Early in the morning of 14 August 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck southwest Haiti, killing 1200 people, injuring 12,000, and causing hospitals, schools and homes to collapse. Hundreds of thousands of people were in immediate need of humanitarian assistance, and many still are.
The Quixote Center has been working in Haiti since 1999 and we maintain strong and trusted partnerships. As a result, we were able to mobilize funds for short and medium-term assistance to those most in need. Thanks to the donations we received from supporters, Quixote Center sent the following earthquake relief funds to Haiti:
$2,000 to Kolektif pou Lakay. This funded food and sanitation kits to smaller communities in the Les Cayes area.
$2,000 to Fondasyon Mapou. This went to support delivery of emergency supplies to the community of Baraderes.
$12,000 to the Haiti Response Coalition. The Quixote Center serves on the executive committee of the HRC and was involved in planning HRC responses. Funds went to a direct cash assistance program and to general funds to support temporary staff/mobilizers to coordinate programs with community leaders in all three departments impacted by the earthquake.
$2,400 through the Religious of Jesus and Mary, long time partners in programming in Gros Morne. These funds supported emergency seed delivery from Gros Morne to communities in the southern peninsula communities of Toirac and surrounding areas like Mailloux, Sous De Vie and Barat. Seeds enabled small-scale farmers to replant after losing their crops to the earthquake.
Our earthquake response work continues through our membership in the Haiti Response Coalition (HRC). In June the HRC convened a conference in Haiti to improve coordination, support Haitian-led responses, and discuss long-term emergency preparedness. This will diminish the need for outside assistance and coordination during emergencies and improve Haiti’s capacity to lead its own emergency response when the time comes.
We send our gratitude to you, our donors, which make this work possible. In recent weeks many of you have asked us for our take on what can be done to respond to the current crisis of violence and governance in Haiti. Stay tuned for our post on that topic next week.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio promoted his policy ideas for Haiti in a recent op-ed. He called out the Biden Administration for a failure to fully engage what Rubio calls a looming crisis of political collapse and unauthorized migration. Rubio’s arguments are similar to other recent opinion pieces in The Washington Post and elsewhere, calling on the administration to “do more!”
What does doing more mean? It means more guns and more investment, the dual pillars of US foriegn policy everywhere in the world. The Rubio version goes like this: Biden should be…
…following the advice that US Senator Raphael Warnock, D-Georgia, and I gave to the government to strengthen Haiti’s national police to fight criminal gangs. It means being open to another UN peacekeeping mission. It means expanding the Inter-American Development Bank’s investments in Haitian infrastructure. And it means building closer economic ties between our country and Haiti, as my Haitian Economic Development Program Extension Act would do by guaranteeing jobs and trade benefits for Haiti’s textile industry.
One of the most problematic components of what is becoming a bipartisan consensus on Haiti’s future is the idea to create a better investment environment for the companies that sew garments for US clothing brands in Haiti. Low taxes, no export fees, and cheap labor.
This point is raised not to criticize Rubio, at least no more than anybody else who advances sweatshops as a critical element in the solution to a crisis. Remember that former President Clinton promoted a massive industrial park for sweatshops as the largest USAID project in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Farmers living in the zone were displaced, the housing created for workers was substandard, and environmental concerns have largely been set aside. But the park is now open, paying exploitation-level wages to struggling families and communities. As a result, Haiti’s stabilization is further from reality than ever.
If you go to your closet, or to your chest of drawers, there is probably something in there made in Haiti. Which is to say, in the US we all benefit from such “stabilization” plans for Haiti, as well as such plans for other countries of the Global South, which do not ultimately provide stability, but do provide less expensive garments.
What does this development strategy translate to in reality? Abuse.
The garment industry is rife with human rights violations that go beyond the miserable wages paid. The industry is structured to maximize productivity in a process that can not be mechanized. Sewing a tee-shirt still requires someone to actually do it. Fancy sewing machines only get you so far. Maximizing productivity frequently means putting considerable pressure on workers, such as limiting bathroom breaks, punishing striking workers, and raising the minimum number of garments needed to qualify for overtime. The more insecure the environment, the higher the level of abuse.
