By PATRICK DELICES
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.
Unlike the American Revolution in 1776 and the French Revolution in 1789, the Haitian Revolution in 1804, under the leadership of Dessalines, established the first Black sovereign nation outside the continent of Africa. Moreover, Dessalines granted Haitian citizenship to every Black man and woman in the Americas. As a result, approximately 10,000 African-Americans escaped to Haiti to exercise their sovereign rights as free men and women. Dessalines even granted Haitian citizenship to the people of Poland and Germany who fought in the Haitian Revolution.
Thus, Haiti’s founder, Dessalines, established the first true democracy in the Americas, where no one was considered a slave during the Age of Reason, when “enlightened” European men and women erroneously reasoned that Africans were chattel and inferior. Similarly today, Western society continuously purports the inferiority of Africans by highly stressing Haiti’s poverty, crime and other misfortunes without examining Haiti’s historical essence, along with the humility and humanity of its people.
Within the historical essence of Dessalines and the Haitian Revolution, one of the main highlights of the pilgrimage to Haiti was when a Haitian hotel worker got on his moped and travelled half a mile to abruptly stop our tour bus. At first, some of us thought that he was planning to rob us. Others thought that he wanted to join us in our adventure to Sans-Souci and the Citadel. However, what actually happened was a testament to the people of Haiti of their historical essence, humility and humanity.
The Haitian hotel worker abruptly turned his moped near the side of the tour bus, risking his own life, to simply give Small his wallet, which he unknowingly left at his hotel room. In his wallet, Small had roughly $2,500 in cash. Despite all the reports of poverty and crime in Haiti, along with the fact that hotel workers’ remuneration is substandard, the hotel worker not only preserved Small’s wallet with roughly $2,500 in cash, but, most importantly, he preserved the historical essence, humility and humanity of the people of Haiti.
Thus, unlike most people in the United States and Europe, most Haitians do not value money, because they are too busy valuing themselves and their fellow global citizens—their historical essence, humility and humanity depends on it. And that is why Haiti is the richest country in the Western Hemisphere. As often stated by Small, “The landscape of Haiti is nature showing off her beauty and the people of Haiti is God showing off her beautiful image to the world.”