.::Those Taking the Journey::.


Ayiti... Haiti...

In this blog, I'll discuss a variety of topics on Haiti, including the most recent tragedy. This blog is out of my love for my people, and out of my love for Ayiti/Haiti. It is for the pain of Haiti, which is my pain... That is my family in Haiti. That is your family. Those are OUR children who are suffering... We are connected. We are one. I am writing this out of love, pain, anger, outrage and hurt. I cannot believe some of the things that I've seen and heard since this tragedy struck mon frères et ma sœurs of Ayiti (my brothers and my sisters of Haiti)... I've long known of the pain and plight of Ayiti... She's long cried out... Are you only now hearing? Yet, despite all of Her tragedies, pains & hardships, Ayiti is filled with beautiful, persevering, strong, spiritual people. People who smile when we think there's nothing to smile about. People who hope when there appears to be none... Such beautiful spirits...

Haiti is one of the poorest, most underdeveloped, neglected, and densely populated countries in the Western Hemisphere. 80% of Haitians live in poverty. Haiti is one half of the island. The Republic of Dominica, the other. Haiti has 9 million residents, with 2 million of that being residents of Port-au-Prince, which is the capital of Haiti. Many (or most) stay in shanty like houses.

Haiti has a history of tragedy, pain, poverty and hardship. Just last year, there was a flood that left over 800 dead, due to all of the deforestation that frequently causes flooding and mudslides.

In 1923, over 60% of Haiti's land was forested; by 2006, less than 5% was forested. The most direct effect of deforestation is soil erosion. An estimated 15,000 acres (61 km2) of topsoil are washed away each year, with erosion also damaging other productive infrastructure such as dams, irrigation systems, roads, and coastal marine ecosystems. Soil erosion also lowers the productivity of the land, worsens droughts, and eventually leads to desertification, all of which increase the pressure on the remaining land and trees. There have been many efforts to reforest Haiti, but with charcoal being the primary source of fuel, it has not been enough. Sugar was once a major cash crop for Haiti, but with the competitive prices from other countries, that has been diminished. Because of the political instability, lack of infrastructure, and the abject poverty, tourist agencies direct their clients elsewhere. As each year goes by, the amount of land that is suitable for growing crops is shrinking. Haiti is considered as one of the most food-insecure nations of the world. Over the last 20 years there has been a rapid migration to the capital city of Port Au Prince. Lured by the prospect of employment, hundreds of thousands of people have left their villages in the country to seek a new life in the city. Many have become squatters, setting up meager shelters in gullies, ditches and landfill sights. With little in the way of pure water or sanitation, these shanty towns are death traps of sickness and death. The streams that flow down from the mountains into Port Au Prince are often the only source of water available. It is here that the people not only bathe and wash their clothes, but also where they collect water for drinking and cooking. Contaminated with the refuse of man and animals, the water is filled with disease-causing agents. Many of the child deaths in Haiti are simply a result of drinking the tainted water. Haiti has one of the highest infant and child mortality rates in the world. Out of every 1000 children born in Haiti, almost 200 will never see their fifth birthday. Most of these deaths are due to preventable diseases and simple malnutrition, both in the child and the mother. Many of the children who do survive, are mentally and physically handicapped for the rest of thier life, because of these factors. Haiti has long needed help. Since its independence, it has never been given a fair chance... And that is due to it gaining its independence. What European countries (past & present) or European dominated countries would want to help the first black republic?