For women, who make up the majority of sweatshop labor in Haiti, this also means sexual abuse at the hands of supervisors. From the Guardian,
Female garment factory workers the Guardian spoke to confirm that to get a job – which has become harder because so many people are looking for work – women are expected to have sex with a male manager.
“If you don’t accept to have sex with the manager, your application will be rejected,” one worker says, adding that she works on a line that produces 3,600 T-shirts a day. “You must oblige or you won’t have a job, and also if you want a promotion, you must have sex with your supervisor.”
Previous iterations of saving Haiti via the sweatshop, e.g., the HOPE Act, mandated that monitoring systems be put into place to ensure respect for the rights of workers. It is clear that the system does not work. Monitoring is done by Better Work Haiti and funded by the World Bank, and International Labor Rights Organization. This raises the contradiction of workers having to rely on external monitoring systems rather than their own empowered, worker organizations. Better Work Haiti does report on problems in the factories, but has also under-reported sexual harrassment, in part because women are afraid to report.
Senator Rubio is likely correct that Haiti is on the brink of collapse. He is not correct that this is because Biden is doing too little, as the Administration seems content to support the current acting government no matter how bad things get, rather than risk stepping back to give space for a more progressive, Haitian-led democratic process. And more guns and more sweatshops will not help.
Of course, industrial growth in Haiti could be a tremendous benefit, but only if that process is undertaken to serve Haitians, and to ensure that workers are in control of their destiny. That is simply not going to happen when the entire orientation of the policy is appeasing US corporations and consumers, who usually simply want cheap.
[Warning: This post contains descriptions of extreme violence]
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, issued a statement on March 17, that read, “Armed violence has reached unimaginable and intolerable levels in Haiti…It is crucial for urgent steps to be taken to restore the rule of law, to protect people from armed violence and to hold to account the political and economic sponsors of these gangs.”
The statement offered the following account of recent violence:
Between 24 April and 16 May, at least 92 people unaffiliated with gangs and some 96 alleged to be gang members were reportedly killed during coordinated armed attacks in Port-au-Prince. Another 113 were injured, 12 reported missing, and 49 kidnapped against ransom, according to figures corroborated by UN human rights officers. The actual number of people killed may be much higher.
Extreme violence has been reported, including beheadings, chopping and burning of bodies, and the killing of minors accused of being informants for a rival gang. Sexual violence, including gang rape of children as young as 10, has also been used by armed gang members to terrorize and punish people living in areas controlled by rival gangs. Sources also reported the presence of minors in the gangs.
How to make sense of this? International media accounts of Haiti often focus on the growing power and influence of gangs. The news is presented in shocking, sensational tidbits. Too often, the impression the stories leave is that Haiti is descending into chaos. To the contrary, it is important to remember that the gangs and the violence they employ is an expression of the distribution of power in Haiti, and the conflicts are about the future distribution of power. The violence is truly horrible, but the violence is also purposeful.
There are many resources about gang violence in Haiti. Below I share two recent items that will help contextualize the latest crisis in Coix-des-Bouquets, and point to another collection of essays that situate insecurity in a larger historical context.
City of Gangs video and podcast series
Dr. Tram Jones of Haiti Health Network released three videos explaining the different gang formations in Port au Prince, their strategic position along trade routes in and out of the city, and the current alliances and points of conflict at root of the extensive violence that has occurred over the last year. The series covers Central Port-au-Prince, Martissant, and Croix-des-Bouquets. It is definitely worth the time. (Below is the first video in the series)
Dr. Jones also has a podcast called Overseas in which he discusses much of this history and overview of recent events in more detail. As he suggests, it helps to watch the videos first to get the geography fixed in your mind. You can find the podcasts here.
