Gary Pierre-Pierre: Haiti's struggles originate from its blood-soaked history

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[Garry Pierre-Pierre is the editor and publisher of Haitian Times, which he founded in 1999. The English language weekly serves New York's 500,000-strong Haitian community.]

Whenever someone has asked me what will it take to turn Haiti around, I have always warned them that my answer is meant to be sardonic. 'It's going to take a large natural disaster hitting Haiti,' I would say. 'In its aftermath, more than 200,000 will die and misery will be parceled out to all regardless of skin complexion or economic status.'...

The problem is rooted in our history, which is soaked in blood.

Haiti has always captured people's imagination. It has a fascinating history and its people are admired for their tenacity and their ability to survive despite the self-destructive tendencies of their leaders.

On January 1, 1804, Haiti it won its independence after a rag-tag army made up of former African slaves annihilated the French army under the leadership of General Napoleon. In doing so it became the second republic in the Americas, after the United States, a republic only in name since it was isolated from the international community with no trading partner for almost 80 years.

The nascent nation was expecting post-war assistance from Britain, France's bitter rival. Instead, European solidarity took precedence after the United States convinced Britain that it would not be in its best interests to allow a free black nation to succeed. They believed Haiti could inspire slaves in the American South to think that they too could be independent. That would have destabilized not only the United States, but the rest of the world. So Haiti found itself alone and isolated.

A succession of incompetent and corrupt leaders followed one after the other. In the process the Haitian people became cynical and lost confidence in the state. The Haitian psyche became centered around self-interest instead of the collective good. A rigid caste system developed in Haiti and the lighter-skinned people--who were mixed with French--lorded over the darker majority.

But this earthquake has leveled the playing field somewhat. Yet I know that people will always find a way to separate themselves. In Canada, the divide is through language. In Ireland, religion is the wedge. I simply hope that every Haitian will see the bright side of this calamity and that what brings them together is stronger than what divides them. It's time to construct an new beginning, not only physically, but mentally.

Read entire article at Haitian Times

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