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The Reunionese population

A mosaic of people

Intensely authentic 

Reunion Island is an isolated melting pot of European, Malgache, Indian, Asian and African civilisations, where everyone lives in harmony. A land with a thousand faces, the population of Reunion Island is a singularly rich blend that is reflected in religion, culture and art, and cuisine. Reunion Island has 859,959 residents: source Insee 2020.

With different waves of immigration, Reunion Island has developed a rainbow-coloured population.
Reunion Island was virgin land when settlement began in the middle of the 17th century. The first settlers were French, who quickly surrounded themselves with slaves from Africa, the “Cafres” and Madagascar. Later, Indian, Tamil and residents of the New Zealand coast of Coromandel joined them.
All their descendants, regardless of their origin, are still called “Malabars”. Immigration of Muslim Indians – known as “Zarabs” – and Chinese craftsmen and traders dates back to the 19th century. From the 1960s, mainland French residents moved to Reunion Island in increasing numbers. In the 1970s, Mahorais and Comorians settled here. 

With unrivalled ethnic diversity, the population is very particularly multiracial. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Chinese…all live in perfect harmony. Traditional music reflects this harmony with sega beats and maloya rhythm pulsing through everyday life. Venture out in the evening to enjoy an original show, a music festival or a cultural event that unites the locals and visitors. 

Sharing culture: enjoy the warm hospitality on Reunion Island and experience Creole lifestyle! Reunion Island abounds with cultural monuments and sites open to visitors, as well as workshops for total immersion. Respect for others is engraved in the genes of the population, and a great source of pride on Reunion Island. Churches, Tamil temples, mosques, Chinese pagodas are regular features of the urban landscape – a concrete symbol of intercultural tolerance. 

The faces of Reunion’s population reflect this historical cultural mix. They are informally known as:

Cafres: descendants of slaves or indentured laborers from Africa and Madagascar;
Zarabs: Muslim Indians, who have the same religion as the Arab population;
Malbars: descendants of indentured laborers from southern India;
Zoreys: Mainland French people who are deaf to languages other than their own! ;
Chinese: of Chinese origin plus some mixed history.
Yab or “little whitey from the highlands”: descendants of the least affluent settlers pushed out to the highlands in the second half of the 19th century.

The story has only just begun !

What are you going to do next ?