P1040911It is nowadays hard to believe that the abandoned thermal station of Absalon used to be a flourishing thermal bath nested in the tropical rain forest in Martinique where well-born used to go in order to expel their parasites and cure their long term diseases.

How to acclimate to the humid, hot and tropical weather conditions was the question that the colonizers had to solve in order to survive in the Caribbean. The tropical climate was charged with being responsible of many pains and sorrows, from sexual disorder to humor variation. As soon as 1836, the spring water of Martinique was declared « salutary against digestive diseases » by the » Commission des eaux minérales de l’académie de médecine ». The Absalon thermal station was opened in 1905 [1].

Absalon wasn’t the only thermal water area of Martinique. Besides the numerous springs of Montagne Pelée and the other springs of Piton du Carbet such as the popular Moutte springs (famous for its blood reviving properties), several springs were also present in Lamentin and Diamant. Each of them had their particular medical properties from rheumatism cure to skin disease treatment. Absalon was particularly known for its efficiency against anemia, rheumatism, skin diseases and even, even syphilis [2].

Besides being a water area Absalon surrounds is also a rich, dense and typical rain forest. More recently in our history, in a Martinique occupied by the Vichy government, André Breton, Lam, Aimé Cesaire and Masson found the inspiration for common artistic work in a walk in the tropical forest of Absalon [3] [4]. The painting « The Jungle » was painted by Lam few years after this visit.

Pictures of the old thermal station are available on the website http://www.patrimoines-martinique.org/ see for example here

[1] Eric T. Jennings. Curing the Colonizers: Hydrotherapy, Climatology, and French Colonial Spas. Edition illustrated. Duke University Press, 2006. ISBN 082233822X, 9780822338222. 271 pages.

[2] CI. Mouret. Synthèse des connaissances sur les sources thermales de la Martinique. Ministère de l’industrie. Rapport BRGM n°79. ANT8. Avril 1979. http://infoterre.brgm.fr/rapports/79-ANT-008.pdf 

[3] LISTEN the really good radio program « Il existe un endroit  » on FranceInter about the Lam-Picasso-Cesaire relationship: here

[4] http://www.fondation-clement.org/martinique/274_cesaire-lam-picasso-les-rencontres: find more about the art exposion gathering Picasso, Cesaire and Lam work.