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Cilaos town, high in the Cirque.
Blason ville DomFr Cilaos (Reunion).svg
Coat of arms
Location of Cilaos
Coordinates: 21°08′07″S55°28′16″E / 21.1353°S 55.4711°E / -21.1353; 55.4711 Coordinates: 21°08′07″S55°28′16″E / 21.1353°S 55.4711°E / -21.1353; 55.4711
Country France
Overseas region and department Réunion
Arrondissement Saint-Pierre
Canton Saint-Louis-2
Intercommunality Villes solidaires
  Mayor (2014-2020) Paul-Franco Técher
84.40 km2 (32.59 sq mi)
  Density67/km2 (170/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+04:00
INSEE/Postal code
97424 /97413
Elevation370–3,071 m (1,214–10,075 ft)
(avg. 1,201 m or 3,940 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Cilaos is a town and commune on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. It is located centrally on the island, in a caldera of altitude 1,214 m. The caldera (usually known as the 'Cirque') is also named for the community.

Town settlement that is bigger than a village but smaller than a city

A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages but smaller than cities, though the criteria to distinguish them vary considerably between different parts of the world.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Réunion Overseas region and department in France

Réunion is an overseas department and region of France and an island in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar and 175 km (109 mi) southwest of Mauritius. As of January 2019, it had a population of 866,506.



The name Cilaos comes from the Malagasy word, Tsilaosa (modern form : tsy ilaozana), which means the place one does not abandon [1] .

Malagasy is an Austronesian language and the national language of Madagascar. Most people in Madagascar speak it as a first language as do some people of Malagasy descent elsewhere.

According to some historians [ who? ], the word Cilaos finds its origins in the name of a Malagasy slave named Tsilaos who took refuge in this cirque. At the time, slaves were called "brown", whereas runaway slaves were called "black-brown".

Slavery System under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work

Slavery is any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property. A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration. Many scholars now use the term chattel slavery to refer to this specific sense of legalised, de jure slavery. In a broader sense, however, the word slavery may also refer to any situation in which an individual is de facto forced to work against their own will. Scholars also use the more generic terms such as unfree labour or forced labour to refer to such situations. However, and especially under slavery in broader senses of the word, slaves may have some rights and protections according to laws or customs.

The first inhabitants of the cirque of Cilaos were thus "black-browns" who believed themselves to be at the top of the world and completely safe. However, these first runaways were recaptured very quickly, tracked and hunted by well-organized and well-armed slaveholders. In these runaways' attempts to escape recapture, several were killed. It seems likely that these first runaways created the goat paths that climb most of the mountains on Réunion.

After the death or recapture of these runaway slaves, the cirque of Cilaos likely became uninhabited once again for a while, since the first official record of its settlement occur only around 1850. In this year, a spa station was set up, and by 1866, there were 960 inhabitants. By 1900, the population had risen to 2500, and the 1982 census recorded 5629 inhabitants in the whole cirque.

Colonization is a process by which a central system of power dominates the surrounding land and its components.

From 15 to 16 March 1952, 1,870mm (73 inches) of rain fell in Cilaos in 24 hours, the greatest amount of rain ever to fall in one day.{Table 3.1 World's Greatest Observed Point Rainfalls (Linsley, Kohler & Paulhus)}

Rain liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then precipitated

Rain is liquid water in the form of droplets that have condensed from atmospheric water vapor and then become heavy enough to fall under gravity. Rain is a major component of the water cycle and is responsible for depositing most of the fresh water on the Earth. It provides suitable conditions for many types of ecosystems, as well as water for hydroelectric power plants and crop irrigation.

The commune of Cilaos was created on 4 February 1965 when it seceded from the commune of Saint-Louis.

Saint-Louis, Réunion Commune in Réunion, France

Saint-Louis is the fifth-largest commune in the French overseas department of Réunion. It is located on the southwest part of the island of Réunion, adjacent to Saint-Pierre.

The cirque as seen from the Piton des Neiges. Cirque De Cilaos On Reunion.jpg
The cirque as seen from the Piton des Neiges.


The introduction of embroidery was due to the efforts of Angèle MacAuliffe, daughter of a doctor who worked at a hot-spring clinic in the early 20th century. The techniques that she introduced have scarcely changed since, and the popularity of "Days of Cilaos" embroidery is due in a large part to this stability and tradition.

This local embroidery has been transmitted for over 100 years by local nuns (such as Sister Cécile and Sister Irénée). In 1954, the "Sewing room of Cilaos" was created and Sister Anasthasie (Marie-Hélène Techer) was appointed as its leader. Sister Anasthasie would do her utmost to teach a hundred young girls her embroidery techniques, and she was recognized in 1983 when she received the gold medal "Best worker in France" competition in the lace and embroidery category. In the 1980s, these embroidered works were generally sold out of the workers' homes or more frequently from roadside stands. Furthermore, an association for the promotion of Cilaosian lace was created in 1983 to protect and develop this important craft of the Cirque. In 1985, this association had 50 embroidery workers. Its president was Ms. Suzanne Maillot, Sister Anasthasie's assistant at the "Sewing-room of Cilaos".

Today, an embroidery house of the association lets a few workers learn and show tourists this delicate art.

See also

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  1. Malagasy dictionary: tsy + ilaozana