The Aftershocks of History

Book - 2012
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A passionate and insightful account by a leading historian of Haiti that traces the sources of the country's devastating present back to its turbulent and traumatic history

Even before the 2010 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 acclaimed historian Laurent Dubois makes clear, Haiti's troubled present can only be understood by examining its complex past. The country's difficulties are inextricably rooted in its founding revolution--the only successful slave revolt in the history of the world;the hostility that this rebellion generated among the colonial powers surrounding the island nation; and the intense struggle within Haiti itself to define its newfound freedom and realize its promise.

Dubois vividly depicts the isolation and impoverishment that followed the 1804 uprising. He details how the crushing indemnity imposed by the former French rulers initiated a devastating cycle of debt, while frequent interventions by the United States--including a twenty-year military occupation--further undermined Haiti's independence. At the same time, Dubois shows, the internal debates about what Haiti should do with its hard-won liberty alienated the nation's leaders from the broader population, setting the stage for enduring political conflict. Yet as Dubois demonstrates, the Haitian people have never given up on their struggle for true democracy, creating a powerful culture insistent on autonomy and equality for all.

Revealing what lies behind the familiar moniker of "the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere," this indispensable book illuminates the foundations on which a new Haiti might yet emerge.

Publisher: New York : Metropolitan Books, c2012.
ISBN: 9780805093353
Characteristics: 434 p. :,map ;,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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