Forgotten Gardens of the Îles du Salut

Forgotten Gardens of the Islands of Salvation

Devil’s Island was an isolated prison from 1852-1953 with some 80,000 prisoners held in unspeakably horrible conditions during that time. Now we tourists wander about it looking at the crumbling buildings, glancing at the chapel paintings done by the imprisoned art forger, Francis Lagrange.

Wall murals by Francis Lagrange.

I shudder at the inhumanity of man. Prisons must have guards to keep the system going, guards often have families so among the many buildings, such as the commandant’s quarters someone planted gardens. Indeed growing food would have been the first priority and breadfruit trees and coconut palms were a staple in the Caribbean islands. Certainly, no signs of vegetable gardens remain today. But some plants are flowering today, and whether they grew from wing, wind or a wife the seeds took hold. I found bougainvillea, plumeria, Royal Poinciana tree, Hibiscus, Lantana, Silk Floss trees, strangler fig, coconut palms, ti plants, and variegated Crotons the size of trees. Hardy, happy plants that continue to bloom without the least bit of care.

Variegated Crotons the size of trees

The three islands that made up the prison are heavily forested with palm trees, and the beaches rocky. It is unimaginable how a community could thrive when the sole purpose of their life was to imprison others. Perhaps a few flowers helped.

Cruise Ships, Sailing Adventure, Hotel available

There is a hotel there now, some catamarans for sailing, but I don’t think I’ll be going back.

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