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Pray for Haiti Part I

Pray for Haiti Part I


Professor Zaki Amir the invisibleman

Understanding Hiati today is to look to its past. Arawak Taino and Ciboney indigenous people were on the island called Quisqueya with a vibrant economy in the 15 century based on cassava farming, fishing and trade with their neighbors in gold jewelry pottery and other items they produced.

Historical records say that on December 6th, 1492, Christopher Columbus saw it and named it (The Spanish Island) and in just a few short decades the indigenous people were enslaved. The Taino and Ciboney became Spanish mining slaves for gold.

Hispaniola is the Anglicized name and contact with European diseases reduced the population to 30,000 in 1514 and as the 16 century came, they completely vanished.

Caribbean slaves were brought to the island and they died too. When the gold dried up, the Spanish left. In the middle of the 16th century French pirates took over on Tortue Island. French and British Buccaneers hid out there with permanent settlements coming into existence in 1665 when the French established Port de Paix which became the place for the first slave revolt in 1679.

Prosperity was the legacy of its rise with coffee, bananas, tobacco, and rice and caco, the raw source from the tree with cocoa developed from the beans that are finely roasted and turned into powder or milk as a drink or blended with sugar, milk, cocoa butter and cacao to make chocolate. Fishing and trading in hides and logwood in addition to dried sea-snail meat from the Caicos Islands helped it become a respected port that came under the influence of the French West Indies Corporation.

Colonies developed with the landowners importing about 5,000 slaves by the late 17oo’s. It was the treaty of Rijswik of 1697 that separated a third of Hispaniola from Spain to France becoming St. Dominique.

Cotton fueled growth and it became important to France as it received coffee, caco and indigo reaching the highest status of French colonies in the New World in 1780 with over 700 vessels visiting it annually.

By the near end of the century in 17 89, St. Dominique had 556,000 people with 500,000 African slaves and 32,000 European colonists.

24,000 were free mulattoes (African and European descent as the white populations were the elite, the merchants and land owners, some of royal lineage and the overseers, craftsmen were the middle class with laborers and those with small farms being on the lowest end of society.

Mulattoes were a mixture of West Africans and were the ones that began the struggle for self determination. Conditions of life were wretched for the slaves as they suffered malnutrition, were injured in the sugar mills or while working in the fields or houses of the slave masters.

Droughts and starvation led to food shortages that prompted escape to the mountains where they became known as Maroons. It was there they embraced their West African culture and began to practice Vodou while others practiced Roman Catholicism.

Strangely enough, it was a few that practiced both. With the advent of the French Revolution, there was tension between the British and French and Vincent Oge’ a Mulatto who led an uprising in 1790 and was captured tortured and executed.

1791 saw the French government granting citizenship to the Affranchi who were emancipated slaves but the majority of European Haitians would not accept the decision and in two months fighting broke out in August and thousands of slaves began to fight for liberation.

Appeasement followed in April of 1792 to extend citizenship to all Mulattoes which did not stop the conflicts, and Santo Domingo on the east side of the island became the Dominican Republic.

1793 L’ger F’elicite’ Sonthonaax was dispatched from France to restore order and offered all slaves that joined him their freedom and as a result slavery was abolished. Because of war in Europe, Spain gave the rest of the Island to France in the Treaty of Basel in 1795, but with so much turmoil it was not made official. Six years later the end of tyranny came in the form of Tousant Louverture.

Pray for Haiti
Pray For Haiti

(End of Part I) Stay Tuned to for more on Haiti…


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