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Haiti: Hope, Torment, Deceit, and the Role of the International Community

Fredline Ilorme, PhD student in Civil and Environmental Engineering

November 17, 2009 - Dillman Hall, 214, 6-7PM

On February 6, 1986, following growing protests by the Haitian people, Haitian President for Life Jean Claude Duvalier fled Haiti for France.  In response, the Haitian people chanted, danced, and marched in the streets.  To this day, Duvalier’s departure is remembered as the second Haitian independence, the first being in 1804 when Haiti won its independence from France and became the world’s first black republic.  But as the Haitian people were chanting and marching, little did they know what would follow: military junta, coup d’état after coup d’état, two foreign interventions, and six years of United Nations peacekeeping, which continues to this day.

During these troubled years, Haitians fled by air, land, and sea to wherever they could: France, Canada, the United States, Cuba, Panama, Barbados, St. Martin, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and other countries.  As memories of Haiti as the Pearl of the Antilles faded, they were replaced with a new vision of Haiti as a “failed state,” a “troubled land,” and a “parish of the poor.”

How does a country called “Ayiti” (Haiti), “Quisqueya,” and “Bohio” (“mountainous land,” “big land,” and “rich in villages,” respectively) by the indigenous inhabitants; “El Dorado” (“The Golden One”) by Christopher Columbus, “Hispaniola” (“Little Spain”) by the Spanish, and “Saint Domingue” (“Saint Dominic”) by the French become the poorest country in the Western hemisphere?  That’s the question that this presentation will try to answer.  Emphasis will be placed on Haiti’s continuing search to regain its strength and dignity and on the role, involvement, and responsibilities of the international community in the recent history of this “troubled land.”