Originally: In Haiti’s two centuries of independence, this little nation born of bloody revolt has known great turbulence and little peace
”You cannot deny it took a lot of guts, courage to pull off this revolution. We have to celebrate the Haitian revolution. In a way it was a phenomenon,” says Jocelyn McCalla, director of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights.
“But at the same time we recognize it, what we Haitians in particular have to move away from is this idea you build a country on the basis of slash-and-burn politics.”
Long before that revolution,
St. Dominigue was so rich that, in 1789, it supplied two-thirds of the overseas trade of
But instead of bowing down, Haitian slaves revolted — for 12 years — with former slaves as their leaders. Founding father Toussaint L’Ouverture, who died before independence in a French prison cell, remains an icon.
And with that,
The rest of the century and much of the next were politically tumultuous; between 1843 and 1915, only one of 22 leaders served his full term of office. Haitian society split along color lines between blacks and Haitians of mixed descent.
In 1957, François ”Papa Doc” Duvalier was elected president on a platform courting
Just before his death in 1971, Duvalier passed the mantle to his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc.”
The Duvalier dynasty collapsed in 1986. Jean-Claude and his luxury-loving wife Michle Bennett fled to
Following Duvalier’s ouster,
Seven months later, a military junta ousted Aristide. The new regime and its paramilitary soldiers killed and tortured thousands, the United Nations responded with an embargo, and South Florida received an influx of Haitian “boat people.”
”The country was really deteriorating. The ministries were not functioning, the gas was so expensive, and the food was starting to get expensive,” recalled Mousson Roux, a restaurant owner and Haitian music promoter at the time. “The coup was devastating. To me, it is what triggered the snowball of deterioration.”
Three years later, President Bill Clinton deployed 20,000 troops to
”When he first returned, he had a serious problem — how to reconcile his political base and [fulfill] what he promised to do vis-à-vis the economy,” says
There were concerns that Aristide would seek to extend his five-year term, but he relinquished power to handpicked — and popularly elected — successor René Préval.
The 2000 elections returned Aristide to power. Then his Fanmi Lavalas party swept a legislative vote that May, but the Organization of American States said the electoral council had to recalculate some Senate seats. The government refused, the opposition cried foul, and the international community blocked, and continues to withhold, millions of dollars in aid.
Today as under the Duvaliers, the one-time ”
Still, the island nation — or ”Haiti Cherie,” as in a popular song — remains defiantly resilient and proud.
Said Carol de Lynch, a West Little River-based Vodou priestess: “When you love your country so much, you blind yourself to the situation, even if it hurts you.”
Herald staff writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.