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03

VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 15

									                        Hakkas in Réunion island
                              by Richard Lee-Tin




Introduction

Let me first thank to the Hakka council to have invited me today at this
conference, which I’m very honoured to participate. I’d also like to thank
professor Tung of the national university of Taiwan; who intervened for me to
the Hakka council. I’m very pleased to share with you my research on the
population of the Hakka in Reunion Island, which is a French Overseas
Department in the Indian Ocean. I’m very impressed by the high quality of this
audience and I’m particularly gratified by the presence of such a large number
of people, and I know that some of you are coming afar.
I will use these 20 minutes bestowed onto me to introduce you to the
contemporary situation of the Hakka population in Reunion Island. This
presentation is mainly based on my PhD research thesis in anthropology on the
Chinese community in Reunion Island.
I guess that some of you know little about Reunion Island or have never heard
of it. Before talking about the Hakka in Reunion Island, let me give you a
glimpse of the Reunionese society.


REUNION ISLAND

If you take a map and look at it, you’ll see a small island with the form of a
tortoise next to the South-East of Madagascar and Mauritius. This is Reunion
Island, or as we call it in French, La Reunion. It is a mountainous island with a
tropical climate. Its surface is about 2040 km2.

Reunion Island had no indigenous people before the arrival of the first settlers
less than 300 years ago. The French people were present at the beginning of the
settlement of Reunion Island. New settlers from all over the world, that is from
Madagascar, Europe, Africa and Asia, immigrate to the island. The French
cultural influence remains very strong.

The history of Reunion society has been changing. For a long time, the island
was a colony facing economic problems. In 1946, Reunion became a French
Overseas Department. This political change, called “departmentalisation”, was
aimed at inserting Reunion society into the rest of France by adopting cultural
assimilation. This brought a drastic change in many spheres, especially when
Reunion society started to modernise from the 1960s. Since 1982 after the
“decentralising” law was passed, Reunion island became a mono-department,
that is to say, the island is now considered as a region and a department. For
many qualified observers, Reunion island is a society which tends to be
assimilated to the French model. However, Reunion encounters serious
problems in social and economic area that none of the French department is
facing.

Based on a census done in 1999, the population of Reunion Island is about
706,000 inhabitants. A large number of the Reunionese population live on the
urban coast. The main towns are: Saint-André situated in the East; then Saint-
Benoit, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Louis, Tampon in the South; and at last, Saint-Paul
and le Port in the West of the island. Saint-Denis, the capital of the island, has
about 121,000 dwellers. A large part of the Reunionese population is of
Catholic religion. The official language is French but most of the people there
speak Creole, a local language.


The Reunionese population is multi-racial and is composed of several ethnic
groups. The main three large ethnic groups are:

    The Whites, among them those belonging to the white bourgeoisie, called
     “les Gros-Blancs”; and those who live in the mountains, they are more
     numerous in the south area;
    The Blacks, whose origins are Africa (Cafres) and Madagascar;
    The Indians from Dravidian origins (Malbar).

The French from France Metropolitan, commonly called Z’oreilles, form a
small group. After the departmentalisation of the island a steady influx of
French governement officers came from France to settle in Reunion Island.
These newcomers are very often civil servants, teachers or managers. The Indo-
muslim people, called Z’arabes because of their religious convictions in islam,
are from Gujerat in India. They came at the end of the 19 th century. They
represent only 2% of the whole population. The Sino-Reunionese people are
more numerous than the Indo-muslim people but they’re outnumbered by the
French settlers.

From the last decennies, a small group of Indians and natives of Comoros come
to settle in Reunion Island, which could be compared to a cross-road where all
civilisations meet. The diversity of Reunionese population has been increased
with the inter-marriage amongst the different groups of immigrants, and which
is the specifity of Reunion Island. The great majority of people of mixed race
are called Creoles; but the term can also be used to the White natives.

PLACE OF THE CHINESE IN REUNION ISLAND

I will now provide you with a few more information on Sino-Reunionese people
so that you could have a better idea of their place in the island.

