“WE MUST HONOR THE BIRTH OF MARY MOUNOUTCHI”
Here is an interview of Ernest Moutoussamy, an Indian-origin leader from Guadeloupe, a former Mayor for 19 years, and a former Member, French National Assembly for 21 years. It is brought to our readers by Christelle Gourdine-Mandjiny, a member of our magazine’s Global Advisory Board. The interview took place at St François, Guadeloupe, on August 2, 2023. It makes for a fascinating read and is one for the archives and posterity. It is published in both English and French.
Mr. Moutoussamy, I let you introduce yourself to the readers of India Empire:
I am Ernest Moutoussamy, my family is of Indian origin, settled in the island of Guadeloupe for a very long time.
I was elected by the population as MP of Guadeloupe in 1981 and I remained in the French National Assembly for 21 years. I represented the people of Guadeloupe, of all origins, in this national assembly where I had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Indira Gandhi during an official visit to France. I was also Mayor of my city, Saint-François, for 19 years, as well as a member of the “district” council and regional council.
I owe my elections to more votes of African origin than of Indian origin. The integration of the Indians was not easy but finally it was achieved in my case.
Moreover, I am passionate about writing, not a writer, but like a farmer: I cultivate writing just like I would cultivate the soil. I wrote many poetry books, novels, and essays. In total, I have thirty-eight books which have been published with a desire to make the community of Indian origin known, but also the mixed culture of our island.
Every year, we commemorate the Indian arrival day in Guadeloupe, we celebrate the memory of Henry Sidambarom who allowed the descendants to become French citizens, and the indian culture is present in many festivals. However, the indentured laborers’ history is not really integrated into the history of Guadeloupe and not at all into the history of France. Which tale can we propose today to move forward on this subject?
It is obvious, today, when we observe Guadeloupe that the Indian presence is physical even if there is a lot of racial mixing. It is also marked by the religious cult because we have many compatriots who practice Hinduism, and by a certain number of cultural activities, a heritage of Indian origin.
However, if we talk about research, ideas, there is not enough production. There are a few authors, a few personalities who are writing, but personally, I consider that there is still a lot to do and that it would be necessary that our intellectuals of Indian origin invest more in writing, in research, in poetic or romantic expression, and make this presence of Indian origin better known.
This is what motivated me to write because for more than a century silence was total and there was no intellectual presence of this community here, in Guadeloupe.
I invested myself in the searching for testimonies, in particular with the elders and also by studying all the texts related to India.
This is how we had the chance, a happy coincidence, to find information on India’s first child born in Guadeloupe. She was born on January 27, 1855 in Les Abymes.
Her mother, Mounoutchi Coulapin, arrived on the first ship from India called L’Aurélie on December 24, 1854, and gave birth to a girl a month later in Guadeloupe, a totally unknown country for her.
Imagine this young woman who arrived without her family in a sugar plantation, no one would speak her language, and the living conditions were difficult. She left India pregnant, crossed the oceans during 3 months and arrived to give birth one month later to her baby girl with the help of women of African origin, because there was no one else to help her. It was a symbolic encounter between India and Africa, between women who do not speak the same language but understood each other to give life. There is no doubt that this has created strong bonds between them.
The baby was named Mary Mounoutchi.