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Haiti Has One Of The Most Expansive And Influential Histories In The World

Alex Priomos / Flickr

Located on the western side of Hispaniola, Haiti is a nation rocked by revolutions and steeped in culture. We take a look at 21 highlights of the country’s history ranging from courageous slave revolts, rum-soaked pirates, murderous despots, and change-making visionaries.

The Indigenous Haitians

Credit: Unknown / carriacou.biz

Ancestors of the Taíno people, an Arawak-speaking population, were the first to inhabit Haiti. They are rumored to have arrived as early as 4000-5000 BC and researchers of this indigenous group debate whether they originated from the Amazon Basin, the Yucatán Peninsula or even as far as the Colombian Andes. Despite a wave of smallpox and slavery in the 16th century driving the Taíno to extinction, their language is immortalized in Haiti’s name, which is a transliteration of Ayti, meaning Mountainous Land.

The Arrival of Christopher Columbus

Credit: John Vanderlyn / Wikipedia

Christopher Columbus arrived in Haiti on Dec. 5, 1492, whilst sailing around the Caribbean Islands during his iconic expedition funded by the Spanish Empire. In an act of imperial uncouthness, he swiftly renamed it La Isla Española and established La Navidad, the first European colony in the Americas, which was located near to present-day Cap-Haïtien on the north coast. 

Bartolomé de las Casas

Credit: Unknown / James Bishop

Bartolomé de las Casas was ordained as the first priest in the Americas in 1510. He was one of the first to propose the use of African slaves as a method for offsetting the decline of the Taíno, who were rapidly dying from enslavement and foreign disease. It’s estimated that there were up to 8 million Taíno, before the arrival of Europeans, and by 1548 less than 500 were left. Las Casas later denounced all forms of slavery, but historians and abolitionists have since indelibly labeled him as one of the founders of the transatlantic slave trade.

Queen Anacaona

Credit: Unknown / Wikipedia

Queen Anacaona, born in Léogâne, Haiti, was the last Taíno chief. After being captured by the Spanish and refusing to become a concubine she was executed. Her bravery has been praised in modern Haitian music, such as by Ansy and Yole Dérose.

Bottoms Up

Credit: Howard Pyle / Wikipedia

In the 17th century the swashbuckling Welshman, Henry Morgan, was contracted by the British to invade the colonial Spanish settlements scattered throughout Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Failing to succeed he turned his attention to plundering wealthy Caribbean ports for gold and used Isla Vaca on Haiti’s south coast as a base of operations. After years of government-sponsored marauding, including accidentally blowing up his most prized battleship after a night of hard drinking, he fled to Jamaica with his bounty and bought 5,000 acres of land for cultivating sugar cane for the British. In 1944 his notoriety was spread even further around the world with the founding of the Captain Morgan rum brand.

An Island of Outcasts

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Tortuga Island on Haiti’s north coast was an epicenter for piracy. Previously fortified by the Spanish, a small number of French and English buccaneers began their first attempts to settle here in 1625. Over four decades the nations battled for ownership of the island, with Spain gaining and losing control four times. In 1684, the European superpowers signed the Treaty of Ratisbon, which effectively outlawed piracy and led to many of Tortuga’s settlers to seek out more legitimate work in the navy or cutting and trading wood.

Kings of Coffee

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When Spain ceded Haiti to the French in 1697 it was renamed Saint-Domingue and in less than a century became an agricultural powerhouse producing 60 percent of all coffee and 40 percent of sugar for Europe. So productive was this new French colony that it became referred to as The Pearl of the Antilles.

The Slave Rebellion

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The Haitian Revolution starting in 1791 was the most successful slave rebellion in world history. The three-year rebellion led to the abolishment of slavery across all of France’s territories, the country’s independence and kick-started slave revolts in the United States and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

Gunpowder and Guano

Credit: USGS / Wikipedia

Since 1857 there has been a territorial dispute between Haiti and the U.S. over uninhabited Navassa Island. The US maintains its control under the Guano Islands Act of 1856, which was passed as federal law, to allow U.S. citizens to claim unoccupied islands for collecting guano deposits which were readily used in the production of gunpowder and agricultural fertilizer.

Dezafi

Credit: Unknown / repeatingislands.com

The first book to be written entirely in Haitian Creole, Dezafi by Frankétienne, was published in 1975 and described daily life during the Duvalier regime. It wasn’t until 1987 that Haitian Creole was recognized, alongside French, as the official language of the country.


Good Juju

Credit: Dominik Schwarz / Wikipedia

There’s a saying in the country that “Haitians are 70 percent Catholic, 30 percent Protestant, and 100 percent voodoo.” It’s believed that voodoo’s roots go back 6,000 years to Benin and was brought over to Haiti during the slave era where it was practiced in secret. It’s even said that a single ceremony led by Duty Boukman, a voodoo priest, instigated the Haitian Revolution. As a steadfast part of Haitian culture for centuries, it was formally considered in 2003 by Haiti’s Catholic President at the time, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, as having equal standing to Catholicism.

