Friday, September 21, 2012

Citadelle Laferrière

Citadelle Laferrière

The hilltop fortress of  King Henri I, built at the time of his rule in 1811 as a citadel housing 10,000 soldiers.  

Henri was one was one of four key generals to liberate Haiti from the French during the Haitian Revolution.
Portrait of H Christophe

Haiti Citadelle Louis Mercier Video

The Citadelle Laferrière or, Citadelle Henri Christophe, is a large mountaintop fortress located in northern Haiti, approximately 17 miles (27 km) south of the city of Cap-Haïtien and five miles (8 km) uphill from the town of Milot.
It is the largest fortress in the Americas and was designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site in 1982—along with the nearby Sans-Souci Palace.

The massive stone structure was built by up to 20,000 workers between 1805 and 1820 as part of a system of fortifications designed to keep the newly-independent nation of Haiti safe from French incursions. The Citadel was built several miles inland, and atop the 3,000 ft (910 m) Bonnet a L’Eveque mountain, to deter attacks and to provide a lookout into the nearby valleys. Cap-Haïtien and the adjoining Atlantic Ocean are visible from the roof of the fortress. Anecdotally, it is possible to sight the eastern coast of Cuba, some 90 miles (140 km) to the west, on clear days.

The Haitians outfitted the fortress with 365 cannon of varying size. Enormous stockpiles of cannonballs still sit in pyramidal stacks at the base of the fortress walls. Since its construction, the fortress has withstood numerous earthquakes, though a French attack never came.

Henri Christophe initially commissioned the fortress in 1805. At the time, Christophe was a general in the Haitian army and chief administrator of the country's northern regions. In 1806, along with co-conspirator Alexandre Pétion, Christophe launched a coup against Haiti's emperor, Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Dessalines's death led to a power struggle between Christophe and Pétion, which ended with Haiti divided into northern and southern compartments, with the north under Christophe's presidency by 1807. He declared himself king in 1811.
The Citadel was part of a system of fortifications that included Fort Jacques and Fort Alexandre, built on the mountains overlooking Port-au-Prince. Dessalines ordered those forts built in 1805 to protect the new nation against French attacks.
In the event of an invasion, Christophe planned to have his military burn the valuable crops and food stocks along the coast, then retreat to the fortress, setting ambushes along the sole mountain path leading to the Citadel.

Christophe suffered a stroke in 1820, and some of his troops mutinied. Shortly afterwards, he committed suicide, according to legend, by shooting himself with a silver bullet. Loyal followers covered his body in quicklime and entombed it in one of the Citadel's interior courtyards to prevent others from mutilating the corpse.
The walls of the fortress itself rise up 130 feet (40 m) from the mountaintop, and the entire complex, including cannonball stocks, yet excluding the surrounding grounds, covers an area of 108,000 square feet (10,000 m2). The large foundation stones of the fortress were laid directly into the stone of the mountaintop and fastened using a mortar mixture which included quicklime, molasses, and the blood of local cows and goats.

Large cisterns and storehouses in the fortress's interior were designed to store enough food and water for 5,000 defenders for up to one year. The fortress included palace quarters for the king and his family, in the event that they needed to take refuge within its walls. Other facilities included dungeons, bathing quarters, and bakery ovens. The Citadel's appearance from the trail leading up to its base has been likened to the prow of a great stone ship, jutting out from the mountainside. The structure is angular, and assumes different geometric forms based on the viewer's orientation. Though most of the fortress has no roof as such (the interior top is a latticework of stone walkways), some slanted portions are adorned with bright red tiles. The fortress has been repaired and refurbished several times since its construction, including in the 1980s with help from UNESCO and the World Monuments Fund, though little of it has been replaced, and its design remains the same.

Visitors are encouraged to rent a horse for the uphill trek. The first portion of the seven-mile (11 km) trail is navigable by 4WD vehicle. The entire seven-mile-trail starting in Milot, almost completely uphill, can be walked by experienced hikers who carry plenty of water. Most of the interior of the Citadel fortress itself is accessible to visitors, who may also climb the numerous staircases to the fortress's roof, which is free of guardrails. On a clear day, the city of Cap Haitien and the Atlantic Ocean can be seen to the north.
Citadelle_Laferrière_sign sm