RNDDH’s most recent report
The context for this horror is war between the Chen Mechan and the 400 Mawozo gangs in the Plaine du Cul-de-sac communities of Tabarre and Croix-des-Bouquets. The National Human Rights Defense Network (RNDDH) issued a report last week that detailed the history of the gangs and this most recent fight over territory and trade. The violence is shocking, intentionally so. Detailing events of April 24 to May 6 in Plaine du Cul-de-sac, RNDDH concludes:
From April 24 to May 6, 2022, two (2) armed gangs, benefiting from the support of state authorities and people around the ruling power, clash. Never have armed attacks been so virulent: people have been murdered by bullets, others beheaded, some others, thrown in latrines and water wells. Women and girls have been raped. Corpses were meticulously chopped and taken in photos that circulated on social networks, with the aim of maintaining an unspeakable terror among the population in general and the community of the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac in particular.
RNDDH documents a decade of interaction between gang leaders and government officials. The internecine conflicts in these circles are complex. It is not that the government “controls the gangs” in some uniform way, but it is clearly the case that people allied with the state lean on gangs to get things done. So, when there is political conflict, it plays out on the street in the most brutal of ways:
[RNDDH] will never stop repeating that for several years, successive state authorities have chosen the gangsterization of the state as a new form of governance. They supply arms and ammunition to armed gangs, and they practice and promote smuggling to facilitate the entry of illegal weapons into the national territory, 76% of which pass through the port of Port- au-Prince. And, in order not to have to justify, since 2012, under the presidency of Joseph Michel MARTELLY, the various anti-smuggling brigades that operated in the ports, airports, and border crossings of the country have all been dismantled.
RNDDH has been documenting gang violence in the country for many years now, and has a large repository of reports, many available in English.
New Series from Society for Cultural Anthropology
Finally, there is an amazing, collection of articles curated by Greg Beckett and Laura Wagner for the Society for Cultural Anthropology (free to access) that came out at the beginning of May, titled, Haiti Beyond Crisis, which seeks to contextualize a broad range of current and historical issues. The editors write:
“This series suggests new ways to understand the current situation in Haiti and poses questions about what is, and isn’t, happening in Haiti right now….The contributors to this series—scholars, activists, journalists, and others from inside and outside Haiti—draw on years of experience to write about themes including violence and ensekirite, migration and deportation, exploitation and industrialization, state corruption, international intervention, everyday life, and Haiti as a symbol of collective freedom.”
It is an important work, relevant and crucial for understanding what insecurity means for people’s daily lives. For example, Ritzamarum Zétrenne writes of the journey up into the mountains to avoid “the road to death” through Martissant, (which will be much clearer if you watch Tram Jones’ video above on the gangs in Martissant before reading). Chelsey Kivland writes in the “Semantics of the Gang today in Haiti” of how the language of the gang is adopted by people who have been forcibly repatriated from the United States as a survival strategy. Jennifer Greenburg centers the kreyol term ensekirite, “a term anthropologist Erica James describes as ‘the embodied uncertainty generated by political, criminal, economic, and also spiritual ruptures that many individuals and groups continue to experience in Haiti’” in “Instability or Ensekirite? The Securitization of Haiti as an Object of International Intervention.”
These are just a few of the articles in this collection. You can view the entire collection here.
Halt the expulsions!
In the context of the ongoing violence discussed above, we continue to denounce the Biden administration’s decision to expel Haitian refugees back to Haiti. He has expelled nearly 23,000 Haitians since September of 2021. It is an indefensible policy. Please join us in keeping the pressure on him to stop!
The Biden Administration expelled 450 people to Haiti, including 44 children, 20 of whom were infants, on three flights this week. These flights bring the total to 235 expulsion flights to Haiti since Biden took office, more than 23,000 people in total, and 21,000 in the eight months since the debacle in Del Rio last September. Another 8,000 people were summarily expelled into Mexico during the Del Rio crisis.