Hideouts

Credit: J. Outhwaite & K. Girardet / wilderutopia.com

During the 17th and 18th centuries, large numbers of slaves managed to escape the French to hide away in Haiti’s mountains. They were known as mawon which means “escaped slave” in Haitian Creole. Their clandestine communities, known as maroons, survived through hunting, agriculture, and capturing and returning other slaves who tried to escape. The most well-known maroon leader, François Mackandal, poisoned the drinking water of hundreds of plantation owners throughout the 1750s.

L’Ouverture’s Vision

Credit: Unknown / Roosevelt Jean-Francois

Toussaint L’Ouverture was the eldest son of an African prince. L’Ouverture led the revolutionary forces during the Haitian Revolution and after France abolished slavery he allied with them to overthrow the British and Spanish on the island. After his success, he wrote Haiti’s first constitution. A visionary, he ratified that “All men can work at all forms of employment, whatever their color.” and “There can be no slaves on this territory; servitude has been forever abolished. All men are born, live and die there free and French.”

Record Breakers

Credit: Auguste Raffet / Wikipedia

Haiti’s independence from France in 1804 makes it the world’s oldest black republic and after the United States, it is the second oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere.

Genocide

Credit: France Militaire / Wikipedia

Between 1804-1915 over 70 dictators ruled Haiti. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who was the first ruler of independent Haiti carried out the genocide of 3,000-5,000 white native French and French Creoles. The only people spared were Polish who defected from the French army, medical professionals and a handful of German colonists.


The Citadel Laferrière

Credit: United States Army / Wikipedia

The imposing Citadel Laferrière is the largest fortress in the Americas and was built by slave rebellion leader Henri Christophe after gaining independence from France. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, the mountaintop citadel was designed to sustain 5000 men with food and water for up to one year.

Jewel of the Caribbean

Credit: Rémi Kaupp / Wikipedia

The Sans-Souci Palace, 3 miles from Citadel Laferrière, was the royal residence of Henri Christophe. The palace’s ornate stonework and majestic architecture have been compared to the Palace of Versailles in France.


A Mix-Up

Credit: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-P017045, Frankl, A. / Wikipedia

At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, when Liechtenstein and Haiti unveiled their country’s flags they realized they were identical. Soon after Liechtenstein added a crown to their flag to avoid any further confusion.

Duvalier Dynasty

Credit: Unknown / learning-history.com

François Duvalier was elected as president in 1957. After an attempted military coup d’état, Duvalier’s regime exerted a totalitarian rule over Haiti. He consolidated his power by creating an undercover death squad which Haitian’s referred to as the Tonton Macoute (Uncle Gunnysack) which is named after a local mythological creature that kidnaps children and carries them away in a sack to be eaten. His aim was to spread fear, crush dissent and assassinate his opponents. An estimated 30,000 were killed. Duvalier declared himself President for Life until his 19-year-old son took over in 1971 and ruled until 1986 when he was forced to flee during a revolt.


Military Rule

Credit: U.S. Coast Guard / military.com

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Roman Catholic priest, was elected in December 1990, but in less than a year was overthrown in a coup d’état giving rise to General Raoul Cédras. Under military rule up to 5,000 Haitians were killed and thousands of Haitians tried to flee the country by boat. Between 1991 and 1992 the U.S. Coast Guard intercepted over 41,000 trying to flee the country.

Natural Disaster

Credit: Marco Dormino, The United Nations Development Program / Wikipedia

On Jan. 12, 2010, an estimated 217,000 people were killed by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake which destroys most of the capital, Port-au-Prince. The international community came together to help the country rebuild.

READ: This Tijuana Restaurant Has Become The Hub Of The Haitian Migrant Community Stuck In Mexico

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You're Not Celebrating #WomensHistoryMonth If You're Not Celebrating These Trans Women

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You’re Not Celebrating #WomensHistoryMonth If You’re Not Celebrating These Trans Women

Dani Vega | lanacion.cl

There is no question that, in the expanse of gender identities, being anything other than cis male means fighting for your rights and space in this world. As we honor Women’s History Month, it’s important that we celebrate all experiences of being a woman, especially trans women, who are fighting up against sexism and transphobia.

You may not know all these faces, but the next 20 women you’re about to meet have devoted a lifetime of heartbreaking service to create the moment we live in today. Start lighting candles, because every single one of these complex, fierce leaders are saints in my book.

Sylvia Rivera

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Every conversation about trans Latina pioneers must begin with Sylvia Rivera. Born and raised in NYC, this Puerto Rican-Venezuelan started wearing makeup in fourth grade… in the 1950s. Her family abandoned her and she was forced into sex work at 11 years old.

She was an activist for many causes in her life and is best known as the Boricua who might have started the Stonewall Riots which launched the LGBTQ+ rights movement.

Stefanie Rivera

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Rivera is a founding member of FIERCE, a non-profit dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ youth of color, and has been with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project since 2002. Her life is about helping others and it’s beautiful.

Bamby Salcedo

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La Bamby is one of the leading, award-winning forces in protecting trans Latinas. She founded the one and only TransLatin@ Coalition in Los Angeles and was invited to speak at the White House United State of Women Summit on how to prevent violence against women.