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Citadelle enfants

Monday, September 17, 2012

Age of Empire & Royalty III - When Haiti was Ruled by an Emperor

When Haiti was Ruled by an Emperor
Faustin I

The Last Emperor of Haiti
Faustin Soulouque was actually one of the last Haitian head of states to have been born a slave. He originated from the city of Petit Goave, and was one of the fighting soldiers of the slave uprising of 1791 and of the Haitian Revolution of 1804. When president Jean-Baptiste Riché died, historians maintain that Soulouque became the favorite of the Haitian elite, to take over because he seemed to be (at least in appearance) a knucklehead who could be easily controlled, and shortly before the Spring of 1842 he was made president.
Seven years later, he was crowned Faustin I. According to several history books that detail that period of Haiti’s history though, it was more like an order (as in President Faustin threatened another one of his infamous mulatto elite massacres, and legislators fearing for their lives, came equipped with emperor crowning swag to appease him). Volumes 5 and 6 of John Saunders and Westland Marston’s The National magazine (published in 1859) stated the kingdom consisted of 4 princes, 59 dukes, 90 earls, 30 lady knights (but no male knights), 250 barons, and 2 marchionesses.
William Chambers, a traveling historian from the 19th Century would in 1860 write in Volume 31 of his famous journal about the emperor:
“The new president was a man of about sixty or sixty-two, but who did not look above forty, was remarkable for his timidity, but timidity of a particular kind. He had an unconquerable fear of magic and of ridicule; and to this weakness must be attributed to this bloodshed to which he has waded from the presidential chair to the imperial throne.”
According to the book A Continent Of Islands: Searching For The Caribbean Destiny by Mark Kurlansky: “He organized a private militia, the Zinglins, and proceeded to arrest, kill, and burn out anyone who opposed him, especially mulattoes.” 

Legba, Gangan, Dantor's food

 The song sends a series of warnings to Soulouque.
The song warns him that Legba is behind him, is watching him.  And it calls on several important people to pass along the message that he should stop: Brother Paul, a local leader and Saint Elange, one of the most powerful houngan at the time. Saint Elange, the song notes, holds the key to the tradition that Soulouque was trying to destroy.
This part of the song is a mainly a warning.
It was Dantor that invoked not Ogou.

The Emperor and his forces, fearing that Spain was going to gain control of the other side of Hispaniola, also tried to regain control of the Dominican Republic, three times during his tenure, but failed all three times. During his reign, the United States took over Navassa Island, an island that was part of Haiti where they had discovered phosphate deposits, and initially Emperor Faustin rallied his forces to fight this, but retreated because France and Spain were backing his opponent for the island.

This is what Haiti was looking like on the day of Faustin the First’s glorious coronation. It is apparent that the cream of Haitian society was there that day in their best get-ups. The well-decorated carriages lined up the streets. 
Oh, what elegance! What beauty.

And the actual coronation…

These two men Prince Mainville Joseph and Prince Jean Joseph were nobles in Emperor Faustin’s royal court.

All hail the queen Adélina Lévêque Soulouque, or as she was known to her subjects. Her Imperial Empress Adélina, Empress of Haiti. This is a portrait of her, as she looked in 1853.

 Here is Adélina in full royal regalia. 

This gorgeous beauty is Olive, Faustin the 1st’s daughter, and princess of the royal court (or shall we say adoptive daughter? She was actually his wife’s daughter from a previous relationship). With her glorious pearls, and stylish hat, she looks rather chic. She was known as the Her Serene Highness, until she became the wife of Count Lubin of Pétionville, and upgraded to the title of Countess. Emperor Faustin and the Empress had a daughter Clélia, who was barely a teen at the time of his coronation.

Historians have maintained that Soulouque was a running private joke among the elite Haitians. Here is a newspaper comic at the time, poking fun at him (this one is from Europe, however, as the Haitian newspapers—including Le Moniteur, one of Haiti’s foremost newspapers at the time—were heavily censored by the emperor, would never dare to do such a thing). Some history books about Haiti have hinted that the Emperor was probably illiterate. 

The Emperor and a couple of his ministers in 1859. The Emperor is the man being handed the paper (and who knows, perhaps a proclamation).

This elegant gentleman was none other than Faustin the First’s brother Jean Joseph, the Duke of Port-de-Paix. This portrait was obviously done years before the one above, in which he is side by side with Prince Mainville Joseph, for in this one here, he looks younger, more debonair. He must have made a lot of heart palpitate in his day. Oh, the handsomeness! And is that a pierced left ear I see? Paran Ayisyen nou wè?

Fabre Géffrard, the Duke of Tabara (seen above), rose against the Emperor, causing him to run for cover along with his family in Kingston, Jamaica (where ironically Géffrard himself would seek refuge when he too was disposed later) aboard the British boat Melbourne. According to the Saunders and Marston account cited above, upon arriving in Kingston, the emperor had to face other Haitians in Kingston, who had gone to Jamaica to flee him, and was threatened with violence by them.
Some records claim that he died in Kingston, Jamaica. But, according to Haitian historian Jacques Nicolas Léger in his book Haiti, her History and her Detractors, Emperor Faustin actually died in Petit-Goave in August of 1867, having had returned to Haiti at some point.

A portrait of Soulouque done in 1914, decades after his death. I do try to be as color-blind as possible, but clearly there is a huge contrast between the sketch above done decades after his death, and the portrait done during his lifetime. This one makes him look lighter (or it could be the lighting from the painter’s brush strokes!). But in 1914, Haiti was going through an internal identity crisis, so that kind of explains it all. Let’s not forget that around 1914, men like Jean Price-Mars were trying to emphasize the ties to Africa, while others were wanting to tighten the bonds with Europe and France, this photo bearing blatant evidence of the latter.

Image Credit: The Schomberg Research Center, NY

Friday, September 14, 2012

Palace in Haiti Being Razed

Palace in Haiti, Damaged by Quake
Is Being Razed
Crowds have partied outside its majestic gates.
 Armed mobs have marched on it.
Desperate presidents have fled it.

The National Palace in Port-au-Prince, which has become a symbol of the stalled recovery, shown a week after an earthquake hit Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010.

But after more than 90 tumultuous years of history, the National Palace in Haiti, which was heavily damaged by the January 2010 earthquake, ended up as little more than a potent symbol of the stalled recovery. It is now being hauled away.
The J/P Haitian Relief Organization, a charity run by the actor Sean Penn that has done extensive removal of rubble in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, has begun razing it. Piece by shattered piece, the 92-year-old, E-shaped, gleaming white French Renaissance palace that contrasted with Haiti’s misery will be ripped apart over the coming months and carted off.
This week, dozens of spectators looked on as buckled walls supporting its listing signature dome, which once proudly flew the Haitian flag, came down in a cloud of dust.
While some commentators have lamented losing a historical treasure — and expressed some annoyance at the fact that an American-run nongovernmental organization was doing the work — many spectators seemed glad to see an eyesore go.
“It was very painful to see the palace after the quake,” said Luc Fednan, 45, as he watched the construction crews at work. 
“It is like one of your children died, and now it’s time to do the funeral,” he said. “That’s the case of the palace.”

Images of the shattered palace, housing the residence and official offices of the president and his staff, made vividly clear the force of the magnitude 7.0 quake on Jan. 12, 2010. The president at the time, René Préval, was at his private residence at the time, but several people were killed there, as well as at other heavily damaged or destroyed government buildings.
Sensitive papers and materials were eventually removed, and government business is now conducted in trailers and smaller buildings constructed around the palace.
When President Michel Martelly took office in May 2011, he said that reconstructing the palace, even if it were possible, would not be a priority, given the hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in tents. At least 350,000 people remain without homes. 
But presidential aides said he came to believe that progress toward recovery was being made, with rubble removal, new building projects and more children returning to school, and that the world was stuck on the image of the palace’s collapse. 
Government-commissioned studies declared the palace a lost cause, said Damian Merlo, an adviser to Mr. Martelly. In a meeting with Mr. Penn to discuss other matters, the issue of the palace came up and Mr. Penn offered to demolish it, Mr. Merlo said.
He said he did not know how much it would have cost the government to do the work.
The government has not decided how or when it will build a new palace. Some pieces of the old one will be preserved, perhaps to be used in a museum or memorial, officials said, but most of the debris will go toward needed landfill in a nearby slum and the rest to a city dump.
“It was important to remove because it was a symbol of the tragedy,” Mr. Merlo said. “As the president implements policies and things improve, the damaged palace is a reminder of what happened.”
Benjamin Krause, country director for the J/P Haitian Relief Organization, portrayed the project as a mostly Haitian endeavor, bowing to the sensitivities of a country that threw off French colonial domination but has wrestled with foreign intervention, and the level and form of international aid to accept, ever since.
He said all but 15 or 20 of the organization’s 330 workers were Haitian, as were the vast majority of laborers on the project. He said the charity was well suited for the work because it filled about 50 dump trucks per day as part of its rubble removal efforts.
In some ways it is just another tumultuous chapter for the palace. At least four different structures have stood on those grounds. One was destroyed in a revolt in 1869, another was bombed in an attack in 1912 in which the president was killed.
The current palace was designed by a Haitian architect but completed by American naval engineers in 1920 during a United States occupation.
“There is a somewhat painful fact that this bookends its history,” said Laurent Dubois, a French professor at Duke University who studies Haitian history. “It points directly to the strong and ongoing role of the U.S. in essentially shaping the possibility of Haitian sovereignty. It was completed during a U.S. occupation and this end emerged because Sean Penn’s organization is involved in its demolition.”
Haitians hope for something better.
Jean François, 36, watching the building come down, burst with pride.
“I’ve heard from different people that it was the third most beautiful palace in the world,” he said.

