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25823: Hermantin(News)Ghosts of the 1915 U.S. invasion still haunt Haiti's people (fwd)
From: leonie hermantin <email@example.com>
Posted on Mon, Jul. 25, 2005
90 YEARS LATER
Ghosts of the 1915 U.S. invasion still haunt Haiti's people
BY EDWIDGE DANTICAT
On July 28, 1915, U.S. forces invaded Haiti, launching an occupation that would
last 19 years.
The U.S. invasion came in the wake of President Woodrow Wilson's professed
commitment to make the world safe for democracy. However, as soon as the
Marines landed in Haiti, Wilson's administration remapped the country into
police departments, shut down the press, installed a lame-duck government,
rewrote the constitution to give foreigners land-owning rights, took charge of
Haiti's banks and customs and instituted a system of compulsory labor for poor
Those who resisted the occupation -- among them a militant peasant-run group
called Cacos -- were crushed. In 1919, U.S. Marines in blackface ambushed and
killed the Cacos' fearless leader, Charlemagne Peralte, mutilated his corpse
and displayed it in a public square for days.
By the end of the occupation, more than 15,000 Haitians had lost their lives. A
Haitian gendarmerie was trained to replace the U.S. Marines, then proceeded to
form juntas, organize coups and terrorize Haitians for decades.
Although U.S. troops were officially withdrawn from Haiti in 1934, the U.S.
government maintained economic control of the country until 1947.
Ninety years later, there are many, including some current foreign-policy
experts, who maintain that Haiti, like recently occupied Iraq, should be
declared a failed state. This could make way for another lengthy takeover.
After all, some of the conditions that existed in Haiti in 1915 are still
present today: rampant insecurity, political uncertainty, proximity to U.S.
shores and concern for American interests, no small part of which is the fear
of an exodus of boat people headed for Miami.
However, while Haiti tantalized the West at the beginning of the 20th century
with an entryway to the Panama Canal and mineral, fruit, coffee and sugar
resources, it seems to have little left to currently exploit except the
desperation of a people, whose most basic needs have often been neglected by
its own leaders.
Few Americans are aware that their country once occupied ours, and for such a
long time. This is not surprising, for as one Haitian proverb suggests, while
those who give the blows can easily forget, the ones who carry the scar have no
choice but to remember.
While it takes American leaders and their armed enforcers just a few hours,
days, weeks, months to rewrite another sovereign nation's history, it takes
more than 90 years to overcome devastations caused by such an operation, to
replace the irreplaceable, the dead lost, the spirits quelled, to steer an
entire generation out of the shadows of dependency, to meet fellow citizens
across carefully constructed divides and become halfway whole again.
The 1915-1934 U.S. occupation is not the only problem that Haiti has or has
ever faced in the last nine decades. Yet it is one more hurdle that the country
has had to overcome in a long and painful cycle of destruction and
reconstruction, self-governance and subjugation.
Ninety years is a long span of time in the life of a woman or a man, but it is
a short phase in the life of a country.
Iraq, take heed.
Edwidge Danticat, a native of Haiti, is the author of several novels,
including, most recently, Anacaona, Golden Flower.
© 2005 Herald