Mauritius is a multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society. Its people descended from European, mostly French, settlers, (Franco-Mauritians), African slaves and creoles (Afro-Mauritians), Chinese traders (Sino-Mauritians) and Indian labourers (Indo-Mauritians).
Mauritius was uninhabited until 1638 when the Dutch first attempted to colonise the island. In 1715 the French took control of Mauritius, and during the 18th Century land grants were made to colonists, with slaves from Africa and Madagascar imported to work the plantations. The French first kidnapped Chinese from the island of Sumatra (Indonesia) in the 1740s, but by the 1780s thousands of voluntary migrants came from Guangzhou to Port Louis, where they formed a Chinatown. When slavery was abolished during British administration in the 19th Century, large numbers of indentured labourers were brought in from India.
The main ethnic groups do emphasise their ethnic roots. The Ministry for Culture and Arts promotes cultural activities and a better understanding of the different cultures in Mauritius. However, since 1982, ethnic identities are no longer recorded: the 1972 census was the last one to measure ethnicity. As far as religion is concerned, there are 52% Hindus, 28.3% Christians and 16.6% Muslims. Apart from western and Indian music, the national music is Sega, a tribal-based drumbeat based on African rhythms; the dance, by men and women, is popular.
English is generally accepted as the official language of Mauritius as it is the language of government administration, the courts, and the business sector. However, the dominant language in mass media, business dealings, and education is French. Mauritian Créole, based on French, is spoken by the majority of the population. It developed in the 18th Century as a pidgin by slaves, who spoke different languages, to communicate with each other and with their French masters. It evolved and became what is now considered the native language of the country. Créole is mostly used in informal settings and has no official written spelling.