The forgotten remains of the Approuague Industrial treasure

November 2008, along the Courouaïe river, 30km downstream from Régina. We are in the middle of an old colonial plantation, La Constance, in the district of Régina-Kaw. Beneath the foliage of the cocoa trees an outstanding legacy from the past has been lying slumbering for more than 150 years – steam machinery for refining sugarcane. The machines were built in Liverpool and shipped out around 1830 to the heart of the ‘underwater lands’ of what used to be the ‘neighbourhood of the Approuague’. Unlike in the Antilles and La Réunion where the sugar and rum landscapes of the past have been partially conserved, the remains of these industries in French Guiana are now no more than ruins overrun by vegetation. A project to preserve and promote this heritage is currently under study for the Approuague. It is being piloted by the Municipal Eco-museum of Approuague-Kaw in Régina. How did the Approuague become the leading sugar-producing region of French Guiana in the years running up to the abolition of slavery? The history of sugar and the Approuague Sugarcane was first introduced to French Guiana by Jews of Dutch origin fleeing Brazil in 1656 and who set up the first sugar mills near Cayenne. Sugar production only played a secondary role in the colony's economic activity throughout the eighteenth century. Like most agriculture, it was confined to the ‘high’ lands, in other words those that were not flooded by the tides, unlike the ...

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