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Haiti: 1 Year Later

A lot can happen in one year. For instance, in one year a baby takes its first steps and its first teeth begins to sprout.

Similarly, in Haiti, a lot has happened in one year, but not for the better. One year later after the January 12th earthquake killed an estimated 250,000 and left 1 million Haitians living in tent cities, cholera has been allegedly introduced to the country by the UN’s Nepalese troops to have killed an estimated 3,300 and affected another 120,000. One year later and more than half of the international dollars pledged for Haiti’s rebuilding has yet to be delivered supposedly because much of the rubble left from the earthquake’s aftermath is still unmoved, and the rebuilding can’t start until the debris is removed. One year later and political instability seems to be like a disease crippling the country, and what’s supposed to be the country’s efforts towards electing the next leader of the country is turning to be a circus of elections violence and reported corruption. One year later and the country’s former dictator, Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, has unexpectedly returned to the country after being in exile for 25 years.

One year later, one thing is for sure: all eyes are still on Haiti and the cameras haven’t left as was predicted, but mainly because the Haiti story just keeps getting even more juicy. But what I wish the cameras would show is the other 90% of the country, because Port au Prince is just the capital and not the entire country. What the cameras would see is that life goes on in Haiti, and that while 1 million are living in tent cities, the other 9 million is living life as they knew it pre-January 12, 2010.

What the real story would reveal is that while all the hoopla has been on Duvalier’s mysterious return to Haiti since Sunday night (January 16th), the people are calling for a return of Haiti’s first Democratically elected President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted in a U.S.-orchestrated coup in 2004 and forced into exile in South Africa, even though such ‘kidnapping’ has always been denied by the U.S.

On March 1, 2004, US Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), along with Aristide family friend Randall Robinson, reported Aristide had told them that he had been forced to resign and had been abducted from the country by the United States and that he had been held hostage by an armed military guard (

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York expressed similar words, saying “As a matter of fact, he was very apprehensive for his life. They made it clear that he had to go now or he would be killed.” (

A 2005 Wikileaks cable documents the US government “insistence that all efforts must be made to keep Aristide from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process.”

Needless to say, everything that has ever happened with Haiti has always been strategic regardless of who the current puppet master is. Likewise, it’s very strategic (and suspicious) that Baby Doc would return at such a time especially with Haiti’s impeding elections and would even be allowed to return back to Haitiby the international community. In the same way, Haiti’s progress post-earthquake is also very strategic, and what awaits the other side of the curtain once some type of rebuilding is actually completed- that’s also pretty strategic.


Looking at Haiti through Historical Glasses


“Ayiti Cheri” (or Haiti My Dear) is bleeding from devastation of a massive 7.0 earthquake that rocked the island on January 12, 2010.

While the words- “the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere”- continue to echo throughout the media, we never get to see the side of Haiti that is full of a rich culture and a history of leading other nations to freedom.

Many are simply unaware of Haiti’s historical context and contribution to the Americas, and despite the fact that much of our black history is often buried and never told, we are so much more connected to Haiti than we know. The history and journey of Haiti can never be summed up in just a few paragraphs, but a brief recollection of Haiti’s connection to America will go far to summarize Haiti’s plight.


How Haiti Came to Be

Haiti shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic and is the first independent nation in Latin America, the first independent black-led nation in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained as part of a successful slave rebellion.

First occupied by the indigenous Taino Indians before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the French colonized the land importing enslaved Africans to Haiti in 1517 and using enslaved Africans to make it the richest French colony in the New World.

Toussaint L’Ouverture, a former slave and leader in the slave revolt, along with Jean-Jacques Dessalines rose up against the French, defeated their troops in a slave revolt, and declared the independence of Haiti on January 1, 1804.

Haiti agreed to make reparations to French slaveholders in 1825 in the amount of 150 million francs, reduced in 1838 to 60 million francs, in exchange for French recognition of its independence and to achieve freedom from French aggression. This bankrupted the Haitian treasury and mortgaged Haiti’s future to the French banks, permanently affecting Haiti’s ability to be prosperous.

Haiti’s Connection to the Americas

Haiti’s slave revolt against the French led to the Louisiana Purchase. When Napoleon Bonaparte and his French army was faced with an uprising in Haiti and failed to re-conquer and reestablish slavery there, he was forced to abandon his plans to rebuild France’s New World empire. As a result, the U.S. paid $15 million ($213 million in present day figures) to acquire the 14 state Louisiana territory. Bonaparte later said “This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride.”

• In 1779, about 750 volunteer Haitian slaves fought alongside colonial troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah in the American Revolutionary War in Savannah, GA.

Jean-Baptiste Pointe du Sable, a Haitian born to slaves in Haiti, was the first known non-indigenous settler in Chicago in the 1770’s and is credited with being the founder of Chicago.

• Haiti’s fight for independence left Haiti diplomatically isolated by 1806 for fear of a slave revolt by American slaves and ultimately forced the hand of Thomas Jefferson to end the U.S. slave trade in 1808.

• In 1815 Simon Bolivar, the South American political leader who was instrumental in Latin America’s struggle for independence from Spain, received military and financial assistance from Haiti on the condition that Bolivar free any enslaved people he encountered in his fight for South American independence. As a result, Bolivar was able to liberate Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama and Peru.

L’union Fait La Force- Strength Through Unity

Further Reading

Detailed history can be found at
Haitian leaders in the fight for independence
Haitian revolution


About Fabiola Fleuranvil

As a first generation Haitian-American born in America to Haitian parents, I had all these negative images of what Haiti was based on the stories told by the media. It was not until my first and only trip to Haiti in July 2007 to bury my maternal grandmother that I learned that Haiti was so much more than what the images showed. This trip was the absolute best experience in my life albeit a humbling one, and I really got to see Haiti for what it truly was- so much culture, natural beauty, a village mentality where everyone is family and takes care of one another, and a fighting spirit of people who never give up and never complain. My family in Haiti has been impacted and my parents have lost cousins and family that I will never meet, but at least they have family in America to help them rebuild.

All of my African-American brothers and sisters are all just one or 2 ships shy from being Haitian. Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean was usually the first stop during the Transatlantic Slave Trade before we landed in America. Some of us ended up staying in Haiti and the rest of us were shipped to America, and that is the only thing that separates us. We just ended up on a different ship, but came from the same place.