"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The blog and flags at 100

New Caledonia's flag
"Where is that?" I asked myself when a reader from another country I hadn't seen before showed up on my stats for this blog. As a geography nut, I knew it had to be in the Pacific, but that had to be it. It is ironic I think, that when Coffee with Clark hits the 100 mark--having readers from 100 different countries, that it be one I can't immediately locate.
New Caledonia...an archipelago 1,210 miles east of Australia is a "special collectivity" (territory) of France, including the main island of Grande Terre. Its flag is relatively new, because until 2010 the only flag was the French tricolor. Now it is one of only a few territories in the world with two official national flags (sorta like Texas). That's the year the French approved the Kanak flag, the flag of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation front from 1980.
The symbols--blue for the sky and ocean; red for the blood shed by the Kanaks for independence, socialism and unity; green for the land and their ancestors; the yellow disc for the sun; the black symbol, an arrow adorning Kanak roofs piercing tutut shells.
New Caledonia was discovered by James Cook in 1774 who named it New Caledonia because part of the coast reminded him of Scotland--my thought is that he must have been very homesick. Many of the inhabitants were victims of "blackbirding," slavery to work in sugar cane plantations in Fiji and Queensland. English missionaries arrived in 1840, and in 1849 the crew of an American ship was killed and eaten by inhabitants.
The French took over in 1853 and made it a penal colony, discovered nickel in the 1860s, and began mining, importing labor, and diseases that killed many of the local people. During WWII it supported Free France and force the Vichy governor to leave, and the capital Noumea became a naval base from which the US Navy was able to win the Battle of the Coral Sea.
After the war there was the usual colonial tension, including rebellions and bloodshed through the 1980s.  But in 1998, agreements were reached for gradual transfer of power to local government. That may be more than you want to know, but it's interesting to me how much history is in small, remote places, and that at least one person there, among a population of about 250,000, has hit on this blog.

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