The Recent Tragedy: The 7.0-magnitude earthquake has left between 30,000-100,000 dead. This number has not yet been confirmed. Recent numbers say as many as 500,000. Some say 50,000. It has left Haiti in total chaos & destruction. The earthquake struck shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday on January 12th, centered about 10 miles (15 kilometers) southwest of Port-au-Prince, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. It could be felt strongly in eastern Cuba, more than 200 miles away. The earthquake's power matched that of several nuclear bombs, said Roger Searle, a professor of geophysics in the Earth Sciences Department at Durham University in England. He said the combination of its magnitude and geographical shallowness made it particularly dangerous. About 3 million people -- one-third of Haiti's population -- were affected by the quake, the Red Cross estimated. About 10 million people felt shaking from the earthquake, including 2 million who felt severe trembling, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated.
None of the three aid centers run by Doctors Without Borders is operable and the organization is focusing on re-establishing surgical capacity so it can deal with the crushed limbs and head wounds it is seeing. The earthquake has flattened the president's palace, the cathedral, hospitals, schools, the main prison and whole neighborhoods. For miles, whole blocks are totally leveled.
A religious conference was under way when the quake occurred. One witness said, "There were priests and nuns in the street. ... Everywhere, you heard cries from beneath the rubble."
Shocked survivors wandered about in a daze, some wailing the names of loved ones, praying or calling for help. Others with injuries fast growing into infections sat by the roadside, waiting for doctors who were not sure to come.
Search-and-rescue helicopters buzzed over the bodies of partially clothed victims who lay face-down in mounds of rubble and twisted steel. Everywhere, there was panic, urgency, pleas for help.
"Thousands of people poured out into the streets, crying, carrying bloody bodies, looking for anyone who could help them," Bob Poff, divisional director of disaster services in Haiti for the Salvation Army, said in a posting on the agency's Web site.
NAOMI KLEIN: But as I write about in The Shock Doctrine, crises are often used now as the pretext for pushing through policies that you cannot push through under times of stability. Countries in periods of extreme crisis are desperate for any kind of aid, any kind of money, and are not in a position to negotiate fairly the terms of that exchange.
We need to make sure that the aid that goes to Haiti is, one, grants, not loans. This is absolutely crucial. This is an already heavily indebted country. This is a disaster that, as Amy said, on the one hand is nature, is, you know, an earthquake; on the other hand is the creation, is worsened by the poverty that our governments have been so complicit in deepening. Crises—natural disasters are so much worse in countries like Haiti, because you have soil erosion because the poverty means people are building in very, very precarious ways, so houses just slide down because they are built in places where they shouldn’t be built. All of this is interconnected. But we have to be absolutely clear that this tragedy, which is part natural, part unnatural, must, under no circumstances, be used to, one, further indebt Haiti, and, two, to push through unpopular corporatist policies in the interests of our corporations. And this is not a conspiracy theory. They have done it again and again.
Barack Obama has, reportedly, said "This will be a great investment", when speaking on aiding Haiti. It appears that everyone is looking to get something out of the devastated Haiti. Capitalism at its finest. This "aide" is coming at a price... A price that Ayiti cannot afford... But the people aren't thinking of future debts. They're thinking of loved ones lost and missing... They're thinking of water, food... SURVIVAL.
Whether looking to indebt Haiti further, or looking to further indoctrinate the people with christianity, everyone is there and "helping" for their own selfish reasons (with the exception of very few, such as Wyclef Jean).
Haiti is in need and has been for quite some time, but no one has helped because they don't see "what's in it" for them. Let's not allow them to capitalize off of Haiti's pain. We can't allow that to happen. They are looking to put Haiti into such a deep debt, she'll never recover. They are looking to bleed her dry of any and all things they deem as "valuable". Now is the time for us to donate time, money, supplies, or whatever we have to give. Any little bit matters. Now is the time. Those are OUR people.
Here are some links, if you wish to help:
In Haiti? Text 4636  (International:447624802524)  with your location and need. Report emergencies and missing persons. http://haiti.ushahidi.com
Help drop Haiti's debt, PLEASE: http://one.org/us/actnow/drophaitiandebt/signed.html?id=-4473819-QDvfdsx
Donate NOW: http://www.yele.org/ (Wyclef Jean's site)
Americans trying to locate family members in Haiti to telephone the State Department at 888-407-4747.
Online search for missing people: http://www.cnn.com/haitimissing
UNICEF: https://secure.unicefusa.org/site/Donation2?df_id=6680&6680.donation=form1
Before I go, I'd like to give a history of Haiti...

