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* 500+ years of “vazaha” (foreigners)

December 24, 2018

I grew up in a very interesting part of the world known as Anosy, the “land of islands.” This in reference to a series of islands located in this area, which sits at the southeast corner of Madagascar. It’s interesting at several levels. The first is the 1,000+ years of Malagasy history which exists for this area (per archeological digs to date). And in addition, <vazaha> have been there, far too often creating mischief or worse, for 500+ years of this history. This because Anosy has several natural harbors which were used by Europeans on their way to the East Indies. However, its discovery by Europeans had some twists and turns to it.
The First Portuguese Armada to the East Indies had ended badly, with only half of its ships making it back to Portugal. A Second Armada was immediately organized, this one with 14 ships. Heading west to go around unfavorable winds south of Portugal, they discovered Brazil. But then, having crossed the Atlantic, in going around the Cape of Good Hope, the Armada was faced with a fierce storm which sunk 4 of the ships, including the one captained by Admiral Bartolmu de Dias, who not so many years earlier had been the first European to sail around this very cape (which he aptly, and sadly given what happened, named “Cape of Storms”).
Another of the ships, captained by Admiral Dias’ brother, Diogo, was blown far off course and away from the rest of the armada, west and mostly like quite a bit south. In sailing back north to continue what he and his brother were to do, which was explore the coast of what is now known as Mozambique, on August 10 he came across what was in fact a new land mass, that of Madagascar–something he didn’t realize until he sailed north along a coast which clearly wasn’t Mozambique. Realizing this he named it Ilha de São Lourenço (“Saint-Laurent” in French) in honor of the Feast of São Lourenço held on that day. Reporting this when he returned to Portugal, it was determined this was the island of Madagascar, originally identified by Marco Polo.

He and his men landed somewhere in the Anosy area. It’s quite possible they anchored in what became known as the Baie des Gallions, a sheltered cove next to the little Malagasy village of Italy (eetalee), west of the town which became Fort Dauphin (see “Mosambique. Anse aux Galions ou Ranofoutchi” (Ranofotsy) on Flacourt’s map of the area from the mid-1600s). And thus began an uneasy relationship between the Malagasy living in Anosy (Antanosy) and <vazaha> which continues to this day.

[in below map by Flacourt, note “Mosambique. Ance aux Galions ou Ranoufoutchi” (Ranofotsy) in lower left corner, “Fort Daulphin ou Taulangharan” in the upper right]

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