Haiti: The Pride of the Caribbean
Haiti: The Pride of the Caribbean. I was planning on doing this eventually but with Haitian Heritage Month in mind, it just made sense for me to make things happen. With this feature, I would like to bring up some of the facts surrounding the country as well as my personal experiences as well.
While the majority of information you find here can be seen just about anywhere, I decided to cite the good folks over at BBC News to provide a respectable account on the overview regarding this nation. For more information, feel free to check it out here: BBC News – Haiti.
Before we get started, here are some facts on Haiti: Its full name is the ‘Republic of Haiti’ with the nation’s population being a little over ten million that cover roughly 10,714 sq miles that make up the country. The nation’s capital is Port-au-Prince, and its major languages are Creole and French. Depending on the source, the national religion is cited as Christianity – more specifically Catholicism –and the life expectancy is 61 years for men, and 64 years for women. Keeping these facts in mind, let’s get this feature underway.
Behind the Flag
I want to start things off by talking about the flag and the meaning behind it. According to World Flags 101, the background behind the Haitian Flag is a truly meaningful one. The flag of Haiti consists of two equal sized horizontal stripes – the top one is blue and the bottom one is red. In the center of the Haitian flag is the country’s coat of arms, placed on a white square.
The coat of arms consists of a palmette surrounded by the liberty cap, and under the palms a trophy with the inscription: ‘L’Union Fait la Force‘, which means ‘In union, there is strength‘. It wouldn’t be a surprise to most knowing that the Haitian flag is an adaptation of the French national flag – The blue stripe represents the union of Black Haitians and Mulatto Haitians, who are represented by the red stripe.
A couple of things to take from this is how the history of Haiti’s foundations are preserved in its very ensign. Haiti was in fact the world’s first black-led republic and, the first independent Caribbean state when it threw off French colonial control and slavery in a series of wars in the early 19th century. While the French played a major role in shaping Haiti’s culture for years to come, the nation itself still stands as a unique presence in its own right.
I would like to take this opportunity to touch on the inscription that was mentioned earlier. Breaking things down, ‘L’Union Fait la Force (In union, there is strength)‘ embodies the people of Haiti so well. Just think about it: As good as we may be in individual areas, things really come full circle once we work alongside others. When tragedy after tragedy has befallen Haiti throughout the years, her people have risen time and time again with a timeless sense of freedom, equality, and brotherhood – which literally serves as the nation’s motto.
Brothers in Arms
As mentioned earlier, the French play a huge part in Haitian culture. A common misconception when it comes to the Haitian language is that it is just that – Haitian. For the record, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. The official language of the Haitian people is Creole, not Haitian. That makes as much sense for me to say that I speak American and not English. Creole, though, can best be described as being heavily rooted with French dialect with notable West African influences as well.
In the years that followed the Haitian Revolution, the Republic of Haiti found an ally in the French. Painting a bit of a picture here, the French colonized and controlled Haiti until the Haitian Revolution led to Haiti’s independence in 1804. It is said that France refused to acknowledge Haiti as an independent nation until 1825.
With that in mind, the relationship between Haitians and the French can be best compared to the relationship between the United States and Great Britain. While there was history between the two parties, as time pressed on it remained just that – history. We’ve all learned from what happened in the past, and we use that to keep moving forward.
The Pride of the Caribbean
Part of what makes Haiti the great nation it is today is its rich culture. The Culture of Haiti itself is a testament to how people can rise through any and every circumstance presented to them. Echoing what was mentioned about the Haitian Language, Haiti finds influences in the French in many ways but its culture has deep African roots that add to its diversity. Haitian Art range anywhere from paintings, wood carvings, stained glass, and just about everything in between.
Another notable example of Haiti’s appreciation for its culture is through Her celebratory Carnivals. The Haitian Carnival is a celebration that is held every year leading to Mardi Gras. This Carnival, also known as ‘Haitian Defile Kanaval’, is the the main annual Mardi Gras carnival held in the nation’s capital. It should be noted that the annual Kanaval celebrations coincide with other Mardi Gras carnivals all around the world.
Last but not least, I would like to explain why I am not fully exploring the greatness that is Haitian Cuisine. To say that it is without a doubt the closest thing to Heaven on Earth would do no justice. There are no words in the dictionary – Haitian or otherwise – that can full describe how much immaculate Haitian Cuisine can be when properly prepared. I didn’t bother listing certain dishes or recipes, nor did I see any reason in featuring any photos, paintings, murals, etc. of Haitian Cuisine because it is just one of those things that you have to experience for yourself.
Trouble in Paradise
In recent years, Haiti was brought to the public eye when the Earthquakes changed everything. By the end of January 2010, at least fifty aftershocks were recorded with the death toll being estimated at over 200,000. The international response was phenomenal: people from all around the world had their full focus on efforts towards bettering a fallen Nation. Still, I feel it should be worth noting that Haiti is really no better than it was three years ago. I mean, just because it is not a top story on CNN or a trending topic on Twitter, it doesn’t mean things were resolved just like that.
Not to look past the efforts that were made between then and now or anything, but the fact reminds that Haiti was in pretty bad condition even before the earthquakes. One may say that it was a blessing in disguise that the earthquakes happened seeing how they drew attention to a nation that was in desperate need of a helping hand in their time of need. Still, I want to make it clear that Haiti is not the sort of country that would just sit around helpless on cloudy days. No if there was ever a shining example of resilient nation of people, you wouldn’t have to look any further than the People of Haiti.
I would like to close this out by making note of the what I mentioned earlier: With this feature, I would like to bring up some of the facts surrounding the country as well as my personal experiences as well. Like with any other facet of Life, experiences are unique to each individual.
What I’ve done here was bring up what I know the best way I know how. On a more responsible note, I feel as though I should let you, the reader, know that the best way to learn more about Haiti is to do it first hand. Read about our history, learn about our culture, and see that natural disasters that Earthquakes or man-made travesties like slavery were not enough to keep us from moving forward.