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Some sites on Haiti

Photography, view from the sky, of the island of Ayiti : click



1. History



1.1. Before 1492

At the time of its discovery by Europeans the island whom share the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic had been populated by amerindians for more than 3 000 years. The last amerindians, Taïnos and the Caribbean came from the Amazonian areas and had occupied gradually all the islands of the West Indies. Their civilization was based primarily on agriculture and fishing. The rich nature of the island ensured a soft and peaceful life to them.

1.2. From discovery to the independence

1.2.1. Christopher Colombus

After more than two months of navigation, the expedition of Christopher Colombus landed, on October 12, 1492, an island of the current archipelago of the Bahamas which the Indians named Guahahini. Believing itself off the chinese coasts, Christopher Colombus decided to put the course towards the South. He would have continued three days towards west, he discovered Florida : the continent !

He sailed along the east coast of Cuba and at the beginning of December, seeing a green valley on a large island it named it Valparaiso (the valley of the paradise), it is currently the haitian city of Port-de-Paix.

Finally, he unloaded on the island a few days later a little more eastward. The amerindians taught him that the island is called Tohio, Quisqueya or Ayiti. He named it Isla española —Spanish island— or Hispagnola.

At the time of his two other voyages Christopher Colombus continued the discovery of the West Indies but he always thought of being off China, in Formosa.

With his death, he did not know that he had discovered a new continent.



1.2.2. The colonization

The flattering comments that Christopher Colombus made of the island and the few fragments of gold discovered in Hispagnola convinced the queen, Isabel of Castilla, of the great economic interest which the crown could withdraw with the colonization of the island.

Hardly 50 years later the some 3 millions of amerindians which lived onthe island before the arrival of europeans had all disappeared following disease, of massacre or the work forced in the mines.

To compensate for the indigenous loss of labour, one imported blacks from Africa. Being afraid to propagate the Islamic religion, queen Isabel imposed the importation of blacks christianized born in Spain.

Pushed by the growing cupidity and needs, the slave traders made unload tens of thousands of black slaves coldly captured on the coasts of Western Africa. The very hard living conditions of the slaves in the mines and the plantations pushed some of them to flee in the forests which still covered the island.

These slaves in escape accepted the name of maroon negros. The chronicles announce considerable revolts of slaves but all were repressed severly. The mines of gold had run out quickly on Hispagnola and the Spanish crown ignored the colony little by little. The Spanish colonists turned to the smugglers to run out their goods. Irritated by this trade the authorities of the island carried out a forced regrouping of the colonists around the Santo-Domingo capital.

The Western part of the island was abandoned, which left free field to the freebooters to establish permanent bases in particular on the island of the Tortoise in the North-West of Hispagnola. The bovines and the pigs introduced as of the second voyage of Christopher Colombus were multiplied. The buccaneers —of boucan, Indian word for a fire— benefitted from it to develop a leather and meat trade which the flibustiers were going to sell in Europe.

Benefitting from the presence of French buccaneers, France took possession of the Western part of the island into 1697. At the beginning of the french revolution, the colony counted 500 000 blacks for 3 000 whites.

In 1791, supported by the ideas of the revolution and the voodoo the slaves led per Toussaint Louverture raised and massacred the french colonists.

Spanish brought their assistance to insurgent but, when in 1794 the french government abolished the slavery, the Toussaint Louverture's army turned against them.

In 1795 the whole island was under french domination. After his seizure of power, Napoleon Ith worried about the autonomy whose the colony, under the government of Toussaint Louverture, profited from. He sent in 1802 a forwarding of 1 500 soldiers under the command of the General Leclerc who captured Toussaint Louverture and exiled him in France where he died in a wet and cold dungeon.

Howhever under the leading of the generals of Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Christophe, the former slaves drove out French and proclaimed on January 1, 1804 the independence of the Western part of the island. The new nation taken the old indian name of the island and became the Republic of Haiti.

The Eastern part remained some time under French domination fell down to the hands of Spanish with the help of Great-Britain then in war with Napoleon.