DEMOGRAPHY

It is forbidden in Reunion Island to make the censuses of the population based
on ethnic criteria. It is thus difficult to know the number of Chinese (including
those of mixed-race) living in the island. We could assert that there are
approximately 30,000 Sino-Reunionese people, representing about 5% of the
whole population of the island. They form a minority group within the
Reunionese multi-ethnic society.

From the 19th century, immigration has been the main factor of the growth of
the Chinese population in Reunion Island. After the island became a
department, the Sino-Reunionese population increased rapidly. This population
growth was mainly due to the increase of birth rate since the immigration of
foreign workers was refrained by the authority by the 1950s. The Sino-
Reunionese population is scattered all over the island but generally speaking
most of them live near the coast and urban areas. They live in cities like Saint-
Denis, Le Port, La Possession, Saint-Paul, Saint-Louis, Saint-Pierre. We can
find Sino-Reunionese living in rural areas as well.

The present Sino-Reunionese population is principally composed of native
people born in Reunion Island. There are about a few thousand of people issued
from the last immigration. The Sino-Reunionese is composed of two main
groups: the Hakka and the Cantonese. The number of Cantonese people is quite
similar to the Hakka’s. Sino-Reunionese people also have ancestors other than
Hakka and Cantonese such as the Fukienese, who were engaged labourers also
called “Coolies”. We could also add a small number of Chinese coming from
other countries like Mauritius, Hong-Kong, Taiwan, Madagascar, France,
China. They came over Reunion Island to join their relatives settled there or for
other reasons.
THE HAKKAS IN REUNION ISLAND

Now, we could talk about the Hakka people in Reunion Island. It could sound
surprising that in such a small island, people know so little of their neighbours.
Indeed, many Reunionese people are unaware that the Chinese population in
Reunion Island is composed of Hakka and Cantonese origin. For them, there are
only Chinese but no Hakka. This ignorance may result from a lack of identity
assertion from the Hakka people themselves. Here, in Reunion Island the Hakka
population has never been a subject of studies. As far as I’m concerned, I
haven’t read anything on the existence of the Hakka in archives about Chinese
in Reunion Island. The presence of Hakka within the Chinese population in
Reunion is mentionned in works done for the last 30 years. Now I would like to
describe briefly some features of the Hakka population in La Reunion.
Information from official sources is unavailable therefore this work will be
based on a survey of my own.


Birthplace and generations

Today more than 98% of the Hakka were born in Reunion Island. Those born in
China are mostly older people, who were married to a Hakka of Reunion Island.
The following generations are local born. The Hakka immigrants come from the
region of Meixian in southern kwantung province. According to the historian
Ly-Thio-Fane, some Hakka immigrants came a few years from the French
protectorates of South-East Asia. The first Hakka immigrants arrived at
Reunion Island at the end of the 19th century (in 1885 to be more precised).

Concerning the presence of the Hakka population in Reunion Island, the
situation is as follows:

* In the North and East of the island (apart from Saint-Benoit): Hakka are less
numerous than Cantonese.
* In the South of the island (that is, Saint-Pierre, Saint-Louis, Tampon): Hakka
are more numerous than Cantonese.
* In the West of the island: it is difficult to say. However, it is known that Le
Port is the town where Cantonese outnumber Hakka.

SAINT-PIERRE (IN THE SOUTH OF THE ISLAND)

The Chinese population in Saint-Pierre is mainly composed of Hakka.
According to my own research, the Hakka people in Saint-Pierre seem to form a
real community by its number and the strong link among them. The Sino-
Reunionese tend to oppose the two main towns, Saint-Pierre and Saint-Denis (in
the north of the island) where the majority of the Chinese population have
Cantonese origins.

We could find several Chinese associations such as: Panthers club, association
Guandi.

