Haiti, a Just Journey: 17 Days and Counting

Categories: Justice

A blog by Dan Moen

My journey to Haiti is only 17 days away.  I have spent the last six weeks preparing for the trip.  Most of my energy and time has been learning the history of Haiti and what the UUSC is doing in Haiti.

So what did I know about Haiti before I started reading.  Haiti was a country in the Caribbean – but not one of the countries you would travel too for your week dream vacation.   I remembered the country had an earthquake recently that killed a lot of people and that our church had sent medical supplies including tents to help with the immediate Humanitarian disaster.  I also remembered hearing about a series of presidents in Haiti who were cruel and corrupt.  ?    I wasn’t well informed.

I completed the assigned readings and for those interested they are:

Teutonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake

Haiti: The Aftershocks of History

 Krik! Krak!, a book of short stories written by a Haitian writer, Edwidge Danticaty

 Katelyn Leader called Exploring the significance of Urban to Rural Relocation.

History

  • The French established Haiti as a colony in the late 17th century.
  • Haiti is the western half of an island that is occupied by the Dominican Republic (previously a Spanish Colony) to the East.
  • “Haiti gained its independence in 1804 after building and sustaining a slave revolution that defeated Spanish, English, and French forces.
  • Haiti victory is perceived by many nations as a threat to social stability (i.e., racial order)
  • As freed slaves sought to create new lives independent of the plantation, the domestic sphere transitioned away from an export-driven economy to a peasant society structured by individual smallholdings “.
  • France (Early 1800’s) refused to recognize Haiti unless the country agreed to pay $160 million in reparation to the plantation owner-they had to buy back their own country. This debt was not repaid entirely until the early 20th Century.
  • During the American occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, US interests dominated political and economic activity, centralized in Port-au-Prince.   Sections of Haiti’s best land were confiscated for US sponsors, dispossessing peasants and pushing them to find work at factories or sugar plantations (primarily American-owned) at very low wages.
  • Over 200 yrs. of repressive dictatorships including François Duvalier, “Papa Doc” (1957-1971), and Jean-Claude Duvalier, “Baby Doc” (1971-1986). Focused on attracting international aid and foreign investment, both Duvaliers manipulated the international community by appealing to an anti-Communist position; the United States tolerated, even bolstered, their brutal and corrupt regimes. To attract foreign investment, the Duvaliers reduced taxes, banned trade unions, preserved “starvation” wages, and removed restrictions on repatriating profits.
  • “In the 1980s and 1990s, Haiti was compelled by the US to liberalize its economy by reducing import tariffs, privatizing public utilities and state assets, and reorienting domestic production in favor of cash crops.. By the end of the 1980s, the value of US agricultural exports to Haiti had tripled, and the Haitian market was flooded by American subsidized rice.    Currently, the Haitian tariff on rice imports is only three percent whereas the average rate in the Caribbean is 25 percent.”   Regarding Haiti’s rice production Bill Clinton says the following….” I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti (2010).  I have learned this is called Neo-colonialism.
  • Another impediment is natural disasters.    Here is a list natural disasters in just the last ten years: 2004 -Floods kill 2,600, 2004 -Tropical Storm Jeanne kills 1,900, 2007 -Tropical Storm Noel triggers mudslides, floods , 2008 -Three hurricanes and tropical storm kill 800, 2010 -Quake hits Port-au-Prince, killing over 200,000 thousand plus 300,000 in causalities and in 2010-11 a Cholera outbreak kills nearly 8,000.

Reading about the history has been emotionally very difficult.  To read over and over again about the horrible things happening for 210 yrs. is very overwhelming.  I asked how can this people still be so hopeful after they have been through so much?

I was helped with this overwhelmed feeling by the Haitian Proverb:  Dye mon, gen mon or Beyond the Mountain is Another Mountain. A Haitian Proverb of both patience and the recognition of how difficult life is in Haiti .

Leave a Reply