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Commentary: The characteristics of the Haitian people
Published on May 25, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean H Charles

The Republic of Haiti might have taken birth on January 1, 1804, but the ethos of the Haitian people has been distilled through and processed throughout the 300 years (1504-1804) of the colonial period. This ethos is woven with five characteristics that permeate the Haitian mentality.

Jean Hervé Charles LLB, MSW, JD, former Vice-Dean of Students at City College of the City University of New York, is now responsible for policy and public relations for the political platform in power in Haiti, Répons Peyisan. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol
There is at the same time a slave and a colonial attitude built by 300 years of illegitimate and immoral intercourse that conceived a hybrid person repugnant of, and an incubator for citizenship practices that keep breeding a failed nation status. There is also a strong belief in the Catholic Church as well as in the voodoo practice brought into the country almost at the same time, the first one from Europe and the other one from Africa, creating a strange synchronicity in practice and in belief. The last characteristic is the faith in and the love of the Haitian army.

Starting with the last component, the destruction of the Haitian army either by Jean Bertrand Aristide or the American government under the Clinton administration has shattered to the bone the sense of security inside each Haitian person, provoking the building of internal and external means of self-protection that destroys the prospect for communal living and national bonding.

The republic of Haiti, along with the republic of the United States, might be the two nations in the Western hemisphere that were built directly by their army. Their founding fathers, respectively Jean Jacques Dessalines and George Washington, generals of their army, were their first civilian presidents.

The culture of the army as the backbone of the country in terms of security and enforcer of the Constitution was part of the fabric of the Haitian nation. It is true the Haitian army since its origin has disrobed the country of valuable resources for nation building in constructing all over forts and citadels that were never used. It has also served as a bidder of low intensity for internal conflicts provoked by partisan national and international interests. Yet Haiti without its army is a country without a skeleton, or its essential parts, unable to take charge of and enjoy the most elementary duties and privileges of an independent nation.

The community of nations through the MINUSTHA has been discharging the mission of protection and of so-called stabilization of the country for the last 25 years under different acronyms, with no clear result and no positive impact even when you apply the lowest standard of evaluation.

The Haitian people should asked in a referendum in its next elections, whether the Haitian army should be redeployed throughout the republic and finish once and for all with the imbroglio of army you see and army you no see!

This policy is dictated by the national dark forces that kept the country under hostage for the past sixty years as well as by the design of some international interests bent on keeping the Haitian people in neo-bondage for the crass exploitation of its natural and human resources.

The Catholic Church

Haiti is like France, Spain or Italy a Catholic country. Whether you are a practicing Baptist, Adventist or even voodoo you are a Catholic. Your children will more likely attend a Catholic school run by the good and efficient religious nuns. Your life will be dictated by the different Catholic religious holidays that are also national holidays. There is no official ceremony without the traditional mass and the Te Deum administered by the bishop or the priest of the parish.

In fact, the Catholic bishop is an official of the Haitian government, with all the privileges thereof. The Haitian priest, under the terms of the Concordat signed with the Vatican in 1865, is paid monthly by and enjoys the national pension provided to each and every state employee.

This special status of the Catholic Church is due to the fact that the city/state of the Vatican was the first entity that recognized the republic as a free and independent country well before the rest of the world that kept Haiti in ostracism. It went further in preparing for and sending to Haiti, hundreds of priests, nuns and Christian brothers to educate, evangelize and modernize the Haitian society. My own parents as well as I are the product of this initiative that covered from 1865 to 1965 all the cities and the towns of Haiti where the Catholic clergy from Brittany, France constituted a staple of the Haitian panorama.

Francois Duvalier, the dictator that stamped the Haitian canvas for 33 years, dismantled the dominion of the Brittany clergy, to be replaced by the Haitian clergy. It has not been for the best result. Some Haitian priests did not hesitate to wear their guns á la ton ton macoute even in officiating church services. Upon the forced departure of Duvalier, one of them, Jean Bertrand Aristide took the reins of power with all the negative impact upon the Haitian society that an exorcism might be necessary by the same Catholic Church to redirect the Haitian ethos in the right orbit.

I am counting on the priests from the Monfortain institution to realize this metamorphosis. They seem to carry their priestly duties with Christian beliefs and the rationality that has characterized the Church of Jesus the Christ since God demanded Abraham to leave his land of Iraq to travel to Palestine and believe in the one and only Creator. It was the beginning of the era where man ceases to destroy his fellow human beings as well as his environment as a matter of fact.


Whether you are a practicing Catholic or not, the Haitian person believes also in voodoo practice. It is this set of values and beliefs brought from Africa by the slaves introduced into Ayiti for the last 300 years before independence. The mixture of Catholic beliefs imposed by the colonists with the voodoo practice brought by the slaves has produced one of the most interesting phenomena that can become the latest demonstration of a cultural mythology that should enrich the whole humanity.

I was speaking recently with a young lady from Greece who now lives in Haiti; she was astonished to find the god of Zeus in Greece has a lot of similarity and affinity with the god of Ogu in Haiti.

To enrich the world with the Haitian mythology, Haitian society led by its intellectual elite as well as by the voodoo practitioners must agree to transform voodoo from a religion into a Creole or Haitian mythology as rich and as valuable to the world as the Greek or the Latin mythology was and is to the classicists. Liberated from the religious practices and beliefs, the Lois or gods in the Haitian voodoo have much to teach to the children of Haiti as well as to the American, British or Swedish children in values, morality and way of life.

The colonists and the slave mentality!

Three hundred years in transactional intercourse between slave and colonist has created a Haitian citizen pregnant with the characteristics stamped either by the slave or the colonist. They are all inimical to the idea or the concept of citizenship required for nation building. The colonist in Haiti was an absentee owner who instructed the overseer to exploit the resources of the land to the maximum without sustainable consideration.

The vast forest of mahogany and cedar sent to France without even bothering to harvest the seeds for future forests has been and is the culture and the practice of Haiti today.

The slave exploited without remuneration had little interest in the country. His dream was to return to the mythical Congo, from where he was extracted by force and by ruse. The Haitian nation building process lasted only two years after independence (1804-1806); the time process for impregnating the good citizenship values of rights and privileges from each and to each was not long enough to stamp the culture necessary to build a vibrant nation.

For the last two hundred years, the resilience, the creativity and the ingenuity of the critical mass of the Haitian people have been misunderstood and wasted by successive heads of state. The present Martelly/ Lamothe government might be the best one in the last 60 years of Haiti governance. Yet, after two years in power the fate of the ordinary Haitian citizen has not been changed one iota.

If the regime does not transmute itself into a change agent for nation building and for wealth creating culture for all, Haiti might have to wait for the après Martelly/Lamothe regime to engage into the concept that the patrimony bequeathed by the founders must be not only shared by all but it must be enriched and augmented for future generations.

Haiti is a country rich and well endowed in spite of 500 years of predatory exploitation of the motherland. It is still the land where American Airlines used to advertise the country is so beautiful you wish you were the citizen thereof!... and where the present American ambassador Mrs Pamela White exclaimed quite often: “Haiti, you are too rich to be poor!”
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