A Brief History of Ayiti: Ayiti is the ancient name of what is now known as Haiti. Ayiti, or Haiti, was the first to free itself from the bonds of slavery and establish a republic. Haiti was inhabited by the Tainos long before Columbus and his people ever discovered it. They lived throughout the greater islands of Cuba, Haiti and Puerto Rico and had migrated from South America centuries before Columbus. The Tainos are said to have been gentle, calm and very hospitable. Those in the island of Haiti were known as having been the most advanced of the Tainos, having developed a flourishing civilization way before Columbus's voyage to the Americas.
Both the French and the Spanish used slave labor to build their "empires" in Haiti. Even the Catholic churches owned slaves. The entire economic structure of St. Domingue rested on the backs of a population denied any participation in the colony's prosperity.
In 1492, Columbus & the Spanish occupied the island of Haiti, and renamed it Española (written in English as Hispaniola) meaning "little Spain". They exploited its gold mines and reduced the Tainos to slavery. According to early Spanish historian observers, there were as many as 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 Tainos on the island in 1492. Around fifty years after the arrival of Columbus in the Americas, most of the Tainos in Haiti were wiped out through the hardship of their condition as slaves, organized massacres or diseases they contracted from the Spaniards. The genocide of the Tainos in Haiti was one of the most brutal and the annihilation committed on the Indians of the New World by Columbus and his men, one of the most complete in History. Later on, Bartolomew Las Casas, a Spanish priest, revolted against the massacre of the Indians and demanded the cessation of the injustices committed every day against these people in Hispaniola. He advocated for the importation of Blacks from Africa to work on the mines as a mean of ending Indian slavery in the island. Thus, in 1503, the first blacks landed on the island. These blacks, however, came from Spain and not from Africa (?). Years later, the Spanish would leave Hispaniola for the richest lands of South America where the gold mines were still fresh and rich of the precious metal.
The Spaniards established a Spanish settlement, Navidad, on the north coast of the island of Hispaniola in what is now Haiti. That settlement was destroyed by the natives but Columbus on a later voyage establiched Isabela farther to the east on the north coast.The Spanish colony, called Santo Domingo, became a staging point for later expeditions and provided supplies for the conquistadores in Mexico and elsewhere. The first administrator for Santo Domingo was a brother of Christopher Columbus. Spaniards were given estates on the island and the right to compel the labor of the natives. The native population very nearly disappeared during the first half of the 16th century as a result of epidemics and enslavement. As a consequence the disappearance of the native population the population of Hispaniola, even in the Hispanic Dominican Republic, is not mestizo, as is the case in much of Latin America.
After the conquest of Mexico and the establishment of New Spain, Santo Domingo lost is status as an administrative center and its economy lacked dynamism. By the end of the 16th century Spain, was losing control of the seas to French, Dutch and British forces. Pirates preyed upon weak colonies such as those of Santo Domingo.
In 1625, the first French adventurers landed on the island of La Tortue (Tortuga Island) in the northern part of what is today the Republic of Haiti. Later, they began exploring and settling on the main land to eventually displace the Spanish from the western part of the Hispaniola through warfare. Tired of their attack, and also because of the results of war in Europe, Spain signed with France the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, ceding to the latter the western part of the island. The French renamed their possession Sainte-Dominigue, a translation of Santo Domingo, the Spanish denomination of the eastern part of the island. The French then developed Sainte-Dominigue into the richest colony in the world. The prosperity of the French colony was based upon slavery. To build this wealth, France imported thousands of slaves from Africa who were submitted to virtually the same abuses and mistreatment imposed on the Indians, only on a larger scale.  By the time of the French Revolution the population of slaves in Haiti was somewhere between 400 and 700 thousand. Most were slaves imported from Africa, predominantly from the west central african region of Dahoumey. The hard labor of the plantations along with the epidemics endemic to the tropics kept the mortality rate high, continuing importation of slaves from Africa. The origin of the slaves in Dahoumey left its effect on the culture of Haiti, particularly in the religion known as Vodou or Voodoo.  Thus, the wealth of Sainte-Dominigue was achieved on the work of slaves and only a minority of the island’s population was enjoying this wealth: the whites. The importation of the blacks in large numbers would change the demographic face of Sainte-Dominigue.

