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Haiti Her Journey From Then To Now


On January 12, 2010, the earth shuddered beneath Haiti, ferociously shaking walls not fortified to withstand the violent onslaught until they cried for mercy and begrudgingly swallowed over 230,000 people in a mess of blood, dust, flesh, soot, bones and massive pieces of rubble. A stronger earthquake of the same type hit California in 1989, leaving a comparatively minuscule 63 causalities. What accounts for the difference? In a word: wealth. Ironically, during colonial times, Haiti was once the most profitable of all the European colonies; producing twice the amount of wealth for France than the American colonies did for Britain on a landscape that is comparable to the size of Maryland. How did the once rich and fertile land of Haiti, develop into the ‘poorest country in the Western Hemisphere’?

When slavery was practiced in Haiti, slaves outnumbered colonists by factors of 10 to one. The favored strategy for control? Extreme measures of brutal cruelty and unfeeling inhumanity. These measures proved ineffective, and Haiti became the only independent nation established as a result of a successful slave revolt. In 1825, France demanded Haiti pay an indemnity of 150 million francs, the equivalent of 21.7 billion today for the lost profits accumulated over ten years of insurgence. To put this number in perspective, France sold the Louisiana purchase to the US for a mere 60 million francs in 1803, doubling the US territories.· Haiti made the final payment on the indemnity in 1947.

There are physical ways to oppress a people, and there are the more insidious methods of economic oppression. Poverty, of course, does not travel alone, with her comes her close companions: disease, crime, abuse, corruption and exploitation. Then the rest of the world points a finger and says “they are doing it to themselves.” I can only imagine the prosperity that Haiti would enjoy if the 21 billion francs had been spent on building the country’s resources, educational system and industry. Perhaps they would have had the resources to fortify their buildings with strategic quake-resistant technology, as California did, and saved hundreds of thousands of human lives. One year later, only 5% of the rubble has been cleared, the other 95% acts as a graveyard for the bodies of mothers, fathers, children, professors, students, artists, humanitarians and the hapless few who may have lost their way in the world. The overwhelming amounts of rubble curtails any rebuilding efforts.

It remains: Haiti still needs our help. It is said that you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. The history of Haiti may help us to better understand what stands inthe way of healing and recovery for this resilient nation. There are numerous organizations that are still working to rebuild Haiti. Make your donations today.

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