Monday, January 15, 2018
Formerly called Lourenço Marques, for a Portuguese trader believed to be the first European to explore the area in 1544, Maputo acquired its current name in 1976 following Mozambique’s independence from Portugal in 1975.
Responding to the state-wide discrimination by the Portuguese, the Mozambicans initiated a war for independence that lasted about ten years. Education of the native populations was focused on teaching them the Portuguese language and training them for what was considered suitable employment. After the war ended, most of the Portuguese fled the country, leaving a significant brain drain. They had not received the kind of education that would prepare them for self-government.
The first president of Mozambique was Samora Machel, who was supported by the communist regimes of Cuba and the Soviet Union. Machel died in an airplane accident in 1986.
Just two years after independence was won, anti-communist forces started a violent civil war that lasted fifteen years, until 1992. The country has operated as a democracy since 1992, but is still experiencing political turmoil. The economy is very poor here which contributes to political instability.
We took a walking tour of Maputo in the morning. Our first stop was at the beautiful Central Railway Station, constructed in the early 1900’s in the Beaux-Arts style. It has been recognized by a few publications as one of the most beautiful train stations.
Near the railway station is a statue commemorating Mozambican soldiers who fell in the First World War. Popular legend holds that this statue is of a woman who had killed a large snake that had been terrorising the local population, dropping out of a tree and then attacking the villagers. The woman prepared a large pot of boiling porridge that she carried on her head. She stood under the tree where the snake was in residence and stood there until it dropped into the pot and was killed.
We stopped at a local market, the Mercado Municipal, that has many stalls devoted to fish, meats, spices, fruits and vegetables as well as clothing and crafts.
We also visited Fortaleza da Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, a Portuguese fort built in the mid-1800’s to protect the town from pirates. The structure is used as a museum, primarily to teach about Ngungunhane, the last Emperor of Gaza, now part of Mozambique. He rebelled against the Portuguese in the late 1800’s, and was exiled to Lisbon, and then to the Azores, following his defeat. Some years later, his remains were returned to Mozambique and are now buried in an ornately carved coffin at the fort.
On our own, Mark and I visited an artist’s market, FEIMA, or Féria de Artesanato, Flores e Gastronomia de Maputo. I really did want to purchase some kind of memento from Mozambique, and there were some beautiful wood carvings of interest, but there was so much repetition that I had to question whether these vendors had actually created the items. Also, I really hate being pestered by everyone who has something to sell. I know that’s how it works, and they really are just trying to earn a living. It was just too hot to have to deal with today. I do feel guilty for not buying something to help the beleaguered economy here.
The longest suspension bridge in Africa, almost two miles, is being constructed here in Maputo, the Maputo-Catembe Bridge, which will cross the Maputo Bay to connect Catembe with Maputo. Currently, the only connection is by a 40-60 minute ferry ride. It is a beautiful structure that stretches three kilometers. The $725 million project was expected to be complete by December, 2017, but is not yet finished. It does look like it’s close to completion, though.