Réunion Explained

Réunion
Logo Link:Logo of Réunion
National Anthem:La Marseillaise (official)
Capital:Saint-Denis, Réunion
Area:2512
Population:839500
Pop Ref:[1]
Pop Date:2011
Gdp:14.7
Gdp Year:2008
Gdp Ref:[2]
Gdp Per Capita:18,200
Gdp Cap Year:2008
Website:http://www.reunion.fr/
Leader:Didier Robert
Cctld:.re
Overseas:overseas
Timezone1:RET
Utc Offset1:+04
Calling Code:262
Departments:1
Nuts:FR9
Iso Region:RE

Réunion (French: '''La Réunion''', ; previously Île Bourbon) is a French island with a population of about 800,000 located in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar, about 200km south west of Mauritius, the nearest island.

Administratively, Réunion is one of the overseas departments of France. Like the other overseas departments, Réunion is also one of the 27 regions of France (being an overseas region) and an integral part of the Republic with the same status as those situated on the European mainland.

Réunion is an outermost region of the European Union and, as an overseas department of France, is part of the Eurozone.[3]

History

Before the arrival of the Portuguese in the early sixteenth century, there is little to Réunion's recorded history.[4] Arab traders were familiar with it by the name Dina Morgabin,. The island possibly features on a map from 1153 AD by Al Sharif el-Edrisi.[5] The island may also have been visited by Swahili or Malay sailors.[4]

The first European discovery of the area was made around 1507 by Portuguese explorers, but the specifics are unclear. The uninhabited island may have been first sighted by the expedition led by Don Pedro Mascarenhas, who gave his name to the island group around Réunion, the Mascarenes. Réunion itself was dubbed Santa Apolonia after a favorite saint., which suggests that the date of the Portuguese discovery may have been February 9th, her saint day. Diego Lopes de Sequeira is claimed to have landed on the island in 1509.[6]

Over a century later, nominal Portuguese rule had left Santa Apolonia virtually untouched. The island was then occupied by France and administered from Port Louis, Mauritius. Although the first French claims date from 1638, when François Cauche and Salomon Goubert visited in June 1638[7], the island was officially claimed by Jacques Pronis of France in 1642, when he deported a dozen French mutineers to the island from Madagascar. The convicts were returned to France several years later, and in 1649, the island was named Île Bourbon after the royal house. Colonization started in 1665, when the French East India Company sent the first 20 settlers.

“Réunion” was the name given to the island in 1793 by a decree of the Convention with the fall of the House of Bourbon in France, and the name commemorates the union of revolutionaries from Marseille with the National Guard in Paris, which took place on 10 August 1792. In 1801, the island was renamed "Île Bonaparte," after Napoleon Bonaparte. The island was invaded by a Royal Navy squadron led by Commodore Josias Rowley in 1810, who used the old name of “Bourbon”. When it was restored to France by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the island retained the name of "Bourbon" until the fall of the restored Bourbons during the French Revolution of 1848, when the island was once again given the name “Réunion”.

From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. Starting from 1690, most of the immigrants from outside Europe were enslaved until 20 December 1848 when slavery was abolished. Afterwards, a lot of them were indentured workers. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 reduced the importance of the island as a stopover on the East Indies trade route.During the Second World War, Réunion was under the authority of the Vichy Regime until 30 November 1942, when Free French forces took over the island with the destroyer Léopard.

Réunion became a département d'outre-mer (overseas départment) of France on 19 March 1946. Its département code is 974.

Between 15 and 16 March 1952, Cilaos at the centre of Réunion received 1869.9mm of rainfall. This is the greatest 24-hour precipitation total ever recorded on earth. The island also holds the record for most rainfall in 72 hours, 3929mm at Commerson's Crater in March 2007 from Cyclone Gamede.

In 2005 and 2006, Réunion was hit by a crippling epidemic of chikungunya, a disease spread by mosquitoes. According to the BBC News, 255,000 people on Réunion had contracted the disease as of 26 April 2006.[8] Madagascar had also been hit by this disease during the same year.[9] A few cases also appeared in mainland France through airline travel. Then French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin sent an emergency aid package worth 36 million Euro ($57.6M U.S. dollars) and deployed approximately five hundred French troops in an effort to eradicate mosquitoes.

Politics

See main article: Politics of Réunion. Réunion sends five deputies to the French National Assembly and three senators to the Senate.