There are also two Hakka temples in Saint-Pierre:

    the temple of GUANDI is situated in Rue Marius et Ary-Leblond. This
     temple is run by one of the association of Guan-di and is kept by Rolland
     Ah-Kiane. It was built in the 1950s. It could held up to 6,000 people. The
     temple is open everyday for people to perform private ceremonies. The
     Guandi temple is the place where important public ceremonies occur such
     as the commemoration of Guan-di. People come to this temple to attend
     other ceremonies like the commemoration of the All Soul’s Day and the
     celebration of Patniat-Pane. But the ceremony of Guan-di is the most
     popular and gathers lots of believers. The temple is always full of people
     on that special day. There is a project of extending the temple in the near
     future.
    The temple of GUAM-YIM, situated at 81 Boulevard Hubert-Delisle,
     was constructed in 1995. It is run by the association Guam-Yim directed
     by Miss Fai-Kiouk-Chow. Chinese believers often come to this temple
     for public ceremonies such as Chi-Fuk, Vane-Fouk, the birthday of
     Guam-Yim every ninth month of the second lunar month, and the
     offerings on the All Soul’s Day known as Raou-su-pao. This temple is the
     only one to have a clerical staff.

Besides of being a sacred place, temples in Reunion Island have today become
the centre of Chinese social life, allowing people to share diverse activities such
as in education, culture and even entertainment.

SOCIAL STRATIFICATION AND OCCUPATION

The economy of Reunion Island is very critical. The rate of unemployment is
quite high. From my own study, the Chinese population in Reunion Island is
less concerned with unemployment. Until the 1970s, trade was the main
economic activity of the Sino-Reunionese. Since the last three decennies, the
characteristic of the Chinese working-class population has changed with the
access of job opportunities by the new generation, who are more qualified.
From an economic viewpoint, there are similarities and differences between the
Cantonese and Hakka. I will now outline the situation concerning the Hakka.
The Hakka professional activities are diversified; they do other activity than
retail traders.
There are businessmen and wealthy families owning factories. For instance, we
have the WongWing Cheng in Saint-Pierre, the Ah-Sing, the Ah-Yon in Saint-
Denis.

In the trading sector, some Hakka own and run small shops throughout the
island.

The wealthiest traders possess mini-market, supermarket, or superstore. They
also operate in other tradings such as: hardware store, photography, baker’s and
confectioner’s shop, restaurants, filling station, night-clubs, hotels, etc. Hakka
people, who are in trading, have a very good income.

The generation of Hakka people, who obtained higher education, was able to
choose liberal professions such as general practioner, chemist, dentist, chartered
accountant, etc. Liberal professions are prestigious for Reunionese people.
Money and education are the two main criteria for social recognition. Artistic
jobs don’t attract the Sino-Reunionese workers. They are a very few of Hakka
and Cantonese who are a craftman.

 The upper class of the Chinese population of Reunion Island enjoy a high
standard of living and enviable social status. In Reunion Island, Chinese people
are very often considered as being rich. This point of view is in fact overstated.
A substantial number of Hakka, for example, have small jobs as they failed in
obtaining qualification or job training. This is the case of those employed in
administrative offices, private sector and craftsmanship. These Hakka belong to
the lowest social class.

Sino-Reunionese people’s attempt to integrate into the Reunionese society is
accompanied with the will of economic and intellectual successes. They’ve
understood that the key for success in Reunion Island goes with obtaining
higher education. Since the last decennies, Sino-Reunionese people made
remarkable progress in educational qualifications. Today parents put an
emphasis on their children’s educational success. In the educational area, the
Sino-Reunionese are doing well in primary and secondary schools, as well as in
higher education. They haven’t succeeded in going to prestigious schools such
as the ENA, and at being profesors.
THE INTEGRATION

In this part of the paper, I’m going to focus on the process of integration of the
Hakka in the Reunionese society.

The Sino-Reunionese people, be they Hakka or Cantonese, form a specific
community. Although they are not a unified entity, they still have something in
common.

