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Guadeloupe: In May 2009, keep May 1802 and May 1967 in mind

2009 will definitely be a “new” year in Guadeloupe – at least judging from a pun that people used as their New Year's wish, since in Creole “new” is pronounced “nef” and “nine” is also pronounced “nef”. The first social movements in December 2008 foreshadowed the massive mobilization which took place from January until March 2009, which resulted in 45 days of an all-out strike on the island. Although an agreement was signed, the situation still has not been properly settled – and May, traditionally a month of protest in the French and Guadeloupean social history, is particularly hot this year.

On May 1st, the first massive demonstration took place since the end of the strike: Guadeloupeans got together in Petit-Canal after marching from 9 am to almost 1 pm, and spent all day together listening to music, watching dance performances and paying close attention to speeches from local union leaders. The occasion has helped make Shakazulu, who blogs in Creole at Gwakafwika, very prolific lately, as May is traditionally “identity” month in Guadeloupe and it's one of the blogger's favourite topics.

In his first post about the season, “Arété kouri ba patron” [Guadeloupean Creole] which means “Stop running for your bosses”, the blogger denounces a new sport challenge called Relais Inter-Entreprise [Fr] (a relay run by employees of public or private Guadeloupean companies). For the past 12 years, this race has been taking place on May 27th, to the point where it has become an integral part of some companies’ annual schedule. But Shakazulu [French Creole] reveals much more about this crucial date, echoing this post from the Caribbean bloggers at Repeating Islands:

27 Mé an péyi an nou, on jou a mémwa, on jou otila pèp Gwadloup ka chonjé konba a Ignas, Dèlgrès, Masoto, Solitid pou libérasyon a gwadloupéyen anba gyouk a lèsklavaj é kolonyalis fwansé.

In our country, May 27th is a day for celebration, a day when the people of Guadeloupe remember the struggle led by Ignace, Delgrès, Masoto and Solitude for the liberation of Guadeloupeans, who were held in servitude by the French colonialists.

Indeed, May 1848 was the year of the second abolition of slavery in the French possessions of Guadeloupe and Martinique, which partly explains Shakazulu's conclusion about the post [Guadeloupean Creole]:

Alò ki jan nou pé konpwann, jou-lasa, chak lanné, travayè Gwadloup pé ay swé ba séla ki toulélanné ka fann kyou a yo?

Therefore, how can we understand, that on this very date, every year, Guadeloupean workers agree to run and sweat every year for those by whom they were downtrodden?

Instead, Shakazulu suggests a march whose slogan is [Guadeloupean Creole]:

Fè mémwa maché, fè konsyans vansé pou nou sonjé gwadloupéyen ki goumé é ki tonbé anba bal fizi a kolon an lanné 1802 é 1967

Make your memory work and improve your conscience in order to remember the Guadeloupeans who fought and fell under the bullets of the French colonial army in 1802 and 1967.

This march mentioned by the blogger has actually been in existence for a few years, attracting people who are in quest of a symbolic act by which to remember their ancestors. Here is the program of this two-day-long march, which goes across the island [French/Guadeloupean Creole].

In this same post, the blogger deals with a new date: May 1967. At that time, social protests were frequent, as the sugar cane workers were dissatisfied with their working conditions and salaries. Shakazulu explains here what happened during one special demonstration [Guadeloupean Creole]:

Mé 1967- Mé 2009! 42 lanné! 42 lanné léjyonnè fwansé kyouyé gwadloupéyen an vil Lapwent. Moun ka palé dè 8 moun, dòt ka palé dè 87 moun, on dòt pati ka palé dè plis ki 100 moun mò Lapwent

May 1967-May 2009! 42 years later! 42 years ago the French legionnaires killed Guadeloupeans in the city of Pointe-à-Pitre. Some say that there were 8 people killed, some say 87, others talk about 100 victims in the streets of Pointe-à-Pitre.

Nobody really knows what really happened that day as no official toll was ever communicated and the entire affair was filed “Confidential” – but some Guadeloupean directors decided to highlight the voices of witnesses about those memories which still haunt their nights. Here is a series of videos (made available on YouTube) called “Sonjé Mé 67″ [Guadeloupean Creole], which means “Remember May '67″:

…and here, another YouTube find, which deals with the events of both May 1802 and May 1967.

The thumbnail image used in this post, “Schiavo”, is by Luciana.Luciana, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit Luciana.Luciana's flickr photostream.

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