[As a reminder, 30,000 migrants, many of them Haitians, arrived in the Del Rio sector in Texas over the course of a week in early September. Border Patrol kept 15,000 people trapped under a bridge for days and then quickly cleared people out – most through expulsions, though some were allowed to stay and apply for asylum. See our report on this here.]
Over the last few months, the number of people attempting to flee Haiti by boat has also increased dramatically, as measured by those captured and returned to Haiti by the Coast Guard. So far this fiscal year , the Coast Guard has interdicted and returned 3,897 people to Haiti (October 1, 2022 through May 3).
Within Haiti there is political stagnation and spiraling violence. At last 39 people have been killed in gang violence in the Port au Prince metro area since the end of April, and 10,000 people have been forced from their homes. Hundreds of schools have been forced to close in and around Port au Prince because of the violence, and two hospitals have closed in protest of the kidnapping of a doctor.
As a result of this latest surge in violence, Port au Prince is largely cut off from the rest of the country. It has been difficult to travel south through Martissant because gangs have controlled the roads there for almost a year now; among other issues this has disrupted the humanitarian response to last August’s earthquake. As a result of the most recent violence, it is now nearly impossible to get in and out of the city on the north, making it very difficult for communities in the Artibonite, North and North East departments to get necessities. Fuel prices continue to soar, and hunger, already widespread, is getting worse.
This humanitarian disaster is what Biden is expelling people into; hundreds of people every week are caught in a relentless campaign of mass expulsions.
At the same time, the Biden Administration has simply not budged in its support of de facto prime minister Ariel Henry. Henry became prime minister following the assassination of president Jovenal Moïse last July. His rise to that office was the result of a US intervention with other international partners. Henry, who had been appointed the day before Moïses assassination but never confirmed, was slected over the acting prime minister Claude Joseph, and invited to form a government in an agreement announced via a Tweet from the US Embassy. Henry has since been implicated in the assassination, as he is known to have been in contact with prime suspects in the killing the morning it happened.
As a result of the power the US holds over Haiti, and Biden’s intransigence on this question, Henry has a virtual veto on any discussion about transition. For example, a transition process launched by civil society organizations as part of the Montana Accord last year, a process in which the acting government is invited to participate, is blocked from moving forward. Indeed, any process in which Henry’s party, the Pati Ayisyen Tèt Kale is not in control, has no prospect of advancing, at least as long as the United States keeps its foot on the scale.
Any hope of moving out of the violence and ongoing governance crisis requires a new transition agreement; one that is more participatory than the reboot of PHTK controlled elections. The United States is blocking such a participatory alternative. As more people flee the violence created in the resulting vacuum, the United States is also blocking their efforts to reach safety. This has to stop!
The Quixote Center is joining with a host of organizations in a campaign demanding that the Biden administration get out of the way in Haiti by withdrawing its support for the Henry government. The reasons are clear (from campaign statement):
Despite the continued deterioration of security, governance, basic services and respect for human rights under their rule, the US has persistently supported a decade of Haitian governments dominated by the Pati Ayisyen Tèt Kale (PHTK).
Haitians have been fighting to reclaim their democracy with a broad-based non-violent mobilization, but US government support has allowed the PHTK to refuse to negotiate in good faith with the popular democratic movement demanding change.
Important advocacy by Haitians, Haitian-Americans, members of Congress, and solidarity activists has forced the US to acknowledge the Haitian government’s complicity in chronic impunity, gang violence and corruption over the past six months. But the US has not yet reduced its support enough to force the Haitian government to engage in meaningful negotiations with Haitian civil society.
We feel the role of the US is very simple: The US should not support any particular party or sector or demand that Haitians take a particular path towards democracy. A stable and just Haiti – which is in the interest of Haitians and the US Government alike – requires that Haitians lead and own their democratic process.