Arrondissements, cantons, and communes

See main article: Arrondissements of the Réunion department, Cantons of the Réunion department and Communes of the Réunion department. Administratively, Réunion is divided into 4 arrondissements, 49 cantons, and 24 communes.[10] It is a French overseas département as well as a French region. The low number of communes, compared to French metropolitan departments of similar size and population, is unique; most Réunionnaises communes encompass several localities, sometimes separated by significant distances. Réunion is part of the Indian Ocean Commission.

Major communities

Geography

See main article: Geography of Réunion.

The island is 63km long; 45km wide; and covers 2512km2. It is similar to the island Hawaii as both are located above hotspots in the Earth's crust.

The Piton de la Fournaise, a shield volcano on the eastern end of Réunion Island, rises more than 2631m (8,632feet) above sea level and is sometimes called a sister to Hawaiian volcanoes because of the similarity of climate and volcanic nature. It has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 and is under constant monitoring. It most recently erupted on 2 January 2010.[11] Before that, the most noticeable was during April 2007, when the lava flow was estimated at 3000000m2 per day.[12] The Piton de la Fournaise is created by a hotspot volcano, which also created the Piton des Neiges and the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues.

The Piton des Neiges volcano, the highest point on the island at 3070m (10,070feet) above sea level, is north west of the Piton de la Fournaise. Collapsed calderas and canyons are south west of the mountain. Like Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Piton des Neiges is extinct. Despite its name, snow (French: neige) practically never falls on the summit.

The slopes of both volcanoes are heavily forested. Cultivated land and cities like the capital city of Saint-Denis are concentrated on the surrounding coastal lowlands. Offshore, part of the west coast in characterised by a coral reef system.

Réunion also has three calderas: the Cirque de Salazie, the Cirque de Cilaos and the Cirque de Mafate. The last is accessible only on foot or by helicopter.

Economy

See main article: Economy of Réunion. Sugar was traditionally the chief agricultural product and export. Tourism is now an important source of income. In 2007, the GDP of Réunion was 18.7 billion US dollars at market exchange rates.[13] The GDP per capita was 23,501 US dollars in 2007 (at market exchange rates, not at PPP),[2] the highest in Africa.[14]

Demographics

See main article: Demographics of Réunion.

See also: Cafres, Réunionnais of Indian origin, Malbars and Chinois (Réunion).

Ethnic groups present include people of European, African, Malagasy, Indian and Chinese origin as well as many of mixed race. Local names for these are used: Yabs, Cafres, Malbars and Zarabes (both ethnic groups of Indian origin) and Chinois (Réunion).

It is not known exactly how many people there are of each ethnicity since there is a ban on ethnic censuses in France,[15] which applies in Réunion because it is a part of the 1958 constitution. According to estimates, Europeans make up approximately one-quarter of the population, Indians make up roughly a quarter, and people of Chinese ancestry form roughly 3%. The percentages for mixed race people and those of Afro-Malagasy origins vary widely in estimates. There are also some people of Vietnamese ancestry on the island, though they are very few in number.[16] [17] [18]

People of Tamil and Gujarati origin make up the majority of the Réunionnais of Indian origin; Bihari and other origins form the remainder of the population.[19] The island's community of Muslims from North Western India, particularly Gujarat, and elsewhere is commonly referred to as Zarab.

Creoles (a name given to those born on the island, of various ethnic origins), make up the majority of the population. Groups that are not creole include people from Metropolitan France (known as zoreils) and those from Mayotte and the Comoros.

Historical population

YearPopulationYearPopulationYearPopulation
1671901830101,3001961349,282
16962691848110,3001967416,525
17047341849120,9001974476,675
17131,1711860200,0001982515,814
17172,0001870212,0001990597,823
172412,5501887163,8811999706,300
176425,0001897173,1922006781,962
177735,1001926182,6372007790,500
178961,3001946241,7082008802,001
182687,1001954274,370
Official data from INSEE by census or estimate; estimates shown in italics.

Religion

See main article: Religion in Réunion.

The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism with Hinduism, Islam, Chinese folk religion and Buddhism also represented, among others.

Language

French is the only official language of Réunion. Although not official, Réunion Creole is also spoken. One can hear it in any administration or office, but education is only in French.[20]

Due to the diverse population, other languages such as Mandarin, Hakka and Cantonese are also spoken by members of the Chinese community, but fewer people speak these languages as younger generations start to converse in French. The number of speakers of Indian languages (mostly Urdu and Gujarati) is also dropping sharply. Arabic is taught in mosques and spoken by a small community of Muslims.

