Simon Van der Stel, the first registered birth in Mauritius

The brand new, double decker topless buses, were immaculately clean and comfortable. Headphones to be plugged in a unit besides the seats catered for the guide's multilingual pre-recorded comments which were perfectly synchronised with the itineraries. The on board, female dominated crew, was welcoming and helpful.
We decided to head straight to the winelands on the first day.
From the city centre Groot Constantia, the first wine making establishment, was reached in 2 hours.
The breathtaking yellowish wine fields stretched before our eyes while we drove in the domaine. Majestic oak trees fringed the way. Their wood is yet unsuitable for barrels destined to wine maturation, these had to be imported from France, we were later told.
After having strolled in the fields we went into the Chateau for a guided visit.
We listened carefully to our host while she went through the various steps of wine making.
Referring to grape selection, our guide remarked that we cannot make good wines out of bad grapes.
A simple but yet powerful reflection applicable to all realms of life !
Following the wine making tour, time was ripe for wine tasting and the group of visitors were convened to a conference room especially designed for that purpose.
A set of five glasses holding five different products of Constantia were laid upon each of the several desks in the room together with a packet of biscuit, a glass of water and a spittoon.
We were given a brief of wine tasting and taught to define the character of the different products. Aspects such as length in the mouth, notes, bouquet and clarity to mention but a few were covered. Water was meant to wash the mouth and prepare the taste buds to shift from one wine to another.
Wine tasting does not necessarily require swallowing but it's always better if you are not the driver. Spittoons were meant for the latter.
During her historical exposé I felt like a shiver when our host referred to Simon Van Der Stel as the first owner of the winery which is not only the oldest in South Africa but also the first one in the southern hemisphere !
I even felt prouder when she described Van der stel as the father of wine making in South Africa and the first Governor of the Cape colony.
When the wine tasting session was over, I asked her whether Simon Van der Stel was the son of Adriaan Van Der Stel, former dutch governor of Mauritius.
She did not have this information but confirmed that Simon's son, who succeeded him as governor, was named Adriaan.
I then was almost sure that it was the same Simon Van der Stel, the one who is recognised as the first official birth to be registered on our Island !
In fact, Simon Van der Stel was born in Mauritian waters when his father Adriaan was coming to the Island to take office as Governor in 1639.
His mother, Maria Lievens was the daughter of a freed Indian slave. Hence Simon was of mixed origin, prefiguring the Mauritian kaleidoscope. He spent 7 years on the Island and left with his family after a cyclone devastated the efforts of his father Adriaan to cultivate rice, fruits and indigo. Simon was born on the ship, le Cappel, which was also carrying the first sugar cane plants to Mauritius, what a coincidence !
His father Adriaan also introduced Java deer on the Island.
That the first Mauritian was also the first governor of Cape colony and the father of wine making in the southern hemisphere is no trivial fact to me. It might also be a no less stronger tourism promotion argument.
The Dutch period is not well known to us, yet they were the first to set Mauritius on the international scene ! Simon Van der Stel, a Mauritian of Dutch and Indian descent did it so remarkably ! He was a man of high culture, a good grape who is still producing billions of litres of good wine in South Africa.
The first Mauritian, worth emulating, in those times where history is dangerously at stake, being considered as a non productive field by counter productive minds !


Commentaires

Have you ever heard of the Dutch leaving Mauritius for the Cape and in the course leaving people they brought on the island to die there unattended. These were the first Marroons of Mauritius they used to live in remote places and history never utters a word of their plight. though thanks to dig out Mauritian history.

What a beautiful and fascinating story!
Thank you Alain Jeannot for sharing it to us Mauritians and indeed the whole world.Holland,included!
Indeed Mauritius has been global before the 'globaliasation ; of the world economy.Of course,Mauritius
the gateway to Africa.Pity,that Simon Van Der Stel did not have its company HQ in Mauritius.
To remind ourselves too,that it was Mauritius that introduced ,for its part,sugarcane to Australia.
Historical facts as you rightly point out,that are ignored by those who should be using them with the aim of illustrating the defining moments/events linked to the birth an island country called Mauritius.
Indeed the Arab,Portuguese,Dutch flirtations with Mauritius are simpli ignored by the authorities.