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Opinion
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Commentary: Haiti's fiesta season is in full swing starting next week
Published on July 15, 2017Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean Hervé Charles

Starting this coming Sunday (July 16th) the fiesta season is in full swing in Haiti. I will be there in Saut d’Eau to celebrate Mary Mother of God under the label of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Father Desras,who previously chaired the parish of Lascahobas is now leading Saut d’Eau to a new high.

This picturesque village, on the hill dominating the vast valley and with breathtaking waterfalls, is Vail in the Caribbean in summer. Father Desras has a vision big enough to transform Saut d’Eau into a pilgrimage setting with a basilica that rivals Our Lady of Altagracia in Higuey Dominican Republic.

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I have been harboring for years the big dream of a subscription to New York Lotto with winning numbers revealed by our Lady Mount Carmel, called also the Lady of Miracles. Upon winning the first million will be dedicated to a fund for the construction of the Basilica.

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From Saut d’Eau I will head to the north of Haiti for the fiesta of St Marguerite on the 20 July in the village of Port au Margot. There is a customary pause in Le Borgne on the 18th where the entire Diaspora meets for the Reunion Ball with the famous Tropicana orchestra. From Le Borgne it is a hop to Port au Margot for the eve of the fiesta of St Marguerite. In Haiti, the true fiesta for the revelers is the eve of the fiesta, leaving the very day of the saint day for those who plan to attend church service and the religious and official ceremonies.

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Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now.  He can be reached at jeanhcharles@aol.com
The season is akin to US Open for the players; all play with no sleep for the next 15 days. The fiesta of St Jacques in La Plaine du Nord is on 24 July. This fiesta warrants a special attention from the Haitian government’s ministry of culture. It is the unique venue for the parade of all the voodoo fraternities of Haiti. They came from all parts of the country, especially from the Artibonite, to display their costumes, their wares and their magical powers.

But as everything in Haiti, there are no hospitable arms to receive them and place value their magnificent display of artistic accoutrements. A parade from the main road in the afternoon of the eve of the fiesta to the village of La Plaine du Nord could attract tourists from all over the globe without counting Haiti’s own Diaspora.

From La Plaine du Nord, the pilgrims head to Limonade for the fiesta of St Anne, the mother of Virgin Mary on July 26. Granny St Anne, as she is infectiously called, attracts the same large crowd as St Jacques le Majeur. I will be there visiting while stopping at the parish home for the bouillon (soup with all types of vegetables) on the eve of the Fiesta. Father Venitus Chery the pastor of the church for the past 20 years is in retreat. Will the welcoming mat by the new vicar be as large as with Father Chery? Praying St Anne it will be!

Before heading to another bucolic village named Marmelade, for the fiesta of St Marie Madeleine on July 29, the action is in Cape Haitian, this living museum city on which has fallen the weight of an oversize nomad population that need to go back to their idyllic villages when the state will hopefully provide excellent infrastructure and decent institutions for them.

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There, one can visit the Citadelle, the fortress built by Henry Christophe to deter the French colonists from coming back to Haiti to re-install slavery. There is also Labadie, the celestial resort setting that keeps getting high marks from cruise lovers. Last but not least, on a Monday or Friday head to the frontier town of Ouanaminthe and Dajabon, plunge into the biggest market in the Caribbean where Haitians and Dominicans exchange goods, gadgets and commodities.

The month of August brings its full load of religious and cultural fiesta starting with the fiesta of St Claire on August 11 at Marchand Dessalines. I plan to be there this year. It has always been a missed occasion. It is famous for the beach party near a river with the Septentrional orchestra leading the dance.

On August 15 Haiti enjoys a plethora of fiesta that corresponds to the feast of our Lady of Assumption feted in the major cities of the country, namely, Les Cayes, Petit Goave, Ounaminthe, Port au Prince and Cape Haitian. In Les Cayes the rendezvous is at Gelee Beach while Petit Goave draws the Port au Prince crowd that cares not to celebrate its saint’s fiesta.

The festival season will come to a slowdown at the end of the month, not without mentioning the fiesta of St Louis king of France on August 24 in Jeremie and St Louis du Nord and then head to the fiesta of St Rosa of Lima in my own town of Grand River or at Leogane on August 30. I am slowly building an eco-lodge hospitality complex in my village, hoping I am not pioneering too fast from the slow pace of the government in providing excellent infrastructure to the hinterland so the tourists would come with ease on a well paved road, running water and electricity in all the villages.

Haiti has been labeled the poorest country in the world, yet a minimum of support from the government in infrastructure and in institution-building for this cultural treasure trove would bring immensurable revenue not only from international tourists, the Diaspora and the locals but it will spur the national economy, bringing foreign exchange into the coffers of the state.

I have regularly at this time of the year, reminded locals and international tourists that Haiti from July 15 to September 1 is a strong rival to Bali or Hawaii in terms of fun, fair and folly, dare to plunge into this fairy tale. Haiti has been found recently by the Global Index one of the safest nations in the Caribbean and in Latin America!
 
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