In Haiti 4.5 million people are experiencing high levels of food insecurity today, with roughly 45% of the population expected to face severe hunger over the next several months; 1.3. million of them are in an emergency situation. Based on IPC classifications of food insecurity, all of Haiti’s regions are at level 3 or 4, meaning that in every department, there is hunger. Level 3 means there is either not enough food, or people can only eat enough if they forego other necessities. At level 4, or emergency levels of food insecurity, there are large gaps in meeting daily requirements that are reflected in leading to wide-spread malnutrition. Level 5 is famine.
In 2019 the number of people at the stressed level (3 or higher) represented 35% of the population. The crisis today is both significantly worse – and was clearly predictable.
Stories about the crisis identify a variety of reasons for increasing food insecurity: Disruptions to food systems and aid delivery as a result of the earthquake in August of 2021; increases in fuel prices that are driving inflation, made much worse by the war in Ukraine; personal insecurity across the country that impacts aid delivery, as well as access to markets for farmers trying to sell produce; and then, there was flooding in different parts of the country in January, followed by drought in March.
All of this is true. However, underlying these crises, indeed making them much worse, is long-standing systemic issues reflective of the colonial and neo-colonial relationships that shape opportunities in Haiti. The United States, for example, has through the years leveraged Haiti’s debt into policy reforms that lower agricultural tariffs and give open access to US corporations to Haitian labor and resources. Recurrent food emergencies also become a means to dump and/or monetize food aid in ways that destroy local markets in the long run, creating more dependency on imported food.
One result of this destruction of Haitian agriculture is that Haiti has undergone a massive urbanization process over the 36 years since Jean Claude Duvalier was forced from power. From nearly 80% of the population still living in rural areas in 1986, the number today is less than 45% – and the overall size of the population has, of course, increased significantly. Cities are strained to provide services, and formal employment opportunities are insufficient to support families. Port-au-Prince has 1 million more people living in it today than the day before the earthquake in 2010 –, and the overcrowded conditions then were a major factor in the high death count.
Accompanying all of this, is the slow deterioration of the state’s capacity to govern under the relentless pressure of loan conditionalities from the International Monetary Fund, and other donors. In order to service debts, Haiti has been forced to cut public expenditures such that today it has the lowest public sector employment rate in the Caribbean. Even the police force, which has received significant funding from international donors for training and materials, is underpaid leading to strikes as well as well-documented corruption.
The crises in Haiti today are thus very much a product of the intersections of institutional and environmental degradation over many years, with deep roots both inside and outside of the country. Addressing environmental degradation thus requires local and international action.
It is this broader understanding that guides our work at the Quixote Center, where we both support and accompany communities in the Gros Morne area alongside the staff of the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, while also working to confront ongoing US interventions that erode the long-term prospects for democracy and security.
The environmental movement gave us the “think global, act local” strategy. While today the saying might hit one with the depth of a bumper sticker, the reality is that this remains a very necessary framework for action on the environment, and for justice more broadly. We all share a human ecology, and with it a common destiny. Earth Day is a good time to reflect on what that means, and then act accordingly.
The Washington Post has maintained a consistent editorial line over the past two years: Haiti is becoming ungovernable, Haitians are not able to figure it out on their own, therefore, the United States must step in to solve the problem. Back in June, the Post’s editors called for the United States, France and the United Nations to step in to avoid “full-blown anarchy” and a “descent into Hell” in Haiti. The sad irony is that the US, UN and France were, and remain, the external powers most responsible for that descent. The Post’s most recent editorial, “Haiti needs Washington’s help to exit its quagmire,” is more of the same, and, like previous missives, striking for its complete blindness about the role the United States is actually playing.
The process laid out the Montana Accord, a civil society effort led by the Commission in Search of Haitian Solution to the Crisis last year, and joined by a coalition of political parties this January, is an effort to create a transitional government to lead the country back toward constitutional rule. This is a process that the Post’s editors dismiss as unwieldy and ineffectual, yet end their editorial with a call for Biden to help forge a consensus between Haiti’s current President, Ariel Henry, and representatives of the Montana Accord:
The Biden administration has ruled out sending troops, instead paying lip service to finding a Haitian-led exit from the crisis. If there is such a way out — a big if — it might consist in a consensus between the Montana Accord coalition and Mr. Henry’s own forces. Forging such an agreement should be high on the Biden administration’s agenda. But there is little sign Washington is paying attention to events in the impoverished country — despite its long history of devolving into crises that then become impossible to ignore.
