Haiti: Celebrating the New Year and Independence
On January 1st, Haiti celebrated the 215th anniversary of the conclusion of its revolution and struggle for independence from France. In 1804, Haiti became the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere. The struggle in Haiti also marked the first successful revolution led by people formerly enslaved – anywhere in the world.
Haiti was not welcomed into the world of independent states. Where we see an inspirational story of a people’s successful struggle for liberty, the United States and European powers at the time saw a threat. For the US the example of a successful rebellion led by enslaved people was intolerable. The US would not recognize Haiti’s independence until 1865, and conspired with European powers to isolate Haiti and block its international trade. France threatened a re-conquest of Haiti in 1825 – forcing the government to pay an indemnification for lost property (human beings, mind you) or face invasion. The debt accrued then, not paid off until 1947, continues to hang over Haiti’s development as the economy was restructured to meet the demands of international creditors.
As the new year begins, the people of Haiti are in a renewed struggle for accountability and independence. A protest movement launched against corruption in the administration of PetroCaribe funds has morphed into a broader movement for far reaching change. International creditors still demand policy changes that accommodate the outflow of dollars to banks and their gatekeeper, the International Monetary Fund. The UN is in the process of stepping down its direct involvement in security – scheduled to end the current mission in October this year. But the legacy of the 15 year occupation remains deeply problematic. Capturing these dynamics, Jake Johnston authored this update about the movement in Haiti.
Throughout it all, Haiti remains the source of compelling visions of liberation and is animated by a deep cultural heritage rooted in resistance to the many forms of oppression the people have experienced. An interesting introduction to Haitian authors, each of whom has explored different historical periods of struggle can be found here. We encourage you to explore some of these works.
We celebrate the new year, and the anniversary of the revolution, committed in our journey with the people in Gros Morne as they implement their creative and resilient programs for sustainable agriculture and reforestation. And we continue to seek a more just foreign policy, so that the struggle for independence may be fully realized.