 1) They identify themselves with the local people and actively participate to
local social activities. For me, the possession of French nationality may explain
the reason why the Chinese people completely integrated into Reunionese
society. They now have the feeling of belonging to the Reunionese society and
to the French culture; they would say that the are French or Reunionese with
Chinese origin. Chinese immigrants, who decided to remain in Reunion Island,
often asked for their insertion. These demands were rarely accepted. So despite
the fact that a substantial number of them spent most of their life working and
living in Reunion Island, they remained foreigners.
However, because of the “jus solis”, the first generation of Chinese native in the
island obtained the French nationality; they could reject it if they wanted when
they became adult.
When the socialist party came to power in 1981 in France, the mass of
foreigners, who lived in Reunion Island for a long period of time, obtained
French nationality. Subsequently most of the Chinese immigrants became
French. This expansion of the acquisition of French nationality to members of
the Chinese community led to a change in people’s mentality. It contributed to a
will of being integrated into French society.
The Chinese people of the second generation in Reunion Island considered
themselves as being French citizens. The following generations claim even
stronger their belonging to France and Reunion.

2) They participate actively to Reunion political life.

From the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, some Chinese
became engaged to the political life of Reunion Island. Joseph-Law-Yee,
Chane-Hive Andre were Cantonese, Wu-Ti-Yien, Ary-Yee-Chong-Chi-Kan, Li-
Sham-Yon were Hakka.

Wu-Ti-Yien adhered to the right wing party. He was a town councillor in Saint-
Pierre from 1967 to 1971, then he became assistant town councillor from 1971
to 1977; he was official assistant town councillor from 1970 to 1983.
Ary-Yee-Chong-Chi-Kan was a militant to the Reunion communist party.

It was during the 1980s when the Sino-Reunionese political men became
influential in political life. In 1986, Andre Thien-Ah-Koon was the first Sino-
Reunionese to become a deputy of Reunion and a member of the commission of
law. He is the most popular Sino-Reunionese political man in the island. Andre
Thien-Ah-Koon is a Hakka. His father was a Hakka immigrant.
In the 1990s, Chinese were more present in the political scene. One out of the
five deputies of Reunion was a Sino-Reunionese. This is Andre Thien-Ah-Koon
. There are about 40 town councillors in Reunion Island. Several of them are
Sino-Reunionese. Michel Chane-Liat, Maxime-Mak-Yuen are Hakka while
Raynal Lan-Ching is Cantonese.

We can say that the Chinese, especially the Hakka, makes an important
contribution to the political life in Reunion Island.

I would like to add that the contribution made by the Chinese community to the
public sphere doesn’t only concern with political sphere. The Chinese
community has also produced civic leaders: Alex How Chong, who is the
former president of the chamber of trading of Reunion Island, is a Hakka, René
Li -Teng-Shee also a former president of the chamber of trading of Reunion
Island,is a cantonese . On several occasions, people of Chinese descent have
received decoration for service to the Nation. For example, there are Chane
Hive Andre and Marie Michnick, who are both Cantonese. In the field of
religion, several ladies have been called to orders. Josepha Chane Woong In,
Marie Ah Sam, Chantale Tang-Tong -Hie are nuns; Gerard Yue-Yew the only
Catholic priest of Chinese origin in Reunion Island is a Cantonese. He was
born in 1955 and was ordained priest in 1990 in Saint-Pierre.

THE CULTURAL EVOLUTION

A significative fact of the Chinese integration is the evolution of cultural
tradition. The Chinese people have adopted most of the aspects of the local
lifestyle. Examples of this integration can be seen in the Chinese dresses, their
use of local languages in social relations, their religious belief, and their
assimilation with the French culture. Sino-Reunionese wear modern and
european dresses. Sometimes in a party or a wedding meeting, we can see a
woman wearing the Chinese dress.

Language issue. The situation of the use of language by the Hakka is as follows:
Almost all the last Hakka immigrants, who lived in Reunion Island, spoke their
mother tongue that is the Hakka. Most of them could speak a little bit of creole,
the local language. I have never met a Chinese immigrant, Hakka or Cantonese,
who couldn’t speak French very well. Children from mixed marriage, involving
an immigrant husband and a native creole wife, are seldom fluent in Hakka.

The first local born Hakka generation can be divided into three groups:

-Those who have a good command of Hakka language,
- Those who have a very elementary command of Hakka language,
- Those who cannot speak Hakka language but can understand it a little bit.