“The country needs a National Palace, it is a priority,” he added. “When foreigners come to visit, the first question they will ask is where is your National Palace?”
André Paultre contributed reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 



A collapsed cupola of the 92-year-old National Palace crashing during its demolition on Wednesday. 
United Nations peacekeepers at Haiti's National Palace. 

 Haiti earthquake of 2010

Martha Jean-Claude

Martha Jean-Claude

When it comes to legendary Haitian singers, very few singers are in the rank of Martha Jean-Claude. Born on March 21, 1919 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Martha’s golden voice was as memorable as her career, which Haitian musical historians say begun in the late 1930s and early 40s, with young Martha singing at musical spectacles at Haiti’s famed Rex Theatre and at other informal gatherings.
CLICK HERE to listen to her sing...

Martha, who became known for her skills at creating original compositions, was an astute writer as well, penning a play entitled “Avrinette”in 1952 that Haitian President Paul Eugene Magloire found so disrespectful to his government that he had her imprisoned. Jean-Claude would later state that she gave birth to her child two days after her release. It became clear to her that Haiti would not be a safe place to remain, and she left it for Cuba, where her husband Victor Marabal (spelled Marabel in some sources).

She married the Cuban journalist though some scholars do not seem to agree on when. Some say, it was prior to her forced exile to Cuba in 1952, others say it was in 1947, prior to her exile (they reportedly had met in Venezuela). What she has said in interviews, however, was that when she went into exile, she was pregnant with her first child and refers to Marabal as her husband. So naturally, we’ll go with her version.

Her exile to Cuba would last for nearly three consecutive decades, as she did not return to Haiti until February 1986, when Jean-Claude Duvalier left Haiti for exile in France. That year, Jean-Claude had one of the most awaited concerts of her career, as she performed a comeback concerts in front of thousands in Port-au-Prince. She wouldn’t perform at a concert of this magnitude for another ten years, during which she accompanied Celia Cruz and Emerante de Pradines for a spectacular show. Over the years, she and Cruz had performed together and even recorded music together.
Jean-Claude actually traveled a great deal around the world, including Puerto Rico, Angola, Montreal, and Mexico where she spent a year performing in the late 1950s. Among the most famous songs in her repertoire was “Jack Solèy”, a tribute to Jacques Stephen Alexis, a writer who disappeared without a trace, and presumably was murdered in 1961. Others included “Tolalito”, a frolicking folk song that made the best of Jean-Claude’s throaty voice. In 1993, she lent her voice to the soundtrack of Raoul Peck’s film L’Homme Sur Les Quais. That year, she also released the LP Soy mujer de dos islas.

For her musical accomplishments that started with her recording of the album Canciones de Haiti, and for her work as fearless activist, Jean-Claude was presented with Haiti’s highest honor by Haiti’s then-president Rene Preval in the 1990s.

Stricken with diabetes, her performances became rare, although at one point in the early 1990s, she performed with her kids Richard and Sandra, who had followed her musical footsteps to form the roots band Mackandal (named after a legendary slave). Among with Lumane Casimir, Claudette of the duo Claudette et Ti Pierre, Jean-Claude became a musical model for many Haitian female singers and at least one singer, Carole Demesmin, a legend in her own right, has cited Martha as a great influence on her musical career.
Jean-Claude died on November 14, 2001 in Cuba, at the age of 82, leaving behind her four children Magdaluna, Richard, Sandra, and Linda. Her legacy included a rich collection of much-appreciated music, which included a treasury of children’s songs Martha canta a los niños, a film (Simparele, filmed in 1974), and a bio-doc produced by her son Richard aptly titled Fanm Dezil. The Martha Jean-Claude Foundation, created in her honor while she was still alive, has the mission of spreading Haitian culture, and keeping Martha’s discography on the radar of new generations.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Voodoo Music

Mon Konpe Gede
Voodoo Music