They called it names that make you dream even today: Dinarobin….. Isle of the Swan….. Île de France….. Mauritius!
Even the fact that it was of strategic importance earned Mauritius a romantic title: the “Star and Key of the Indian Ocean ”.
Around 1511, the Portuguese came by and used the island as a stopover on their spice route.
They must have been spellbound by its beauty, or had very good rum on board, how could one otherwise explain the fact that they called it “Swan Island” after the rather plump Dodo bird.
In 1598 the Dutch traders visited en route to the East Indies. They named the island after their ruler Prince Mauritz van Nassau and became enchanted with it too. So after returning over a time period of 40 years, like faithful admirers to their true love, they made a failed attempt in 1638 at colonising it.
The French were the next to fall under its spell and settled on its shores. They named it Isle de France and under Governor Labourdonnais’ brilliant administration and skilful military strategy, it developed into a true and abundant French beauty.
However, as it is in life, beauty attracts admirers. Watching jealously, the British soon challenged and fought for the possession of the “Belle”. After their famous defeat at the Battle of Grand Port in 1810, they treacherously attacked from the north and won their prize. Thus the island was renamed Mauritius.
After the abolition of slavery in 1833, indentured labourers from India were brought into the country. They too stayed on after immigration had ceased in 1909 and rapidly became the majority group.
After independence was won from England in 1968, Mauritius has gradually developed into a democracy; proclaiming itself a sovereign Republic in 1992, as beautiful as ever.