Most of the people from the later generations cannot speak Hakka language.
Some of them have a very elementary command of Hakka and some cannot
speak Hakka at all but can understand a little bit.

To overturn this situation, there are Hakka courses being offered for children
and adults at Chinese associations. For instance, we have the Pantheres Club,
Qi-Ling, associations of the Chinese in the East since 1980 . My surveys show
that very few people followed these courses.

In the beginning of 1990, a few Chinese wanted to re-open some french-
chinese schools in which young Chinese can learn their ancestors’ language.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if they want the young Chinese people to learn
Chinese mandarin or Hakka or even Cantonese languages. I’d also like to point
out that Hakka language was taught in french- chinese schools, which are all
shut down now. When I was doing my survey in the Chinese community, I
found that a lot of young Chinese would have liked to be able to speak and learn
a Chinese language. It seems to me that the young Chinese Hakka are afraid of
speaking Hakka language because it seems old-fashioned in comparison with
mandarine Chinese.
Generally speaking we can say that the Chinese people’s assimilation was partly
achieved linguistically. The Hakka and Cantonese languages were replaced with
creole language, which is understood by the majority of the local population.
For Creole and French speakers of Chinese origin, French, which is taught at
school, appears to be the only language for social achievements and to be the
main tool of communication. Knowledge of French language could be
considered as a criterion for the degree of assimilation.

We’ve just outlined the main cultural changes. The evolution of the Chinese
family in Reunion need to be mentioned. In Reunion we can report these
demographic changes as well among the Hakka Chinese and the Cantonese
Chinese:

    The extended family system of the Sino-Reunionese ancestors has been
     replaced with the inclination of the younger generation toward a nuclear
     and stem family.
    The lower natality in Chinese family
    The increase of singlehood.

To these demographic changes, we could add changes in attitudes. We can
report some examples:

    The increasing of outmarriages. The most frequent out marriage occurs
     with creole and French. Outmarriage very seldom happens with people of
     muslim religion. Women are more often concerned with outmarriage. The
     number of divorces in outmarriage is higher for men.

    A decline of patriarchy concerns with the head of household, and male
     dominance onto gender role.

    A change of the status of women. For the former generation, social rules
     were defined in a rigid way. Man was the bread-winner while his wife
     was a housekeeper. She also had to brought up their children. Today
     women are expected to make a substantial financial contribution to the
     living of the family. They can make a professional career. So an
     increasing number of women have a job outside of their household and
     earn a living.

    Families are no more obsessed with the desire of having a son. Girls are
     both welcome and are treated equally. Some parents even prefer to have a
     daugther. The number of children has diminished. Girls are free and can
     go out without being chaperoned by their parents.

    Married children don’t live with their parents; even those who are
     unmarried, whether they study or work. They have their own home. The
     increase of the number of people living on their own reveals an increase
     in the standard of living and the evolution of strict moral standards
     towards freedom.

These changes in attitude are seen in the Hakka and Cantonese lifestyle.
The assimilation of western ideas was partly due to mixed marriage. Arranged
marriages are being replaced with the will of the Sino-Reunionese to choose
their own partner. Cases do occur when young people marry without their
parents’ approval. We could find Western and Chinese cultural patterns in a
Sino-Reunionese wedding ceremony. The ceremony is performed in a Christian
Church while the feast and dresses correspond to the Reunionese customs.
Chinese customs are kept in the presentation of the wedding cakes. For the
banquet the guests are offered nine dishes. Some Hakka families consult a
soothsayer, who would choose an auspicious day for the wedding day.



PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED IN THE ORGANISATION WITHIN THE
HAKKA COMMUNITY IN REUNION ISLAND.

There exists more than twenty Chinese associations in Reunion Island. Apart
from the associations gathering members from the same villages in China, there
are also those with cultural, social and entertaining intentions. For example, we
have: the association Panther club, the AEFC in Saint-Paul, the Aroc, the Qi-
Ling.

There are neither official Hakka associations nor official Hakka organism in
Reunion Island. There isn’t any official Cantonese association but we could
notice that Cantonese have created two associations, which membership is for
Cantonese people only. There are Chinese associations which attempt to unify
the Sino-Reunionese people and at the same time to perpetuate Hakka
traditions. This is the case of the associations of ACAB and GuanDi, which I
will introduce them to you.

