the history of
le morne brabant
The majestic Le Morne Brabant, in Le Morne (also known as “Le Morne Cultural Landscape”) is located in the Southwestern tip of our island. This iconic site has been declared as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO since July 06, 2008 to preserved the memory of Maroonage (runaway slaves) legacy in Mauritius.
Mauritius’ history is a chequered yet captivating one and it’s packed with juxtaposing acts of slavery and freedom, inequality and forbearance and misfortunes and attractiveness. Loads of people may not grasp that this marvelous natural spot actually take part in an incredibly notable part in Mauritius past.
In 1639 the first slaves were brought to the island from Madagascar under the Dutch East India Company Era to work on the sugarcane and tobacco plantations as well as to fell ebony trees. Later, when commerce was opened in 1769 to the French, huge numbers of slaves were brought in from other places in Africa as well as India.
After a long period of time, enslavement was finally put to an end under British rule in 1835 however before this occurred, Le Morne Brabant was utilized as a hiding place and cover for escaped slaves in the 18th and early 19th century. These fugitives’ slaves, of which over time there were quite a few, were entitled as ‘Maroons’.
Le Morne provided them with a good hideout; it had unthinkably steep cliffs which were hard to pass over (especially concealed), it was a secluded mountain and it was largely wooded which provided the slaves with a good obstruction to the outside world and a sense of defense. Here, they arranged themselves in little settlements on the summit (which spans approximately 12 hectares) and in the caves found along the sides of the mountain.
Many of the Maroons settled here for some time until slavery was eliminated (and indentured labourers were introduced, mostly from India) on the 1st of February 1835, when the slaves would be released but instead, disaster struck. It is said that on the day slavery was abolished members of the army started to climb Le Morne Brabant with the objective of informing the slaves that they were free. Sadly, due to an enormous wariness of the authorities (technically their captors), the slaves instantly thought the army had been sent to recapture them and chose to jump to their deaths instead of risk recapture. They chose death over slavery. A tragic and hapless happening that could so easily have been avoided.
On the 1st of February each year the annual Commemoration of the Abolition of Slavery is celebrated at the International Slave Route Monument which sits at the foot of Le Morne Brabant, across the way from the public beach. Today, the basaltic mountain stands as a symbol of peace and a reminder of the struggle of the slaves, as well as the importance of freedom.