Also called Le bagne
Saint Laurent du Maroni, at the time of the French colonialist occupation, had developed around 3 poles:
- Transportation camp
- Administrative district (Petit Paris)
- Ex-convict quarter
Such a beautiful place, witness to History, of which stories have been made.
Many of us know the story of a bagnard (convict) named Papillon.
A famous movie was adapted from his book, casting Steve Mcqueen and Dustin Hoffman.
In fact, this story is very falsely autobiographical and the author rather mixed stories of several guys, though he was himself a convict.
The guards used to make themselves carried, up to 15 km from the camp, on this cart pushed on rails by convicts considered recalcitrant.
When you know French Guiana’s climate, you all the more understand the horror of that treatment.
Quartier des libérés
Before their release, after very long sentences, the convicts had to stay for a while in the quartier des libérés (soon-released convicts).
After what they would be moved (“free”) to the village of Saint Laurent du Maroni with 100 Francs or 200 Fr of that time.
A released convict could choose a woman among the group of convict women. These ones were hosted by the nuns and that day, all were prepared and exhibited for this purpose.
Our guide told that very often the 100 Fr (or 200) were spent (drunk) in local rum, and after a while the happy convicts would find themselves deprived.
They could eventually find ungrateful odd jobs, but unfortunately most were back in prison for various crimes, sometimes just in order to return.
It was rather sad to hear these tales of shattered lives.
Not speaking of the most hardened criminals, one can imagine destroyed, lost men who had perhaps been given the illusion of a second chance.
Without getting overly political, it seems that this is still the image of the prison environment; Times have changed, of course, but the news are sometimes similar.
The 80 room
You can see this room in the photos opposite.
In this room, up to 80 men were crammed into inhumane conditions.
They were chained, not fed, deprived of water and hygiene.
The executioner was a recruited convict. He lived apart from other inmates.
For each severed head, the administration paid him 100 Fr.
If I remember correctly there hadn’t been so many executioners, it was a job where you could make a career.
On my opinion, these stones are very beautiful, these remains have a lot of charm.
That’s surely because nature has regained its rights there, and the place has fallen into ruin.
It’s perhaps also the stories, the romances around these places that make them a little magical.
But of course the reality is that Horror was the daily bread.
“I Am Not a Number. I Am a Free Man!”