   . The ACAB (that is the Franco-Chinese Cultural Assistance and Charity
   Association) was created on the 26th of July 1957 by a group of 35 Hakkas
   from the town of Saint-Denis. They did it in the intention of helping the
   Hakka community only. Its head office is situated in Saint-Denis in the old
   Franco-Chinese School (57 rue Labourdonnais). This association is still run
   by the Hakka people. All the presidents and members of the director office
   were all Hakkas. At the moment, this association has a few members. For
   most Sino-Reunionese, the ACAB association has little importance now. The
   ACAB organises ceremonies for the Soul’s Day, the rites relating to the
   cimetery and the collective meal for the Hakka community in Saint-Denis.
   One of the projects of the ACAB is the construction of Chinese cultural
   complex financed by the donations of Hakka families.
 . The association of GUANDI was created by Hakka people of Saint-Pierre
and Tampon in 1981. This association is the medium of the authorities. Its
head office is at the temple of Guan-Di (46 rue Marius et Ary Leblond à
Saint-Pierre).

Guandi association is probably the most structured and wealthiest Sino-
Reunionese association of the island. The directors are all men who are
above 50 years old. Presidents, who took over since the creation of the
association (that is, Chane-Fin Ting, Benoit Simjee, Josepha Ah-Voune,
Marcel Ah-Soune, Gerard Ah-Chine), are all Hakka.

Every year, the office of the association organises 7 to 8 working meetings.
An annual general assembly gathers 50 to 60 people. During these meetings,
the debates are in Hakka dialect and in French. There’s a Chinese secretary,
Lung-Chong-Ah-Chou, who is a trader. There’s also a French secretary,
René Chong-Fha-Seng, a general practitioner, who is responsible of public
relations as well.

The association organises especially festivities proper to the Chinese
calendar:

The National Day of Lantern or Pat Niat Pane occurs at the beginning of
each year. The Hakka All Soul’s Day or Titiangne happens in spring and
autumn of the lunar calendar. In the morning, 5 to 6 people, led by the
president of the feast, go to the cimetery of Saint-Pierre, to perform the
commemoration on the ancestors’ tombs (Meixian) situated at the right side
of the central alley closed to the entry.
The association has more important financial means than other Sino-
Reunionese associations. It welcomes Chinese delegation from Taiwan and
China with all expenses paid. The President Gerard Ah-Chine of the
association represents officially the Chinese community in the South of the
island. He represents the local administration and his people. He is thus
invited to the court of Saint-Pierre, to the Indian festivities, and the county
ceremony. The Guan-Di association is composed of more than 300
members; they are shopkeepers, civil servants or have a liberal profession.
The Sino-Reunionese people can establish links with Chinese associations
settled in the town they live. The survey I did shows that a minority of Sino-
Reunionese are members of these associations or have links with them.
These associations aim at revealing to the Sino-Reunionese people their own
traditions and at assuming their Chinese identity.
IDENTITY

Sino-Reunionese can claim for their identity or reject it. The testimonies
obtained from interviews of Sino-Reunionese reveal the process leading to the
abrogation or appropriation of Chinese identity.

It is difficult to assess the appropriation of Chinese identity in Reunion Island.
One thing is sure, Sino-Reunionese people do consider themselves as being
French and Reunionese. Have they kept their Chinese identity? Some deny their
origins and want to forget their ancestors’ culture. Many of them have doubts
about their Chinese identity. This concerns the elder Chinese people and those
who had been little educated and who are aware of their Chinese identity. A
large part of Sino-Reunionese people don’t know about their dominant identity
and think of themselves as being French, Reunionese and Chinese at the same
time.

