The Aftershocks of History

Book - 2012
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This work is an account that finds in Haiti's traumatic history the sources of its devastating present. Even before last year's earthquake destroyed much of the country, Haiti was known as a benighted place of poverty and corruption. Maligned and misunderstood, the nation has long been blamed by many for its own wretchedness. But as the author, a historian, demonstrates, Haiti's troubles owe more to a legacy of international punishment for the original sin of staging the only successful slave revolt in the world. He vividly depicts the isolation and impoverishment that followed the 1804 rebellion: the crushing indemnities imposed by the former French rulers, which initiated a cycle of debt; the multiple interventions by the U.S. armed forces, including a twenty-year occupation; and the internal divisions and political chaos that are the inevitable consequences of centuries of subversion. At the same time, he also explores Haiti's overlooked successes, as its revolution created a resilient culture insistent on autonomy and equality. This is a book, that reveals what lies behind the familiar moniker of "the poorest nation in the western hemisphere" and illuminates the foundations on which a new Haiti might yet emerge.
Publisher: New York : Henry Holt and Co., 2012
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780805093353
Characteristics: 434 p. : maps ; 25 cm


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oldhag Jul 12, 2012

"The egalitarianism of the lakou system was rooted in the land ownership arrangements. Each individual or nuclear family owned their own land, through which they provided for basic necessities by growing food and raising livestock for their own consumption and for sale in local markets. They also grew export crops, such as coffee, in order to buy imported consumer goods such as clothes and tools. While the lakou involved some forms of communal assistance and exchange-relatives and neighbors might join together to help out with large harvests or the building of a house, for example-the system was generally constructed around close-knit family networks and emphasized self-reliance through working the soil. From the moment a child was born, it would literally become a property owner: the infant's umbilical cord was buried in the yard, and a fruit tree planted upon it. The fruit of that tree would then be used to buy clothes and other necessities for the child as it grew up, and the income thus generated could eventually provide the foundation for investment in livestock or even land." "The antithesis of lakou-based autonomy was salaried work, which represented a surrender to the demands of another individual. Indeed,...whereas workers in many societies over the last two hundred years have accepted salaried work but sought to curb its excesses through government control or union organizing, the preferred strategy in Haiti has been to 'refuse the entire system'." "In December 2010, nearly a year after the earthquake, Ricardo Seitenfus, the Brazilian head of the OAS mission in the country, offered a frank...analysis of Haiti's condition...He described the U.N. presence in Haiti as wasteful and even harmful: 'Haiti is not an international menace. There is no civil war'." "The U.N. troops...were there only to prop up a bankrupt vision for the country" " "We want to make Haiti a capitalist country, a platform for export to the U.S. market. It's absurd'." "He described the NGO relationship to Haiti as a relatively cynical one: the country,...has been reduced to a handy place for 'professional training' for an increasingly youthful group of workers'." "Haiti's original sin, in the international theatre, was its liberation...Haitians committed the unacceptable in 1804'." "The world 'didn't know how to deal with Haiti,' and time and time again simply turned to force and coercion."


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