During the 18th century the French colony grew and prospered. By the time of the French Revolution Haiti was producing more than half of all the coffee produced in the world and Haiti was producing 40 percent of the sugar for France and Britain and accounted for 40 percent of France's foreign trade at a time when France was the dominant economy of Europe.
The century of domination of white slave holders over the African women produced a subpopulation of mulattoes. The mulattoes, being offspring of the white elite, were given special privileges that led to mulattoes accumulating land and some wealth. The mulattoes definitely were below the white elite in social status, but they were definitely above the pure African slaves.
During the 18th century, communities of escaped slaves developed in the mountain wildernesses. These people were called maroons from the Spanish word cimaron for wild. These maroon communities carried out wars against the slave plantations. One war in 1751-1757 resulted in the deaths of six thousand. The French were able to put down these wars but not able to wipe out the threat from the maroons. The maroons acquired military experience for this period of guerrilla war. Mulattoes of the cities acquired military experience while serving in the French units suppressing the warfare of the maroons. Some mulattoes gained military experience fighting on the side of the revolutionaries in the battle for independence of the British colonies (the American Revolution). The mulattoes had a self-interest in preserving slavery in the colony but they wanted their legal and social status made equal to that of the whites.
St Domingue's population was divided into three main groups, the whites or "Blancs", the "Affranchis", a group composed of free blacks and mulattoes and the great masses of the slaves. By 1789, the colony’s population comprised between 400,000 and 700,000 blacks, compared to 25,000 whites and 40,000 mulattoes. A great number of mulattoes are offspring of the rape of slave mothers by colonists. They in turn adopted these children and provided them with the necessities of life. These children would sometimes inherit the wealth of their fathers and by the end of the 18th century, the mulattos would own around 25% of the colony’s plantations and wealth, while most of them went to France to get a higher education.
However, despite their wealth and their education, the mulattoes, because of their color, were considered inferior to the white by law and were discriminated against. They could not practice certain professions, wear European clothes, sit among the whites in church, among other things. Struggle would ensue between the Affranchis and the Whites throughout the 18th century with the former claiming civil and political equality with the latter who want to maintain the status quo. At the same time, the whites were demanding to France the right to participate in the running of the colony. They wanted to make of St Domingue, a country that would be autonomous from France. Both groups would voice their grievances at the time of the French revolution in 1789, which proclaimed the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
In the meantime, the slaves manifested their rejection of their condition through different forms of resistance. Some poisoned their masters; others killed their own children to save them from the hellish conditions of slavery. There were also other forms of protests like the collective suicides of the Ibos particularly.
The most successful and persistent form of the slaves' protest was the "maroonage" or the Maroons. Maroons consisted of slaves running away from the plantation to hide in the mountains of the island or in its forests. From their retreat, the maroons conducted raids on the plantations and often would come at night to poison or kill their masters. One of the most famous Haitian maroons was a man named François Mackandal. He was also a houngan, or voodoo priest, from Guinea. At night, he would attack the plantations, burning them and killing their owners. During his six-year rebellion, he and his followers poisoned and killed as many as 6000 whites. In 1758, however, the French finally caught him and publicly executed him on the public square of Cap Francais (today Cap Haitien).
In 1791, as the whites and the "Affranchis" continued on their war for greater participation in the running of the colony and for equality, the Blacks entered into a full-fledge rebellion that would ultimately result in the creation of the State of Haiti and the abolition of slavery in the land.
A man named Boukman, another houngan, organized on August 14, 1791, a meeting with the slaves in the mountains of the North. This meeting took the form of a Voodoo ceremony in the Bois Caiman in the northern mountains of the island. It was raining and the sky was raging with clouds; the slaves then started confessing their resentment of their condition. A woman started dancing languorously in the crowd, taken by the spirits of the loas. With a knife in her hand, she cut the throat of a pig and distributed the blood to all the participants of the meeting who swore to kill all the whites on the island. On August 22, 1791, the blacks of the North entered into a rebellion, killing all the whites they met and setting the plantations of the colony on fire. However, the French quickly captured the leader of the slaves, Boukman, and beheaded him, bringing the rebellion under control. Just like Mackandal, Boukman had managed to instill in the blacks the idea that he was invincible. Thus, the French exposed his head on Cap’s square to convince the slaves that their leader was really dead. However, the ideas of the revolution, the ideas of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, had already enflamed the mind of the slaves. The death of Boukman -- although it had temporarily stopped the rebellion of the North -- failed to restrain the rest of the blacks from revolting against their condition. The Revolution, that would give birth to the Republic of Haiti, was under way and nothing could stop it.
François-Dominique Toussaint L'ouverture
was the great leader who emerged out of the mass of the revolted. He proved to be a military genius and a formidable leader. He organized the masses of the slaves into an organized army. With political manipulation, and military campaigns, he would gain more and more notoriety in the colony. During the period of 1791, to 1800, Toussaint used the French, the Spaniards and the English against one another. He managed to eliminate all his enemies until he was the only power left in St Domingue (Haiti). By 1801, he was governing the whole island by himself and proclaimed himself governor of the colony. A constitution was soon drawn that same year declaring St Domingue an autonomous French possession where slavery was abolished.