What the Post misses, however, is that the US government’s policy is already to bring these sides together – and in doing so, to give Henry an effective veto over what the transition looks like. So, in the guise of critiquing Biden, the Post is simply endorsing the current – failed – policy.
In backing Henry, the United States government is taking sides in an internecine conflict within the ruling PHTK, a rift that had grown between Jovenal Moïse and former president Michel Martelly. This internecine conflict – not “drug dealing” – more likely lies at the root of Moïse’s assassination, and why Henry, and more recently Martelly himself, have been implicated in the murder. It is also worth noting that Martelly became president in 2010 as the direct result of United States’ intervention into that election – guaranteeing Martelly a place in a run-off he failed to earn based on the official results. The United States has been standing by the PHTK for a decade now, while the party has run the country into the ground.
The Post’s editors note that the 15,000 strong national police is “rife with corruption,” but fails to note it was largely built by the United States, in the context of a United Nations occupation. The US government continues to expend millions of dollars on that police force, despite its complicity in multiple massacres of civilians. These crimes against humanity have been documented in a joint report by Harvard Law School and Haitian human rights organizations.
The reality is that US policy has made a significant contribution to creating the current “quagmire.” The United States is not doing too little, it has done too much. It has historically sought to impose a strategic and economic dominance in Haiti – a former colony of the United States (1915-1934) – at the expense of a functioning democracy and any movement in that direction. It continues to do so, and that posture is what must change. The United States needs to get out of the way if there is to be any hope for a democratic future in Haiti.
(An abbreviated version of this post was submitted to The Washington Post as a Letter to the Editor.)
Workers in Haiti’s free trade zones are protesting for better wages and improved work conditions. The latest demonstrations began in the CARACOL industrial park near Cap Haitien, but shifted to the industrial zones near the airport in Port au Prince over the last two weeks. Workers have been beaten during the demonstrations, and last week three people were shot, one of whom died. Those shot were reporters covering the protests and it seems they were targeted as such by police, but there is no way to confirm.
Back in January, a coalition of nine unions issued an appeal to the government, “seeking a minimum wage increase from 500 gourdes (about $4.82 a day) to 1,500 gourdes ($14.62).” At first glance this is clearly a large increase, but it is one that is long overdue. In the face of demonstrations, the government negotiated a wage increase with free zone companies – one much smaller than the unions were seeking: Just 185 gourdes a day – bringing the total daily wage to 685 gourdes, or roughly $0.80 an hour..
While the question of wages has taken center stage, the concerns are much broader than wage levels, and include unsafe working conditions and the high taxes workers are charged for pensions and health services; benefits most will never enjoy.
The question of rights violations and workplace safety are institutionally separate from the setting of wage levels: the government decides the minimum wage, while issues around health and safety, and concerns over other rights violations in these factories flow through a monitoring process mandated by the United States government as a condition for the passage of the HOPE II Act. As a result, solidarity with workers also requires a multidimensional approach. We can denounce the treatment of workers at the hands of the Haitian government, but must also press the US government and the clothing brands that source in Haiti to do more.
The apparel sector in Haiti employs 63,000+ workers, 53,400 of whom work in factories that are registered under the monitoring system tied to HOPE II. At $988 million in value, the textile sector contributed 83% of Haiti’s total exports in 2021. Textiles are thus a critical source for foreign exchange, a reality that gives the companies in these parks an outsized (in relationship to total national employment) leverage over government policy.
And almost all of this apparel is currently coming to the United States. Companies like Gilden, Hanes, Old Navy, Reebok, DIsney and others source their clothing from factories in Haiti.
