Mauritius’ history is a chequered yet fascinating one and it’s filled with juxtaposing things; of slavery and freedom, of inequality and tolerance and of hardship and beauty. As already mentioned, many people may not realise that this wonderful natural site actually played an unbelievably significant role in Mauritius’ history.
After a long period of time, slavery was finally abolished under British rule in 𝟭𝟴𝟯𝟱 but before this happened, 𝗟𝗲 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲 𝗕𝗿𝗮𝗯𝗮𝗻𝘁 was used as a refuge and shelter for escaped slaves in the 𝟭𝟴𝘁𝗵 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗹𝘆 𝟭𝟵𝘁𝗵 𝗰𝗲𝗻𝘁𝘂𝗿𝘆. These runaway slaves—of which over time there were quite a few—were given the name ‘𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗼𝗼𝗻𝘀’. Le Morne provided them with a good hiding place; it had unbelievably steep cliffs which were difficult to traverse (especially unseen), it was an isolated mountain and it was largely wooded which provided the slaves at Le Morne with a good barrier to the outside world and a sense of protection. 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 stayed here for some time until slavery was abolished (and indentured labourers were introduced, mainly from India) on the 𝟭𝘀𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗙𝗲𝗯𝗿𝘂𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝟭𝟴𝟯𝟱—when the slaves would be freed but instead, tragedy struck. On the day slavery was abolished members of the army started to climb 𝗟𝗲 𝗠𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗲 𝗕𝗿𝗮𝗯𝗮𝗻𝘁 with the intention of telling the slaves that they were free.
Unfortunately, due to a massive mistrust of the authorities (technically their captors), the slaves immediately 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 unfortunate event that could so easily have been avoided.