For languages taught as second languages, English is most common. Tamil is also taught as optional language in some schools.[19]

Public health

In 2005/2006, Réunion experienced an epidemic of Chikungunya, a viral disease similar to dengue fever, which infected almost a third of the population. See the History section for more details.

Culture

See also: Music of Réunion, Sega music and Maloya. Réunionese culture is a blend (métissage) of European, African, Indian, Chinese and insular traditions.

The most widely spoken language, Réunion Creole, derives from French. However, an official orthography has yet to be agreed upon.

Local food and music blend influences from Africa, India, China and Europe, resulting in a unique, diverse culture.

Environment

The "Region Reunion" Celebrates the promotion of the status of the island as a Unesco's protected natural site .

See also: Réunion National Park.

Wildlife

See main article: Wildlife of Réunion.

See also: List of extinct animals of Réunion.

Réunion is home to a variety of birds such as the White-tailed Tropicbird (.[21] Its largest land animal is the Panther chameleon, Furcifer pardalis. Much of the West coast is ringed by coral reef which harbours, amongst other animals, sea urchins, conger eels and parrot fish. Sea turtles also visit the coastal waters.

Transportation

See main article: Transport in Réunion.

Roland Garros Airport, handling flights to Madagascar, Mauritius, Africa, Australia and Europe serves the island. Pierrefonds Airport, a smaller airport, has some flights to Mauritius and Madagascar.

Media

Newspapers

Journal de l'île de La Réunion J.I.R. (Journal de l'Île de la Réunion).

Le Quotidien http://www.lequotidien.re

Film

The Internet Movie Database lists two films as having Réunion as their filming locations: Mississippi Mermaid (1969) and documentary Johnny Backstage (2005).

Television

Antenne Réunion http://www.antennereunion.fr

Réunion 1ière http://reunion.la1ere.fr/

Online Medias

Z'infos974 http://www.zinfos974.com/

Linfo http://www.linfo.re/

See also

Bibliography

External links

Government
General information

Notes and References

  1. « Nous sommes 840.000 Réunionnais à La Réunion », Témoignages, 16 March 2012.
  2. http://www.insee.fr/fr/themes/document.asp?amp;reg_id=24&ref_id=6802
  3. Réunion is pictured on all Euro banknotes, on the back at the bottom of each note, right of the Greek ΕΥΡΩ (EURO) next to the denomination.
  4. http://books.google.com/books?id=WVmqM7F-J4QC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=Mauritius+Swahili+sailors&source=bl&ots=NBa6ewyuiV&sig=h1ntH-EH4K_L7GR5MvsnXYwnr_0&hl=en&ei=q4erTNawJcOC8gac9sCDBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Mauritius%20Swahili%20sailors&f=false Slaves, freedmen, and indentured laborers in colonial Mauritius By Richard Blair Allen. pg. 9
  5. http://www.iledelareunion.net/histoire-reunion/
  6. http://www.iledelareunion.net/histoire-reunion/
  7. http://www.clicanoo.re/index.php?page=imprimer&id_article=97540
  8. News: Island disease hits 50,000 people. BBC News. 2 February 2006. 18 August 2007.
  9. News: Madagascar hit by mosquito virus. BBC News. 6 March 2006. 18 August 2007.
  10. Web site: Insee - Code Officiel Géographique. Insee.fr. 6 May 2009.
  11. Institut de physique du Globe de Paris : Actualités
  12. News: Thomas Staudacher. Reunion sees 'colossal' volcano eruption, but population safe. http://web.archive.org/web/20070409021223/http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070407/wl_afp/francereunionvolcano. 9 April 2007. AFP. 7 April 2007. 18 August 2007. (Web archive)
  13. Web site: 8.1 - ÉCONOMIE GÉNÉRALES. PDF. INSEE Réunion. 10 December 2008.
  14. Web site: World Economic Outlook Database. IMF. 10 December 2008.
  15. 1236362. SSRN-Why France Needs to Collect Data on Racial Identity - In a French Way by David Oppenheimer. Papers.ssrn.com.
  16. Web site: La Réunion Métisse. Clicanoo.
  17. Web site: Anthropometric evaluations of body composition of undergraduate students at the University of La Réunion. 2006. 2011-08-21.
  18. http://www.religiousintelligence.co.uk/country/?CountryID=151
  19. Web site: NRI. PDF. 2010-04-16.
  20. Web site: Ethnologue report (language code:rcf). Ethnologue.com. 2010-04-16.
  21. L'Île de la Réunion.com: Le paille en queue