What Mauritians Can Teach Us

Marceline has a large, but very old stone in her kitchen. It’s from her grandmother, who got it from her mother – so it has been passed down through many generations. With this stone and its accompanying stone roller she can quickly grind spices, grains, even make tomato sauce as you can see in the picture. What you can’t see is that this stone is right next to the microwave! It’s an interesting accommodation of old and new.

How to Break Into a Cemetery

One of the places we wanted to visit was the Jewish Cemetery in Mauritius. Raj took us there – but it was later in the day. It was almost sunset – the beginning of a new day in Jewish tradition.

As we arrived we noticed the name of the cemetery – St. Martin’s Jewish Cemetery. But wait – “St. Martin’s” and “Jewish” Cemetery? It turns out that the adjacent village is actually named St. Martin!

Unfortunately the gate was already locked when we arrived. We had driven a long way and couldn’t come back another day. Not to worry – we decided to break in!

Eureka Plantation

In Mauritius we had an opportunity to spend a day with friend, journalist and editor Gilbert learning about the history of Mauritius. We visited both Aapravasi Ghat Memorial and Eureka Plantation.

Mauritius was originally uninhabited. Humans arrived when the Dutch established a small colony in 1638. Mauritius was later controlled by the French and then the British who created their wealth by trafficking slaves (and later indentured servants) to the island exploiting them for free labor on sugar plantations, much like in the United States. Many of the current citizens are descendants of these original slaves and indentured servants (another form of slavery) from India and countries in Africa.

Aapravasi Ghat Memorial is a national monument and memorial site for the travesty of slavery and indentured servitude and its impact on the historical and cultural identity of Mauritius.

Similarly, through its lavish decor, Eureka Plantation highlights the looting of human labor, violence and theft of resources necessary to maintain the opulent plantation house lifestyle. Of course this was no less true in the U.S. Twelve generations of slavery and genocide left its mark of vast poverty, inequality and systemic injustice on both nations.

Grand Bassin Deities

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While visiting Mauritius, we spent an afternoon at Grand Bassin. This is a sacred space for Hindus including its beautiful Crater Lake. It is most recognized for its the bigger-than-life statues at the entrance to Grand Bassin, as you can see the picture above. It is a place that is sacred but also deeply spiritual. A peace and calm pervades the setting.

Raj and Mira were our escorts and our guides for our visit there. They are Hindu and explained for us that Hinduism isn’t merely a collection of beliefs, rather it is a value system and a lifestyle. The shrines and statues in Grand Bassin depict the many aspects of God. There are many images or faces of God in Hinduism.

Exploring Mauritius

Our visit to Mauritius started with an excursion to the capital city – Port Louis. Mauritius was originally uninhabited. Humans arrived when the Dutch established a small colony in 1638. Mauritius was later controlled by the French and then the British who created their wealth by trafficking slaves (and later indentured servants) to the island exploiting them for free labor on sugar plantations, much like in the United States. Many of the current citizens are descendants of these original slaves and indentured servants (another form of slavery) from India and countries in Africa. Port Louis was the entry port for these slave-filled ships.

Another day we also visited the Aapravasi Ghat Memorial in Port Louis. This is a national monument and memorial site for the travesty of slavery and indentured servitude and its impact on the historical and cultural identity of Mauritius.

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Banyan trees from this time still shade the central park of the city today.

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We also visited Marie Reine de la Paix – the beautiful Mary Queen of Peace monument overlooking the city of Port Louis.

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There is much, much more to see.

You may also like Tiny Silver Spoons or Five Fires Restaurant.