The Haitian - Jamaican Connection
Blood Ties, Support, Alliance and Comradship 

Winston Donald

© Copyright 2021 by Winston Donald

Jamaica , The One Love country has been at the forefront as a country compassionate and ready to provide a helping hand especially in times of need and times of economic or political upheaval.

For years the Haitian Flag flows on its embassy in the Kingston and St. Andrew metropolis and students from the prestigious British type grammar schools which French is taught religiously make the trek to Haiti as they attempt to practice the French language and explore the French- creole culture of a sister and neighbouring Caribbean country.

Haiti, the Caribbean peninsula and sister nation of the twin island known as Hispaniola is in the news recently and for the wrong reasons- the assassination of its President Mr. Moise. There are some Caribbean countries such as the Bahamas and Dominican Republic which has a terrible history of poor relations and particularly physical maltreatment of Haitians immigrants. Not so Jamaica, the island state of One Love has had a warm and a serious historical connection and welcoming arms despite its lack of resources.

Blood Connection

In the 17th and 18th centuries The evil British Slave Trade and plantation economy lend to an evil practice- dividing black families and weeding out rebellious slaves by shipping them off would not only to the other British colonized counties but interestingly to Haiti. To date there are people in Haiti who are obviously with Jamaican Black Blood. Such was the case of Dutty Boukman, the precursor of the Haitian revolution and a stalwart, perhaps a hero against plantation tyranny. Boukman, because of his intelligence and literary skills was sold to a French plantation owner. He was therefore exiled to Haiti but he never forgot his duty to help free his fellow black slaves held in bondage by the exploitative French slavemasters . The slavemasters were fearful of Boukman as they believed he would motivate and influence the slaves of Haiti to rebel and to overthrow their slave masters.  

Boukman fueled the revolutionary fever motivating the suffering slaves in what Haiti (then Saint Dominigue) to take up arms against the French slave masters and plantocracy. He inspired the call to freedom and Independence and although he was killed by the French slave masters , his spirit lived on to influence his people in bondage to rise up a tyrannical plantation system. And in true form, Boukman revolutionary zeal and achievements were continued by the great Haitian revolutionary and freedom fighter Toussaint L’Overture.

Pre- Revolution Period in Haiti - Exit some of the French Plantocrasy to Jamaica

At the onset of the revolution in Haiti in 1794, many French planters and their slaves exit Haiti for a number of countries and cities such as Nova Scotia and Arcadia in Canada; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Kingston, Jamaica . The legendary White Witch of Rose Hall was purportedly of French Haitian descent. Those who came to Jamaica brought the skills involved in coffee plantation and established themselves in the high mountains and hills of Jamaica as coffee planters.

A significant bourgeoisie of the French settled in Kingston as urban merchants who with their evil intention called upon the US government to send troops to Haiti. The Americans did not send troops at that time to influence the outcome of the French Revolution but the meddling of these French families ( white Haitians ) continued to shape American policy and was instrumental in the Americans invading and colonizing Haiti for nineteen years beginning 1912. The descendants of the French Haitian bourgeoisie are still here prominent in business and hegemonic just like the other ethnic minorities.

The coffee industry has benefitted however from the input of the French - Haitian emigrees. An interesting take, which our history books have not explained was the British making life easy for them in Jamaica, knowing Britain and France had a hostile and envious relationship during the 19th century.

Haitian and Jamaicans Involvement in the Cuban War of Independence

When Cuba sought its Independence from Spain , Jamaicans ex slaves and Haitian free men living and working in Cuba were the first to respond eagerly , apart from native Cuban mulatoes and black Cubans.

Without the forces and bravery of Haitians and Jamaicans Cuba could not have achieved its independence. The Cuban input in the war showed lack of determination and bravery compared to the natives. Under the black general Garvey Maceo, the mixed freedom fighters included significant numbers of Jamaicans and Haitians working in the sugars lands of eastern and central Cuba. Of note was that Cuba won its War of Independence without significant guns and arms. The skilled use of machetes and cutlasses worked efficiently to slaughter the Spanish as any guns. Only the Jamaicans, Haitians and black Cubans could have been mastered the use of machetes as arms. The skill of using the machetes/cutlasses on the sugar cane plantations and peasant farming was transformed into use as war implements and killing tools, which served effectively in the latter part of the nineteen century.