We will be writing more about the situation as the workers decide how to respond to the government’s wage increase proposal, and we decide how to best stand in solidarity with them.
The Biden administration continues to expel Haitian refugees at an alarming rate. 15,920 Haitians have been expelled on 148 flights since the current wave of mass deportations began on September 19. Over 18,000 Haitians have been expelled since Biden took office.
There have been 32 flights thus far in January (through the 21st), with two or three flights every day. Most flights are departing from Laredo, a border town in Texas, and are mostly Title 42 expulsions. Consistent demographic data is hard to get – Immigration and Customs Enforcement provides nothing, and confirms nothing publicly. However, based on reporting from the International Organization on Migration in Haiti, which receives those expelled, 18% of those expelled through December 31 were children, indicating that a large percent of removals are families.
Tuesday: Two flights from Laredo, TX to Port au Prince, total numbers were not available. However, it was reported that 79 of the people who arrived on these flights tested positive for COVID-19. Wednesday: One flight with 127 people, including 58 children, of whom38 were reportedly infants (0-2 years old). Thursday: Two flights with 238 people, including 48 children Friday: One flight with 72 people, 28 children, 22 of whom were less than 2 years old.
* Many thanks to Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, who provides a daily report about these expulsions.
Take Action to Halt the Flights
Contact your members of Congress and push them to speak out against this policy. We have prepared a message you can send here. Time permitting, take the extra step of calling your members of Congress, House and Senate, and ask them to publicly oppose these removals.
There is organizational sign on letter demanding an end to these expulsions being coordinated by Haitian Bridge Alliance and others. You can read that here, and sign here (organizations only!). Deadline for signing is January 25, 2022
On August 14, 2021, a series of earthquakes struck Haiti’s southern peninsula, leaving 2,400 people dead and doing enormous damage to the area’s infrastructure. Like most of Haiti outside of Port au Prince, the peninsula is a predominantly agricultural area. Damage to roads and bridges, the death of farm animals, and mudslides from the tropical storm that struck the area a few days later, have all conspired to threaten food production. Farmers struggle to get supplies for the winter planting, and are cut-off from markets in Port au Prince due to armed groups controlling the roads into and out of the city.
In response to the earthquake, the Quixote Center is funding direct cash payments to individuals in the impacted area. We emphasize cash payments over other types of aid in order to support local markets, especially local and regional farmers, who can see their livelihoods damaged further when markets are flooded with imported food aid. Where markets are open, and local supplies available, supporting the local economy is better for Haiti in the long run.
Even if supplies become difficult to source nearby, they can often still be sourced from other parts of Haiti. Though transport is difficult, it is worth the effort to build connections within Haiti for relief efforts.
Quixote Center partners with an agro-ecology program that includes a seed bank near Gros Morne, Haiti. With support from the Quixote Center, our partners at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center purchased seeds from farmers in Gros Morne and delivered them to farmers near Camp Perrin, which is located near the epicenter of the August earthquake.
Guy Marie Garcon, who coordinates the program at the Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center, wrote,
The community of Gros Morne has often been a victim of hurricanes and earthquakes in recent memory, so we understand the pain of the farmers in the South. We have the possibility to help our compatriots in the South, which is why we propose to send seed support for planters in [Camp Perrin]. We would send them good quality bean seeds, so that they can replant their gardens. By purchasing these seeds from farmers in Gros Morne, we would provide good quality local seeds for the farmers in the South, rather than importing them from abroad. We know that our seeds will grow well in the South.
Of course, we faced a struggle getting the seeds delivered, as there is no safe way to drive them directly to Camp Perrin. The driver from Gros Morne delivered the seeds to a program partner’s office in Port-au-Prince safely, but he did have to navigate roadblocks in St. Marc to do so.
Once in Port-au-Prince, the seeds waited for a couple of days for safe passage south.
The seeds were delivered to the Sacred Heart Parish in Camp Perrin on Saturday, January 15th, and from there will be delivered to 100 small farmers, ultimately providing assistance to 450 people in Toirac and surrounding areas like Mailloux, Sous De Vie and Barat.