Mariah Lopez

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. Remezcla. 12 March 2019.

Once a sex worker, Lopez is now the executive director of the Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform (STARR). Her experience as a sex worker with law enforcement has called her to ensure that transgender inmates are protected from abuse. She was ordered to comply with a “genital check,” which she refused, and was forced to go to a men’s prison.

Dani Vega

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In 2017, Chilean actress Dani Vega made history by becoming the first transgender actress to present at the Oscars. You might recognize her from “Una Mujer Fantastica.” Thank you for fighting to be seen.

Carmen Carrera

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We first met Carrera as a drag queen on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Since then, she’s transitioned, called RuPaul himself out on transphobic elements of his show, and has become the first trans person to be wedded on a reality television series. Today, she’s breaking the mold as a professional trans model and is advocating for space for trans people on the runway. Te amos, Carmen!

Victoria Cruz

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Cruz has been in the LGBTQ+ rights movement so long that she was friends with Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. She moved to Brooklyn from Puerto Rico when she was 4 years old and transitioned soon after. Today, she’s a senior domestic violence counselor for the Anti-Violence Project.

Diane Marie Rodríguez Zambrano

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Zambrano is the first openly trans and LGBTQ+ candidate to run for office in her home country of Ecuador. She works hard with the Ecuadorian government to implement protections for trans people in the workplace, therefore giving legal options to trans people to just live in this world.

Davia Spain

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Caption: “Davia Spain is a dynamic performing artist, transformative presenter, informed educator, and filmmaker who uses her various platforms as opportunities to speak truth to power. Through her work, she taps into the healing abilities that performance art offers both on and off stage. She believes that by utilizing the radical potential of movement and song as vehicles for change we can reach a destination of collective rejuvenation and transformation.”

Vanessa Victoria

CREDIT: Untitled. Digital Image. PRIDE. 12 March 2019.

This Boricua gives back to her community on a full-time basis. She’s the community counselor for the NYC Anti-Violence Project and the co-founder of the Trans Women of Color Collective.

Isa Noyola

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Noyola has an incredible track record of advocating for trans people. She organized the first ever National Trans Anti-Violence summit, which brought together over 100 activists. Noyola is the Deputy Director at the Transgender Law Center and spends her whole life working to abolish the oppressive policies that systematically criminalize the trans and queer communities of color. Get it, girl.

MJ Rodriguez

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This talented Nuyorican has made waves by becoming the first starring trans character on a television series. Her performance as an HIV positive trans woman set in the ’80s in the series Pose will make you weep, inspire and motivate you to do more with this precious life we have.

Leiomy Maldonado

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We can’t talk ’80s ballroom without introducing the legendary Maldonado. This Boricua is known as the “Wonder Woman of Vogue” for how she’s revolutionized the scene. Her dance moves and choreographical expertise has landed her on the sets of Will Smith’s “Whip My Hair” and Icona Pop’s “All Night” music videos. She’s also the first trans woman to star in a Nike ad.

Jennicet Gutiérrez

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We all first heard of Jennicet when she interrupted President Barack Obama to demand answers for the violence trans immigrants face in American detention centers. The Mexicana has been on the map for years, beginning with her foundation, “La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.” Her work focuses on freeing the LGBT Latinx stuck in America’s immigration system.

Sasha Navarro

CREDIT: @translatinacoalition / Twitter

Caption: “Meet the Case Manager for our Reentry program, Sasha Navarro Sasha works directly with trans and gender non-conforming people being released from jails, prisons, and detention centers and helps provide a smoother pathway for reentry. She helps assist clients with housing needs, hormone access, STD/HIV testing, and organizes LifeSkills courses to help folx navigate the system. Please contact Sasha Navarro if you know of any folks currently or formerly incarcerated and in need of services at sashan@translatinacoalition.org”

Arianna Lint

CREDIT: @Latina / Twitter

Peru-born Lint has dedicated her life to service of the American people. She works for the Florida Health Department and focuses on HIV/AIDS—which has made her uniquely qualified to chair the Trans-Latin@ Coalition.

Felicia Elizondo

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Elizondo has been speaking up since before the Stonewall Riots and speaking on her experience as an HIV positive trans person. Her work with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and other organizations has granted her the Lifetime Achievement Grand Marshal honor of the 2015 San Francisco Pride Parade.

Ruby Corado

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Corado was originally born in El Salvador and has made her way into the U.S. Capitol to speak up for our community. She’s set up a bilingual LGBT organization in Trump’s own backyard (Washington D.C.).

Bianey Garcia D la O

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Bianey Garcia D la O organizes an annual trans march in New York called Make The Road NY. The Mexican-born activist has dedicated her life to decriminalizing sex work in New York.

Lorena Borjas

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Lorena Borjas has spent the last 30 years helping to advocate for trans women looking for routes out of sex trafficking and more. Borjas was at high risk for deportation until New York Governor Andrew Cuomo granted a rare pardon for previous convictions from when she was a victim of trafficking.