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!
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.
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.
The religions of Mauritius are primarily Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. In the neighborhood where we stayed on our recent visit we notice the Hindu temple, a mosque and St. Anne’s Church all in close proximity. We could hear the call to prayer from the mosque, the bells from the temple and the tolling bell of St. Anne’s throughout the course of any given day.
People of all three religions share a neighborhood, live next door to each other, share in each other’s life events. That is how it happened that we were invited to attend a nearby Hindu wedding by friends of our hosts.
One of the most well known vacation spots in Mauritius is the beach town of Flic en Flac. The pastel bungalows in the photos are its calling card.
Our hosts (Marcel and Marceline) rented a bungalow for two nights so that we could spend some time at the beach on the Indian Ocean. Chris, Champa and Rita, friends we met in Mauritius, also had a place at Flic en Flac. They provided an impromptu picnic on the beach for us while we were there! It was an afternoon of fun, delicious food and great conversation.
The beach is great, the water is warm enough that you don’t have to get used to it – you can go right in! We really enjoyed our time at Flic en Flac.
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