It is a small project, but is an example we hope will grow. Rather than bring in outside supplies that displace Haitian growers, we are supporting local growers. For those of you who donated through our emergency response fund, we thank you for your generosity.
Today marks not just the start of 2022, but Haiti’s Independence Day. For the occasional, our board member Serge Hyacinthe explains the importance of January 1st in Haiti and the special meaning behind soup joumou, as well as how to make it at home.
As Haitians, we are no strangers to natural disasters and political challenges that have excruciating impacts on our nation and families, but 2021 has been an especially heart-wrenching year for most Haitians.Yet, even these endowed afflictions could not shield our inner souls against the pain and sheer humiliation of our treatment at the hands of U.S. Customs Agents, the brazen assassination of our sitting president, and the complete disregard of our sovereignty. The challenges of the year forced many of us to become superhuman with a suffocating sense of resilience.
For this reason, we will welcome January 1st, 2022 with moments of reflection and remembrance. It will be a day when many will bend a knee, say a prayer, call out to the ancestors and befallen loved ones, or attend a service. And some may ponder with sincerity: Has the Creator who has given us 1804, freedom from our enslavers, independence in a very hostile world, the Creator of all humanity, the all-merciful and beneficent forsaken us? But history would remind us, it is not the Creator who has forsaken us, but nations and men. Our history would also remind us that liberty comes with a high price. So with all our challenges and pain we will celebrate and honor the sacrifices of our ancestors.
January 1st is one of our most important holidays. On that day, we give thanks for the hard-fought victory of our ancestors against the institution of slavery and colonialism. We rejoice in the divine spirits that have maintained and accompanied us through personal and collective adversities and helped us retain our identity, humanity, and souls as proud and unabashed Haitians. We celebrate the support of friends of all nationalities and hues who have supported us in our treacherous and continuous struggles.We honor the work of organizations like the Quixote Center and others whose compassion and kindness have seen no bounds. For those reasons, our faith is unwavering. Despite overwhelming odds, over the centuries, we prevailed against social, economic, and racial injustice. We must prevail because Haiti’s fight for liberation across the globe is the symbol of freedom and liberty for humanity.
Haiti’s fight for independence lasted 13 years. It is the first and only successful slave revolt for independence in the world. It is the first revolution in modern history that modeled freedom for all regardless of gender, race, and religion. The Haitian liberators included men and women who extended their knowledge and resources to help others gain their own freedom. Our ancestors including, our second leader, Henry Christophe, assisted in the American Revolution and fought in the battle of Savannah. The Haitian President Alexandre Petion supported Simon Bolivar, the great liberator of South America in 1815 with soldiers and resources. With Haiti’s help, Bolivar obtained the independence of northwest Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, and northern Peru. Bolivar kept his promise to Petition by abolishing slavery in all those territories upon victory. Haiti also supported Greece as she was fighting for her own independence from the Ottoman Empire and was the first to recognize the nation in 1822.
It is with the fervor of our ancestors for freedom, this year and beyond, Haitians will celebrate January 1st, Haitian Independence Day, by connecting with family, friends, and our communities. To honor our rich cultural heritage we will share our history, dance, music, and cuisine with our family on January 1st.We invite others to celebrate with their families too by eating our Soup Joumou, also known as freedom soup.The quest for freedom and liberty is a gift that we all honor. We pray that the soup connects us, energizes us, and inspires us to create brighter tomorrows.
Below is a recipe for the Haitian freedom soup, also known as Soup Joumou:
1 pound of beef, chicken, or turkey
½ cup fresh lime juice
5 tablespoons of Goya Adobo seasoning
2 pounds calabaza squash, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 medium Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
½ small head green cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 scallions, trimmed and sliced
3 fresh parsley sprigs
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper
¼ teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
2 pints of vegetable or meat broths
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pasta
1. Pour oil in a large pot over medium heat for about 5 to seven minutes