Saturday, June 25, 2011

Relections on Haiti

I give props to the slaves of Haiti for going after their independence and getting it. It’s pretty awesome that such a tiny nation was the site of the only successful slave revolution in the world. But did they really get what they were after? Was freedom all they really wanted or did they want to remain the prosperous, wealthy colony that they were? Our book says that Saint Domingue, what Haiti was formerly called, was widely regarded as the richest colony in the world and produced some 40 percent of the world’s sugar and perhaps half of its coffee. I was honestly shocked when I read that. I’ve been to Haiti and seen firsthand the utter poverty in which many of the Haitians live, especially now. It’s hard for me to picture that tiny nation as ever being hugely prosperous. What were the plantations like in the 1700’s? Did they resemble American plantations or were they more rustic like the Haiti of today?

This family struggles to support itself and feed its children. They press sugar cane to make molasses for exportation. It will be used to make rum in the Dominican Republic and then taxed highly as an import back to Haiti. This is where they live…

and this …

is how they press the cane.

Haitians still produce small amounts of food for their own needs with a little bit left to sell at the local market – like this …

but many, many families cannot afford to feed their children. Some of them do get fed though, thanks to nutrition centers set up near some towns. Many of the centers, like the ones in Pignon, are run by local missionaries and feed hundreds of children each week.

These boys are sharing one serving so they can take leftovers back to their families.

But the nation as a whole is incredibly poor and has been – largely as a result of the slave revolution of 1791.

On another note, I found it interesting that revolutions have caused many nations to essentially flip-flop. The United States, originally colonies of “leftover” Englishmen, became wealthy, industrialized, and stable after its revolution. Many Latin American countries, initially wealthy and sophisticated colonies, became underdeveloped, unstable, and dependent on foreign investment after their revolutions. The same goes for Haiti. It was once a global, economic power and now it’s the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Would they be where they are today if they hadn’t had such a brutal and bitter revolution?

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