Diaspora

Haiti's misery well-documented | Editorial | oleantimesherald.com – Olean Times Herald

Partly cloudy this evening, then some snow showers after midnight. Low 16F. Winds SW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 60%. Snow accumulations less than one inch..
Partly cloudy this evening, then some snow showers after midnight. Low 16F. Winds SW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 60%. Snow accumulations less than one inch.
Updated: February 18, 2022 @ 6:01 pm

I read James McIntosh’s take on Haiti with great interest (”Olean Man says Haiti was in Desperate Need Before Quake,” Olean Times Herald, Jan. 17). Being a native Haitian, I know all too well what it’s like down there. Haiti’s “dilemma,” as it is known, started when its French colonizers were killed and Dessalines declared independence in 1804, or so he thought.
The Europeans were enraged at the impertinence of some former black slaves who declared themselves free and independent from their white oppressors. Haiti was ostracized and barred from participating in the dealings of established nations.
I must highlight the fact that the United States was only 12 years old as a nation and certainly fully involved in practicing slavery when Haiti became independent. As a result, the U.S. was just as furious as the Europeans. A blockade was put in place to control Haiti’s activities. The Haitians begged the U.S. to lift the embargo and help rebuild their ravaged country, but to no avail.
Around that time period, the French insisted on being compensated for loss of property. The popular currency at the time was the gold coin ducas. The Haitian government agreed to pay them what is today the equivalent of $1 billion dollars for their independence. It took them 100 years to pay the French.
The Haitians also had to convert to Catholicism and were not allowed to participate in any of the developments that modernized Europe and the U.S. Their only means of survival was agriculture.
The U.S. lifted the blockade after 20 years, but only with strings attached. Since the Haitians were not encouraged to unite so that they could truly be free, political infighting was commonplace. Because of this, President Woodrow Wilson decided to intervene by force. His excuse: the Haitian shenanigans were destabilizing for the Americas.
The American occupation was in place for 19 years, from 1915-34. After that period, puppet presidents were regular occurrences, with Washington’s best interests at heart, at the expense of the black former slaves who had fought so hard for a country of their own.
The era of despotism was put in place by the Duvaliers – namely Francois (“Papa Doc”) and his son, Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”) for a combined 29 years. The years 1957-86 put the finishing touches on a hole of disappointment, hopelessness and despair in which Haitians find themselves buried in, with no way out anytime soon.
(Mr. Laventure lives in Friendship.)
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