Posted by: koolwine | April 5, 2010

Haiti: Krik? Krak!

Country: Haiti

Haiti is the only country in the world to have originated from a slave uprising.

Local Name: Repiblik d’Ayiti (Haitian Creole); Ayiti meant “mountainous land” in the indigenous Taíno language

Land of Earthquakes and Mountains:
I think it’s safe to say that everyone reading this blog knows the following about Haiti:

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit just southwest of Port-au-Prince, the capital.  Approximately 230,000 people have died and 3 million people (1/3 of the population) have been affected.

There is a Creole proverb that says, “Beyond mountains, more mountains,”  which not only refers to the vertical terrain but also to the inhabitants’ seemingly endless struggles that stretch all the way back to Columbus’s landing in 1492.  I wanted to find a book that would familiarize me with some of those struggles.

Title: Kric? Krak!
(before Haitians tell a story they ask “Kric?” and the enthusiastic listeners answer “Krak!”)

Author: Edwidge Danticat (Haitian-American)

Published: 1995    Pages: 224

Acclaim: National Book Award Finalist

Setting: the fictional town of Ville Rose, Haiti; Port au Prince, Haiti; New York City
Time Period: 1937 up to the mid-1990s.

Summary: Danticat’s nine short stories describe a variety of Haitian experience; four of them either take place during or refer to the historical events that I have given a brief background about below.  The other five address poverty, prostitution, throw-away children, voodoo and immigration.

“A Wall of Fire Rising”
In 1791 at Bois Caiman (Alligator Woods), Boukman Dutty presided over a voodoo ceremony that triggered the start of a slave rebellion against the slaves’ French oppressors.  This war ended twelve years later with the surrender of Napoleon’s army and the creation of the first and only “Black Republic.”

“Nineteen Thirty-Seven”
15,000-20,000 people were slaughtered in the 1937 Parsley Massacre when neighboring Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered his army to kill all of the Haitians living on the Dominican side of the Rio Artibonito, a river that acts as a natural border between the two countries. Many of the victims were struck down as they were frantically trying to save themselves by crossing the river into Haiti; the waters ran red and became known as “the Massacre River.”  The name Parsley was taken from the way the soldiers distinguished between the French/Creole-speaking Haitians and the Spanish-speaking Dominicans – they would hold up a sprig of parsley and ask what it was – anyone who could not come up with or correctly pronounce the word perejil (Spanish for parsley) was assumed to be Haitian and hacked to death with machetes.

“Children of the Sea”
Over 30,000 Haitians were killed for political reasons while the infamous François “Papa Doc” Duvalier was in power; his secret police, the Tonton Macoutes, wrought terror on the populace.  Tonton Macoutes means “Uncle Gunnysack” – the name of a Creole bogeyman who would roam the streets at night, snatching up wayward children and stuffing them in his gunnysack.  These children were never heard from again.

“The Missing Peace”
This story refers to the violent September 1991 coup in which reform President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted by the corrupt Haitian military.  Aristide had assumed office that February in the first free and fair elections in Haiti’s 186-year-old history.  Three years of tyranny followed under the de facto leadership of military strongman Raoul Cédras.




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  1. […] Haiti: Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat […]


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