What about the Hakkas? Indeed there are Hakkas who are proud of their
origins.And even some who boast about it. If it is possible to say that there is an
awakening of the Chinese identity through different means, however there
doesn’t seem to be any quest for the assertion of a genuine Hakka identity. In
Réunion, surprisingly enough, the Hakkas have not managed to set up
organisations trying to make the hakka community aware of its own identity.
In fact ,today, when the Hakkas are asked about their identity, they might as
well answer you that they are Chinese , Cantonese or Hakka , or even French ,
Reunionese and Creole!

However since the 80s the Hakkas and the Cantonese have come together in
associations to ensure the promotion and defence of the Chinese identity-but not
of the Hakka or Cantonese identity. In the past , the Chinese aimed first and
foremost at getting integrated into the Reunionese society and to achieve
economical success .Today the goal of the Chinese associations is to revive
among the Chinese a sense of self esteem and pride in their culture and their
roots. The militants and the leaders of the Chinese community are aware that the
cohesion and survival of the Chinese as an ethnic group are threatened by a set
of challenges such as cultural assimilation, mixed marriages and so on…That’s
why the few Chinese associations which exist are setting up programs aimed at
the Chinese youth, programs which are meant to reinforce the feeling of
belonging to the Chinese people. At first sight it appears that the Chinese of
Reunion haven’t been helped in any way to achieve their goals of perpetuation
and enhancing of the Chinese culture by any international Chinese institution.
Now, before getting to my conclusion, I would like to give you a few
information about the relationship between the Hakkas of Reunion and the other
Hakka communities in the world.

THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE HAKKAS OF REUNION WITH THE
OTHER HAKKA COMMUNITIES IN THE WORLD

The Hakkas of Reunion do have some social links with the Hakka of Mauritius
who speak French like them and live in an island which is close to theirs. But as
most of the Hakkas in Reunion no longer speak their native mother tongue, it is
difficult for them to establish any contacts with their family in China or
establish any links with the other Hakka communities in the world . For
example many Hakkas in Reunion have never gone on pilgrimage to China to
find their roots in Meixian -even though the Hakkas who can afford it enjoy
going back to China on a tour to Meixian so as to meet their family! The visit of
the hometown of their ancestors is something like a pilgrimage .Undoubtedly
Meixian is a root of their identity.

The international organisations of the Hakka do not have any branch in
Reunion.As far as I know Vincent Simjee and Yvon Thia -Song -Fat are the
only Hakkas affiliated to an association in Taiwan. A few years ago these two
personalities tried to set up an official association in Reunion.

Also, some Hakkas have already participated in world conferences of Hakkas in
various parts of the world .For example more than 10 years ago a delegation of
the Hakka of Reunion attended a conference in San Francisco.



CONCLUSION

I have to leave you now. Today I tried to tell you a little about the Hakka of
Reunion as I am aware that few of you have ever heard of Reunion Island,
which is a very little place compared to yours! But it is clear that I didn’t really
go thoroughly into the matter as vast fields remain to be explored if one wants
to deepen the reflection on the history and becoming of the Hakka in Reunion.

However I just wanted to point out a few things:
1) In Reunion the Hakkas have lived for a long time in an environment
influenced by the French and Creole culture .This environment doesn’t
encourage the perpetuation of their cultural or social traditions.

2) In Reunion the Hakkas have lost most of their original culture, and mainly
their mother tongue. The best educated are those who are fully assimilated to
the French culture and the poorer classes, with little instruction, have
assimilated themselves to the Creole linguistic group. The Hakkas of Reunion
have found new roots in the French and the Creole culture .As a consequence
they must find their place in the Reunionese society and turn decidedly towards
the future.

3) In Reunion there remains very little of the Hakka culture .Most of the Hakka
do not feel deeply Hakka, from a cultural and historical point of view. Contrary
to what happens in many other parts of the world, in La Réunion, there is no
organised movement for the awakening of the Hakka conscience. The renewal
of the Hakka conscience must be seen as a challenge for today’s generations and
those to come.

Well, I do hope that my presentation on the Hakkas of Reunion haven’t been
too boring and have provided you with some clues in spite of all its
shortcomings.

It’s been a real pleasure for me to be among you. Thank you very much for
attending this lecture. Also I wish to thank those who invited me,
Mr……and………as well. Good bye.

								
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