Ask anyone about Haiti and they’ll most likely tell you a tale about poverty, tonton macoutes, and political instability.But if you care to delve more deeply into the heart of this unique and historic nation, you’ll be rewarded with a treasure trove of remarkable discoveries., Bicentennial: Haiti’s Gift to the Worldis filled with such findings.
The African Connection To begin with, no other country in the Caribbeean (or in the entire world for that matter) preservesmorefaithfully its connection to Africa.Elders in Haiti will tell you that upon death, their soul will return to “Ginen”, its African birthplace. So well preserved are Haiti’s African ties, that many families can trace their lineage to specific ethnic groups like the Ibo, Nago, Ewe, Kongo and so forth. Places in Haiti like Labadi, Lenbe, and Makaya are named forregions in Africa. Haiti’s rich oral traditions even preserve the names of African rulers who ruled in Ginen from as far back as the 13th Century. Some songs feature Shango, a ruler of the Oyo Empire in what is today Nigeria.Other songs praiseLa Reine Kongo,QueenNzinga, who fought against Portuguese occupation in the 16th Century. The spiritual tradition of honoring ancestors( lwas) seems to ensure continuity with the past. The Zonbi Allegory The greatest tragedy to befall the people of “Ginen” Africa is captured in the allegory of the Zonbi. It is through this tale of horror that Haitian storytellers have orally transmitted the ravaging details of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. A zonbi is one who is cought between life and death alluding to the fact that when a person was kidnapped in Africa he/she would never see anything familiar again. Such a fate is experienced only in death, yet one was alive.
TheBattle for Haiti While many know that the Spaniards tried to establishthe first Spanish colony in Haiti,fewer know thatSpanish forces evacuated the island in 1795, after failing to secure it for the slave trade.On their departure, the Spanish Crown supposedly unearthed and shipped Columbus’ remains back to Spain before cedingtheentire island to embattled France in the Treaty of Basel.Unable to recapture the island from Haitian forces, the French were defeated, and in 1804, Haiti went on to become the first modern state to uphold the universal rights of all people.
The Haitian Legacy Haiti’s gift ofabolishing slavery and upholding human rights has been embraced by the entire world. In recognition of this, the United Nations celebrates the end of slavery on August 23, the date marking the beginning of the Haitian Revolution.The challenge for Haiti today is to build upon this rich legacy.