Napoleon wary of Toussaint's great power in the colony sent 82,000 of his battle proven troops commanded by his own brother-in-law seconded by able generals, a fleet of warships, canons, munitions and dogs in order to bring St Domingue under control. Two years of war ended in a stalemate. However, the French treacherously arrested Toussaint Louverture during a meeting in June 1802. He was exiled to France and died in the Fort de Joux high in the cold Alpine mountains of Jura in April 1803. Toussaint though had left capable generals who could carry on the struggle. With the arrest of Toussaint, Dessalines emerged as the new leader of the Haitian Revolution, bringing it to its ultimate level. Other leaders of that period would be Alexandre Petion, François Capois named "La Mort", Henri Christophe, and Boironds Tonnerre.

Independent Haiti started with a devastated economy and infrastructure as well as the hostility of much of the rest of the world's rulers. The U.S. and Europe isolated Haiti. Soon it was an era of gunboat diplomacy, with Germany, France, England and the U.S. sending ships into Haitian waters to enforce their demands.
By 1914, when the U.S. starting maintaining ships in Haiti "almost without interruption," its navy had already sent warships at least 30 times since 1849, according to American military historians. From 1915 to 1934, the U.S. occupied Haiti.
After the Americans left, 12 years of repressive stability followed. Then a period marked by military coups culminated in the army's installing Dr. François Duvalier in 1957.
"Papa Doc," Haiti's "President for Life," and his son Jean-Claude (known as "Baby Doc") would rule Haiti until protests forced the latter dictator to flee in 1986. In 1982 a Canadian parliamentary committee had described their rule as a "kleptocracy."
The military took over and ruled Haiti, except for a few months, until 1990.

The Aristide era

Elections took place in December and Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a left-wing priest, won an overwhelming victory in the presidential vote, on the shoulders of the opposition movement against military rule. But after just seven months the military staged another bloody coup, and Aristide soon went into exile.
This coup met with strong international and popular opposition. Three years of contested power followed until Haiti was occupied by a multinational force that consisted almost entirely of U.S. troops. Aristide resumed his presidency in October 1994.
The next year, authority was transferred from the multinational force to the UN mission in Haiti, with significant Canadian involvement until it ended in 1996.
Aristide's term also ended in 1996 and his candidate then took over. Aristide was again elected president during a contentious vote in 2000. Through all this time, Haiti was marked by violence, instability, poverty and corruption.
Opposition to Aristide continued to grow. By early 2004, the opposition was in military control of a large part of Haiti. Aristide was forced from power in February; he said he was kidnapped by the U.S.
A multinational interim force with eventually 3,600 troops was formed. Canada again played a major role.
That year, floods in May and September claimed 5,000 Haitian lives. Others died in the continuing political violence.
In 2008, Haiti was once again devastated, this time by storms and hurricanes. At least 800 people died and a million were left homeless. A humanitarian crisis followed.
There's much more to be written about Haiti, but for now, I'll leave it here. I have alot of information on Haiti, the exploitation, the neglect, the history, etc, etc... But I've been wanting to post this blog since the 12th. So just know, it is not finished.

**info was found in from several sources, including things I remembered from past research, wikipedia, the Haitian bicentennial site, cnn, Naomi Klein, history cooperative, and a few others**

1 comment:

  1. Our hearts go out to the Haitians. Of historical interest -- You can see a clip of Toussaint's last moments in prison from the award-winning new short film "The Last Days of Toussaint L'Ouverture" at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2468184/ This film is the basis for a new feature (not with Danny Glover) that is in development.