By Patrick Delices
Special to the NNPA from the New York Amsterdam News
For decades, and up to this point, Haiti has had the inauspicious distinction of being labeled the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere despite its rich resources, along with its rich historical and cultural legacy. This lamentable economic reality in Haiti has overshadowed its richness, beauty and historical essence, along with the humility and humanity of its people. Haiti, the land of many beautiful mountains and people, is known for its extreme poverty and crime, not its rich cultural history and resources.
Haiti was once known as the “Pearl of the Antilles” because of its richness and natural beauty. Unfortunately, Haiti is now known for its earthquake, cholera outbreak, kidnapping, crime and, of course, poverty. However, during the colonial era, the wealth of Haiti surpassed that of all the British colonies in the Caribbean. Moreover, it was Haiti that augmented considerably the size, wealth and power of the United States by way of the Haitian Revolution, as evident in the Louisiana Purchase.
Despite its richness, Haiti has been plagued by extreme poverty and crime because of slavery, colonialism, imperialism, brutal dictators and puppet governmental leaders. According to the World Bank, “Haiti remains the poorest country in the Americas and one of the poorest in the world (with a GNI per capita of $760 in 2012), with significant needs in basic services. Over half of its population of 10 million lives on less than $1 per day, and approximately 80 percent live on less than $2 per day.”
Moreover, the United States, the wealthiest nation in the world, ranks Haiti as “critical” in terms of crime and violence without taking into consideration that in terms of crimes and violence against humanity, no nation has surpassed the United States. Unscrupulously ridiculed for its poverty and crime, unlike the United States and Europe, Haiti is indeed the richest country in the Western Hemisphere, as evident in its most lucrative resource: its people.
I recently returned to the United States from a pilgrimage in Haiti with professor James Small of the World African Diaspora Union. In association with professor Bayyinah Bello and her organization, Fondasyon Felicitee, we were in Haiti to celebrate the 256th birthday of Napoleon’s master, Gen. Jean Jacques Dessalines, aka “Emperor Jacques I.” Born Sept. 20, 1758, Dessalines is considered the founding father of Haiti.
In our pilgrimage and celebration, we visited numerous historical and cultural sites in Haiti. For example, we visited Bois Caiman in Le Cap, where, Aug. 14, 1791, the Haitian Revolution was reignited by Boukman Dutty and Cecile Fatiman.
We also visited the area in Nord, Haiti, where the final battle of the Haitian Revolution, the Battle of Vertieres, took place Nov. 18, 1803. In this final battle, Napoleon yielded to his new master, Dessalines, and abandoned his quest for an empire in the New World, thus selling the Louisiana territory, which was about 529 million acres, for a song—approximately four cents an acre.
Furthermore, we visited the homes of Dessalines and his wife, Empress Marie-Claire Heureuse Felicite Bonheur. Lastly, we visited Sans-Souci and the Citadel, which were built, remarkably, during a time when Haiti stood alone as the only Black sovereign nation in the Americas in face of the constant threat of slavery, colonialism and global white supremacy. Sans-Souci, named after the West African-born Haitian Revolutionary leader Colonel Jean-Baptiste Sans-Souci, was the royal palace of King Henri I and Queen Marie Louise Coidavid of Haiti. A wonder of the world, the Citadel is the largest fortress in the Western Hemisphere. It was first conceived by Dessalines and completed by Henri Christophe, King Henri I of Haiti, who, at a very young age, participated in the American Revolution.