In 1821 it became in its independent turn under the name of Dominican Republic. In 1822, it was invaded by the army of Haiti and remained under this domination until 1844.













1.3. From the independence to nowdays

Dessalines which was crowned emperor was assassinated two years after the independence. Haiti was divided into two part. In the North, the kingdom of Christophe, in the South, the republic led by president P?tion.

In 1820, the republic was again unified and one saw following one another of many dictators reaching the capacity following putsch or of revolution.

In 1915, following the assassination of the president in place, the American troops unloaded in Haiti. The American occupation which will last until 1933 will make an economic development without a real political stability.

At the start of American the takeovers by force multiplied until the end of the Second World War which saw reaching the capacity a former doctor and ethnologist, Fran?ois╩Duvalier.

Known under the pseudonym of "Papa Doc", Duvalier ensured his capacity by repression and the terror which its henchmen made reign, the "Tonton macoute".

At his death, in 1971, his son Jean-Claude succeeded to him. He was known under the name of "Baby Doc" but its reign ended in 1986 with a new putsch.

Again, Haiti was subjected to a succession of putsch and assassinations which despite emerged on the election of the Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 7, 1991. Regarded as democratic by the foreign observers this election is disputed by a part of the army which reversed the first elected president of the Republic of Haiti, 7╩months only after its accession with the capacity.

Actually, the government directed by the General Cedras is qualified by the haitian opposition and by the "friends of Haiti" (U.S.A., Canada, France, Venezuela) like "macouto-putschist" and the methods of Duvalier seem to be given to the style of the day. Terror and repression reign in all the country and especially with Port-au-Prince.

To counter the putschists the "friends of Haiti" with the agreement of U.N.O. and of the elected president, the Father Aristide, impose a wicked embargo which starves the population and benefits the smugglers from all nationalities.

The embargo, which prohibits the fuel imports, forces Haiti to live without electricity of day like night and serves as a pretext for the traders to multiply by three, four even six times the prices of the basic food products.

Thus, fortunes are built and bellies are emptied.

Puerto-Plata, march 1994

The Vévés

The colonists being wary of the "benevolence" of the church towards the black slaves they neglected to inform them in the catholic religion. In the slave ships, priests and wizards who knew ritual African were present. In spite of prohibitions, the blacks often practised ceremonies, the night in the forests, stand apart of the plantations.


The haitian flag
Little time before the independence, Dessaline decided to give a flag to the black fighters. It took a french flag and tore off the white of the center and brought closer the blue and the red. It extirpated symbolically the white of the ground of Haiti. Then president P?tion reversed the color to put blue above the red.


The buccaneers had the practice to consume goats by spitting them of the beard to the tail. The english flibustiers deformed the expression in barbecue. Thus it is necessary to pronounce it with english╩pronontiation : "barbekiou".

This word comes from the word "boucan", an indian word indicating a fire which was used for the buccaneers to smoke the meat from bovines and pigs.


• Archer Evry, Le Vaudou, Art ? Fête ? Religion ? Magie ? Symptôme ou Thérapeutique ?, Conférence oct. 1987, G.A.P.E.R.P. (Groupe Autonome Pluridisciplinaire d’Études et de Recherche en Psychopatholoie, Lille, 1989.

• Bitter Maurice, Haïti, Petite planète, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1970.

• Chanez Pierre-Olivier, Le vaudou, Enquête aux pays des zombis, Éditions de Bressac, Paris, 1997.

• Contes d’Haïti, textes traduits par Louise Tessonneau, Fleuve et Flamme, Conseil international de la langue française, Paris, 1980.

• Cornevin Robert, Haïti, Que sais-je ?, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1993.

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• Hubron Laënnec, Les mystères du vaudou, Découvertes Gallimard, Paris, 1993.

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• Planson Claude, Vaudou, un initié parle…, L’aventure mystérieuse, J’ai lu, Jean Dullis Éditeur, Paris, 1974.

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• Tramblay Johanne, Mères, pouvoir et santé en Haïti, Éditions Karthala, Paris, 1995.