Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review of "Haiti: The Aftershocks of History" by Laurent Dubois

Laurent Dubois has written a landmark book about Haiti - its past history, current dilemma and future prospects.  His extensive research has allowed him to present a comprehensive picture of the historical, cultural, racial, geopolitical, economic and anthropological tectonic plates that have been grinding against each other since before Haiti declared its independence in 1804.

I lived for a year in the mountains of Haiti from 1974-5, during the reign of Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.  I have studied Haitian history, language and culture, and have returned to this complex country three times since the earthquake of 2010.  I learned a great deal of new information about Haiti from this book, and gained a new understanding of how actions over the years on the part of France and the United States in particular have handicapped this island nation and made it virtually impossible to forge a sustainable economy and independent governance.  The section of the book that provides detailed description of the twenty years of US Marines occupation of Haiti early in the 20th Century was both enlightening and infuriating.

This book should be a Must Read for anyone planning to travel to Haiti, work in Haiti or who aspires to involve himself or herself in work that would seek to make a difference in this part of the world.  This book is a case study in unintended consequences.  The eradication of the indigenous population of black pigs to counteract an outbreak of swine flu, and replacing them with white pigs from the U.S. is a poignant case in point.  That sad chapter in paternalism also stands as an ironic metaphor for much that has been wrong in Haiti for over two hundred years - kill the black and replace it with the white!

I am already planning on giving copies of this book to Haitian friends and non-Haitians who are working for NGOs operating in Haiti.  "Haiti - The Aftershocks of History" is a valuable contribution to our understanding of this wondrous place many of us praise in song as "Ayiti cheri"!



No comments: