GOPIO Martinique

PIOs Back in India

Lucienne Sacarabany and Christelle Gourdine in discussions with Minister Ravi Lucienne Sacarabany and Rose-Marie Bellassee
By Christelle Gourdine
After 8 years, Lucienne Sacarabany, one of the rare women to be Presidente of a Gopio was back to the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas with the ambition to rebuild the link between India and Martinique, a French island located in the Caribbean near Guadeloupe.

“I participated in the first PBD in 2003 and I really enjoyed it but my priority as a mother was my daughters so I couldn’t come again. Now that they are independent, I can give my time to the diaspora. Thus I created the GOPIO Martinique in 2009 and worked with my team to make the people of our island know more about India. When I met Shri Vayalar Ravi last year in Guadeloupe, I realised that people of India wanted also to reconnect with us so I came this year to Jaipur,” says Sacarabany.

Between 1853 and 1883 over 25,000 Indian workers were sent to Martinique as indentured labours to replace the former slaves. About 10,000 were able to return to India upon the conclusion of their contract period. While the large majority sailed from the southern Indian ports of Madras (now Chennai), Pondicherry (now Puducherry) and Karaikal, there was 2 ships that left from Calcutta (now Kolkata) with Indian workers from the country’s northern belt. Since 1922, after the fight of Mr Sindambarom in Guadeloupe, they became French citizens and the Indian culture is very much an intrinsic part of the Martiniquese culture.

They still worship the gods the way their forefathers were doing it, Indian recipes are part of the local delicacies and when there is an Indian festival like Diwali or nadrom, everybody celebrates.

Classical dance like Bharata Natyam and Odissi are taught in this island and of course Bollywood is very popular but what we really miss are language courses. Unlike Guadeloupe, there is no hindi ou tamil teaching and Gopio Martinique will work to organise it.

Now the Indian descendants are fully integrated in the Martiniquese society. They are present in many fields such as agriculture, public and private transportation but also more and more business, research and politics. Serge Letchimy , the President of the Region Martinique and member of the Parliament, is the symbol of this mixed society “The Indian diaspora is dynamic and active but want to be recognised by India and most of my people are waiting for the PIO card before coming.

I know that Leela Sarup and Paul Canaguy (Gopio Reunion) did a lot of lobbying along with you about the PIO card for the French nationals and if we can have it, then I’ll be able to come with a larger delegation next year. It means so much for us!” Lucienne Sacarabany met Minister Ravi during the PBD and invited him to be the guest of honour of the 160th anniversary of Indian arrival to be celebrated in 2013.

“I’m very happy to see Shri Vayalar Ravi’s enthusiasm towards our people, we felt isolated for so long!” “But I have a special request: when I came in 2003 at the first PBD in Delhi, there was simultaneous translation in French for us so we could follow all the discussions. It was not the case this year, by chance, as we were escorted along the PBD, we didn’t feel lost and enjoyed it but I would have loved to be part of it fully. This prevents people to attend the PBD since English is not our mother tongue and I know that my friends from Guadeloupe and Reunion Island feel the same. So I wish that next year CII will provide us with this facility.”

Lucienne came to this PBD with Rose-Marie Bellassee for whom it was her first trip in India. “Our trip has just started but I’ll already know I’ll will come again! PBD is a great opportunity to meet our large global family and the participation of the Government of India makes it very special, makes us feel very special. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Ms Kamla Persad Bissessar, brought a powerful woman touch to this event. I felt proud not only because she is from the Caribbean or a PIO but because she is woman and she is inspiring for us and the younger generation.

We went to prestigious heritage sites for the evening functions and I felt like in a dream. Jaipur is an amazing city and I’ll plan a trip to Rajasthan to discover this great culture.” It’s the beginning of their trip and since they were heading to South India, their feeling of being part of India will just increase!

—The author is Director and Coach at Zen Development Services Pvt Ltd, a coaching and training company whose goal is to give freedom to anyone with a focus on women empowerment:

By developing more social justice in our society

By allowing anyone to find out from where they come from, their identity and help them to find their path

By allowing anyone to develop their professional talents

Her “Meet Your Roots” program is dedicated to the Indian Diaspora and will propose in 2012 “Meet Your Roots trips” for the descendants of indentured labours. For more information:

February 2012

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