Raphael Babet - Député maire

The botanist Joseph Hubert, himself a native to the island, founded Saint-Joseph in 1785, in order to accommodate the white settlers financially ruined by the coffee crisis. He proposed growing spices there: they were an appropriate crop for this territory difficult of access, since they were “easily transportable on the heads of men”.

Saint-Joseph remained an isolated village for a long time and experienced difficulties of development. Under the influence of the dynamic Mayor Adolphe Bourgine, this market town, along with all the other island towns on the island, benefited from the success of sugar cane at the beginning of the nineteenth century (until in the 1860’s). The town also experienced an architectural boom: the wooden church of the town centre was replaced by an imposing stone building. The public facilities were developed and the factories enjoyed industrial success. At the same time, the road infrastructures considerably improved and an important canal system for collecting water was built, the remainders of which can still be seen today. This was the first wave of modernization that Saint-Joseph benefited from.

However, with the sugar cane crisis, the town, along with the rest of the island, slipped into a long period of lethargy. It was not until the end of the Second World War and the election of Raphaël Babet as Mayor in 1947 that Saint-Joseph had a new lease of life. The new Mayor was a keen builder and visionary and he greatly reinforced the public infrastructures. Under Raphaël Babet (1947-1957), Saint-Joseph stood out as a modern town in the South : the first agricultural college of Reunion Island, the hospital (the only autonomous establishment on the island at the time) and the Town Hall, are all built in a resolutely modern style for the period.

Saint-Joseph, which had only 1300 inhabitants in 1794, now has a population estimated at over 34.000.



Three topics are proposed for the next European Rural University, which will take place on 7th, 8th and 9th September 2010 in Saint-Joseph :

- Europe at the service of the rural community and its inhabitants,
- Rural professions for women,
- Culture : between heritage and innovation.

16 November 2009