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Salazie (Municipality, Reunion, France)

Last modified: 2005-05-28 by ivan sache
Keywords: reunion | salazie |
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[Flag of Salazie]by Arnaud Leroy

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Presentation of Salazie

Salazie (7,402 inhabitants; 10,386 hectares) is one of the 24 municipalities which constitutes the Reunion island.

The center of the island of Reunion is made of the three adjacent, volcanic cirques of Mafate (north-west), Salazie (north-east) and Cilaos (south), dominated by Piton des Neiges (3,069 m) and Gros Morne (2,992 m). The cirque of Salazie is the largest and the greenest of the three cirques, because it is opened to the trade winds.
Salazie was originally inhabited by marroons (fugitive slaves); the most famous of them was Anchaing, who lived with women and children on the top of the Piton d'Anchaing dominating the cirque. Anchaing was captured by a bounty hunter, but the legend says that the hunter was moved to pity by Anchaing's family and went back alone down to the valley.

The name of Salazie might come from Malagasy salazy, good encampment; salazy is also the name given to the tripod supporting a cooking-pot. The first organized settlement of the cirque took place in 1829 after a cyclone had trashed the coast of the island. The early colons settled near Mare à Poules d'Eau (lit., Moorhen's Pond). The municipality of Salazie, founded in 1889, is characterized by a very scattered settlement, with three main villages (Salazie, Hell Bourg and Grand Ilet), each built on a ilet (small plateau). The center of the settlement was fixed at Salazie, which is still a small group of houses surrounding a two-tower church and dominated by the scenic Bride's Veil waterfall.

In 1832, Adrien du Buisson, Adrien Pignolet and Adam de Villiers discovered near the village of Hell Bourg the springs of Salazie in the bed of the brook Bras Sec, tributary of the Rivière du Mat. The rate of flow of the springs was 800-1,300 liters per hour, the temperature of water was 32C. Dr Vinson confirmed the therapeutic values of the springs, which already attracted several people before anything was built on the site. The waters were iron-bearing, hardly chlorinated and calcic, and non-sulphated. They were recommended for children, weak and anaemic adults, and people suffering from gastritis.
On 13 July 1852, a Colonial decree created the Société Anonyme de l'Etablissement Thermal de Salazie. A spa, a casino and a beautiful house for the Director of the company were built. The spa included a big meeting room, a billiard room and a private lounge fo the ladies. Some ten tubs were supplied with slightly warmed water. The water came from a reservoir mixing the waters of two springs with the same chemical composition. The spa was a quiet and green place, which attracted more and more people; accordingly, a road was built to Salazie.
The springs were later purchased by the municipality of Salazie, which ceded them to the Colonial administration, provided a doctor would be hired. In 1920, the temperature of the waters started to decrease and water had to be boiled into big pots until it reached the required temperature; however, the boiling process destroyed some of the chemical elements included in the waters. The spa lacked money and was closed. An attempt of clearing the springs with dynamite caused a big collapsing, which partially trashed the spa and destroyed the casino. In 1948, a cyclone destroyed the road to Salazie and landslides eventually suppressed the last remains of the spa. However, the wealthy creole houses built by the bourgeois of Saint-Denis are still there and Hell Bourg looks more like a small city. The houses were revamped and Hell Bourg joined in 1998 the association of the Plus Beaux Villages de France.

The chouchou was imported from Mexico in 1840 and grows profusely in Salazie, which is one of the main centers of production of chouchou straw, used to make hats.


Ivan Sache, 22 March 2005

Municipal flag of Salazie

The municipal flag of Salazie is white with the municipal coat of arms in the middle. It was seen there by Michel Lupant and reported in Gaceta de Banderas [gdb] #90.

Pascal Vagnat, 22 March 2005

Municipal coat of arms of Salazie

The municipal coat of arms of Salazie is blue with a tropicbird, locally called paille-en-queue surrounded by four white araucaria (monkey puzzle) trees. These elements symbolize the rich fauna and flora of Salazie, respectively.

The paille-en-queue (Phaeton lepturus, Phaetonidae) is a white bird with two black spots near the eye. The beak is brownish yellow. The specific feature of the paille-en-queue are its two long tail feathers, which explain the nickname of paille-en-cul (lit., straw in the ass), changed to the more polite paille-en-queue (straw in the tail).
Due to its colour, the paille-en-queue is a local symbol of purity and was often sung by the local poets. Leconte de l'Isle called him un flocon de neige égaré dans l'azur (a snowflake lost in azure). The slowly gliding paille-en-queue is also a symbol of nostalgy and loneliness of the human being facing the infinity.
The seamen called the bird tropicbird because it indicated them they had reached the tropics. The paille-en-queue is a deep-sea bird swooping down on fish. Phaeton lepturus is found in the Mascarenes, the Seychelles and other islands of the Indian Ocean. It is today a protected species.

Source: Ile de la Réunion website

Ivan Sache, 22 March 2005