July 14 – Bastille Day in Guadeloupe and Reunion

Posted on July 14, 2014

Actually, it's Bastille Day everywhere, especially in France (you know, where the Bastille was actually located!). But this national holiday is celebrated by places that are very far from Paris...

Reunion is an “overseas department” of France made up of one island. So it IS a part of France – just a part that is in the opposite hemisphere, in another ocean, about 5,400 miles away as the crow flies! 

This island is located in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern coast of Madagascar, which in turn is off the eastern coast of Africa.

Guadeloupe is another overseas department of France, again a full part of France, that is made up of five islands. 

It is located in the Caribbean Sea, which basically is a part of the Atlantic Ocean; and like France, it is in the Northern Hemisphere. And it's a mere 4,000 miles as the crow flies!

Guadeloupe after a hurricane
These far-flung islands are both tropical and have lovely beaches... But both are a bit too prone to disaster to make me want to live there! Reunion has an active volcano that has erupted more than 100 times since 1640 – the last time in 2010! – and Guadeloupe has been devastated by several hurricanes in modern times, including Hurricane Hugo (1989), which destroyed 10,000 homes, all the banana crops, and a majority of the sugar cane crops!
Reunion is a hot spot for volcanic action.
Even though French is the official language in both Reunion and Guadeloupe, many people speak a “mother language” other than French. Those who grow up in Reunion speak a creole language created from the mixture of French with Portuguese, Hindi, and a variety of other Indian languages. The Guadeloupeans also speak a creole called Antillean Creole; it combines words from French with words from Carib and African languages.

Isn't it interesting that African languages have a bigger influence in the far-off Caribbean island than in the much-closer Reunion? Actually, it's also sad, because of course it speaks to the widespread practice of bringing African slaves to the New World.

Another interesting point about the creole languages spoken commonly in Reunion and Guadeloupe is that neither creole is often written. French is the language used in schools, not the creoles, and neither language has standardized spellings.

Reunion celebrates Bastille Day with fireworks and partying. Guadeloupeans add pageants and parades to the fireworks and festivities.

Also on this date:

Emmeline Pankhurst Day

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