War on Haitians and Jamaicans residents and labourers by the White and Mulatto Cubans , The Little War of 1906

Having received their Independence with significant help by black Cubans, the Cuban mulatto and white ethnicity foolishly listened to the American state machinery and then President that state power or power sharing with the black Cuban population would lead to the situation in Haiti where blacks dominated.

So devastating was the call and lies by the Americans that white Cubans and their mulatto allies took up arms against the Party of the Blacks in Cuba and terrorized the black population especially in Eastern Cuba Santiago province. Called the Little War of 1906, over 6,000 black Cubans were murdered viciously. The onslaught on black Cubans was felt by mostly Haitians and Jamaican workers who were the majority working the sugar plantations in Santiago province. The racist attitudes and attack by the white Cubans terrorized the black population during the war and demonstrated the worst of white people those who had helped them. The heads of many black innocent victims were cut off and placed on spikes. This was in a modern period, not the dark ages or the seventeenth century. Haitians and Jamaicans were most of the target of this racist war. Today despite the benefits such as education and health, the racism of white Cubans continue to be demonstrated even under a Communist regime. I can add that no black face is in the Cuban national media nor national dramatic arts. Black Cubans have to develop their own dramatic groups and there is no Black Cuban ballerina cherished by an island still racist towards those of Jamaican and Haitian descent.

Haiti under Papa Doc Duvalier – Flight of the Entrepreneurial Class to Jamaica

In the 1960’s Haiti’s strongman, Vodoo Practitioner and President for life nearly destroy the social and economic life of Haitians. Francois Duvalier took over the reins of power from an instable country with previous history of short term governments. Known as Papa Doc, Duvalier was a populist who ran an evil and corrupt presidency . He oversaw the destruction of families beginning with the murder of thousands of citizens, especially the mulatto elites at the hand of his henchmen- the fear Tonton Macoutes , otherwise called the mongoose men. Papa Doc had a hatred for the mulatto bougeisioe who he relentlessly pursued for their support of the US occupation of 1915- 1934.. However, he became so paranoid he went after his own black intellectuals and emergent business class. The murders and atrocities by the Mongoose men led to another flight of Haitians to Jamaica. Jamaica was privileged to get some of those black intellectuals and entrepreneurs and also businessmen from Middle Eastern extract. In fact, Jamaica’s nascent plastic industry soon became a developed fixture changing the domestic utensils culture of the masses. Again, the connection of Jamaica with Haiti. It seemed like its our destiny. Haiti’s loss was Jamaica’s gain.

Boat People – Exodus of Poor Haitians to Jamaica during the 1990’s

As if the 80;s , 60’s and 70’s were not bad enough, the 1990’s did no better for the people of Haiti. Despite the growth in tourism in the 1970’s and business tips from Jamaica and other countries, the Haitian people continued to be in economic misery with the worst economy in the West.

Seeing no way out hundreds if not thousands of Haitians saw opportunities by way of rickety boats to manily the Bahamas, Florida and Jamaica. Unwelcome by the USA as they are seen as opposites the Cubans, many on entering the shores of the USA were deported. Those arriving illegally in Jamaica were held in refuge centres, fed and cared for for months until the Jamaican government in discussion with the Haitian embassy found a way amiciable to repatriate those Asians arriving on Jamaica’s soil. Jamaica recognized however, that many Haitians might have slipped through and are living with the local population presently.

There was a time in the 1990’s when every two months we witnessed boat rides of Haitans arrived at our North Eastern shores as geographically Haiti is North East of Jamaica. While it muast of seen as problematic for those who are very pro – national, it movers thousands of Jamaican to give a lending hand and to provide for them while being process in Jamaica.

Jamaica has been connected with Haiti through historical and ethnical ties. The island has also played a significant role in the modern era of Haitian society. As an island practicing One Love, Jamaica stands tall in rendering assistance to a fellow Caribbean countries which has been in turmoil since the day it took up arms against the slave masters, plantation owners local bourgeosie and those who represent oppression.                                                                                          

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