Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
The hotel was in the process of construction in 1974, when the Portuguese finally surrendered Mozambique to FRELIMO. The war of independence had been going on since 1964, but the fighting never reached Maputo, then called Lourenço Marques. The fact that someone was even thinking about building a five-star hotel 10 years into a war says a lot. They must have really believed Mozambique would remain part of Portugal forever.
When FRELIMO entered the city, there was a lot of fear among the Portuguese population. The Portuguese were told they could stay in Mozambique and help build a new country, but they would have to make concessions. For example, they would have to become Mozambicans and give up their Portuguese citizenship and passports. Some stayed, many left.
When the Portuguese left, many expressed their resentment over the end of colonialism by destroying property. They were told by FRELIMO they could not leave the country with more the 20 kilos of possessions. Of the things they could never have taken with them anyway, cattle, mansions, crops, many were slaughtered, burned and destroyed so that no one else could benefit from them.
This is how the Four Seasons ended up with concrete down its elevator shafts and plumbing. The owners ensured that no one would ever be able to use the building for anything that would benefit FRELIMO or Mozambicans. And so from 1974 to 2007 the empty, incomplete hotel stood as an gray reminder of colonialism's ugly end in the country. Resentment, curses, indignation over losing what was never really theirs. I hope it all dissapeared in the dust.
Most in Mozambique woke up early to watch the implosion. They were happy to see it go.