Pictures from Senegal

Wednesday, October 20

History of Mboro

The following is a brief history of my amazing town of Mboro. The historical information was compiled by the mayor’s office of my town for a website that has been under construction the entire time I’ve been here (does it really take that long?). I then translated it and used the byproduct for the Wiki-Travel website I’ve launched for English speaking tourists looking to explore my corner of Senegal. Naturally, I’ve added additional details here that the average tourist probably doesn’t or shouldn’t care about for the sake of giving those of you reading this a better feel for the town. Nonetheless, I recommend checking out said website upon completion of this story.

Though discovered by the then colonial Governor of Senegal, Pinet Laprade, in 1862, the community of Mboro was not formalized until 1936 when travelers, carrying goods from the then capital of Saint Louis to the port in Dakar, found need for a stopping point along the coast.

After land surveys were conducted by the French, a base for fruit and vegetable production was instituted in Mboro and many Senegalese were enticed to move to the coast from Mékhé, Tivaouane, and other surrounding towns. Anyone who made the move received a trunk, a mosquito net, a piece of land, and tools to plant seeds and begin their new lives. Since then, Mboro has been regarded as the premier source of fruits and vegetables, among cities along the northern coast. This coastal region known to as either the Grande Côte (Big Coast) or the Garden Belt because of the large produce output for domestic and export consumption.

In the late 1950’s, a new dynamic was added to the economy with the extraction and sale of minerals found in the rich soils. The first miners were Europeans, either Belgian or French, and they exported phosphate. The Senegalese government formally organized the mining industry nation-wide in 1985, with the creation of Industries Chimiques du Senegal (ICS), including the factories and fields of Mboro/ Darou Khoudass.

By this time sulfur and other fun items from the periodic table were added to the product list. However, the governmental management style was not conducive to the large scale success in store for the factory and the operations were bought by a group of Indian entrepreneurs, a number of drag lines restored and new products developed for export. Thanks to the technology wave of the 20th century the fields of Mboro became a virtual gold mine upon the realization that they were riddled with silicon.

The first neighborhoods of Mboro were formed by 1954. Included is the very unique gated neighborhood of Mbaye Mbaye, which today stands as a tribute to Western culture and the first factory managers that built it to include tennis courts, swimming pool, mini grocery store, and country club style dining hall. Eleven formal neighborhoods exist though the interiors of which are a little disorganized- as many houses are not numbered or share the same number as another home. Streets don’t have names, and directions are given either in terms of store landmarks or by sending a small child to accompany you.

The small town was once mixed into a pool with other surrounding villages to create a “rural community” governed by one man, El Hadji Ngalgou Ndiaye, from 1976 until 2002. This position was an appointment by people higher up the chain rather than a democratic election by the people. And from what I’m told, not all that much came out if it, save a figure head if anyone was ever asked of its existence. But in later years of his appointment, the town of Mboro was recognized as having a need for an independent mayor to govern our people specifically. Djiby Yade became the first official mayor in 2002. The stories vary but it is said that he did little to nothing beneficial for the town, though he did enjoy a comfortable lifestyle due to his elevated status.

A heated election took place following M. Yade’s term and a victorious Charlot Sene took office in the spring of 2009 as Mboro’s 2nd mayor in office. M. Sene is currently balancing a job at the mineral factory and with his appointment and platform containing a number of attractive improvement ideas. Among them are the drainage system for the lowest point in town, bathrooms in the market, new classrooms in each of the major schools, an organized waste management program, annexation into Mboro and creation of utility infrastructures for the beach front neighborhoods, and restructuring of the aforementioned disorganized neighborhoods.

Today a unique blend of Wolof, Pulaar and Sereer ethnicities call this oasis home. Catholics and Muslims live side by side in harmony sharing in each other’s holiday experiences; for a meal shared with a Catholic neighbor on Tabaski is returned in kind to the Muslims on Christmas. The statuesque small-scale cathedral on a side road of town is open to any and all seeking its services in either French or Wolof, and its various choir troops are amazing to listen to- be it during weekly practice or throughout mass. Meanwhile 3 large mosques decorate the other corners of town and are equally inviting with their calls to prier.

Revered for being flush with sea breezes and produce, Mboro is anything but your ordinary tourist destination. Tucked quietly by the coast, and a 30 minute ride from the national route, this is a must see sight for those in seek of a truly African experience. For more info visit http://wikitravel.org/en/Mboro.

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