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Saint-Pierre, Martinique

April 04, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

19 February, 2018: After the zoo, we drove on to visit the town of Saint-Pierre itself, once upon a time heralded as the Paris of the Caribbean. The eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902 put paid to that, decimating the town and killing all bar two of its 30,000 inhabitants: a prisoner and a shoemaker living on the very outskirts of town. Driving into Saint-Pierre, the charred remains for buildings over a century later was very striking.

We stopped and had a look out across the bay, and did a little more digging into its history. It was Xavier who came up with the most curious news. "Lucy, you are not going to believe this..." And so we came across the story, thanks to Wikipedia, of Louis Cyparis, a murderer who was being held on death sentence in the dungeon of the local jail at the time, which is ultimately what saved him. I thought briefly back to the caged black jaguar in the zoo earlier. Cyparis survived, albeit with serious burns, received a pardon and left Martinique. And do you know what he did when he left? He changed his name to Ludger Sylbaris and joined Barnum and Bailey's circus! You couldn't make it up, could you?! Barnum built a recreation of Sylbaris' jail cell and from there he would weave his exotic story about his miraculous escape from doom to awe wondrous crowds. He died of natural causes (not natural disasters, as Francis clarified) in Central America. Truth is, so often, stranger than fiction, and standing on the Rue Victor Hugo, we felt the ghosts of Saint-Pierre's own "misérables". 

 

 


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