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En route to my beloved “shithole” country

—by Etzer Cantave

January 21, 2018 7:45 am: I just took off from O’Hare International Airport en route to my beloved “shithole” country. My palace. The paradise that nurtured my young years of living foolishly, carefreely, and dangerously. What a feeling! Until the infamous remarks (insinuated or overt, whatever the case may be—frankly I don’t give a shit) I regarded the trip with a mix of joy and apprehension—not knowing what to expect after a thirty-year-long absence. However, since then, I’ve looked forward to it. Today I’m beaming with excitement. I can’t wait to land in the airport this Sunday afternoon. I would have hoped to catch «Compère Général Soleil» at his zenith and feel his scalding rays on my skin. But at 4:29 pm, it will be just enough time to catch a glimpse of him and salute him as he retreats behind the horizon and slowly sinks into the gulf for a restful evening. I can’t wait to be greeted by a blast of tropical air as I make my way down the stairwell. I will fend off the suffocating heat, hasten my pace down the stairwell. And once on firm ground, I shall drop on my knees and kiss the land. My cherished land. My motherland. I will murmur, “Oh I missed you! I’m sorry.” I promise you, if it comes to tears, so be it! I shall not hold them back. In that embrace, I hope to feel the vibes of Papa Dessalines, who must be rolling in his grave—oh I wish he were alive… And I shall pay my respects to the tormented souls of the hundreds of thousands who perished in the 2010 earthquake, praying they find solace in the entrails of the Motherland.

A beach in Jacmel, Haiti.

The shore of Jacmel, Haiti, where General Francisco de Miranda first designed the Venezuelan flag in 1806. Haiti gave him aid in support to his military expedition. —photo review Tanbou

I can’t wait to step on this land that has been the theater of epic battles, the like of which the world has never seen. I can’t wait to tell our forefathers how unworthy we are of the sacrifices they endured to secure this land. An unsophisticated, uncouth, and uninhibited mind cannot appreciate that this welcoming land has given shelter to the victims of persecution and freedom seekers of the world. I salute Papa Dessalines as the father of modern immigration. Contrary to insidious accounts that have much maligned him and made him out to be a blood-thirsty savage, Dessalines proved to be a statesman endowed with the highest degree of humanism. Despite the tendentious rhetoric spewed by the hegemonic powers of the time, that portrays him as a rabid sociopath and an anti-white maniac, Dessalines was as ferocious in war as magnanimous in victory. He chartered Haiti as the true land of the free. Should I remind the simpletons of the world, especially those in corridors of power, that the first wave of immigrants Dessalines welcomed to the land were the Polish contingent that Napoleon had drafted into his expeditionary army? In the War of Independence, they were impressed with Dessalines’s valor and vision, sided with him, integrated his indigenous army, and fought alongside our illustrious «va-nu-pieds» like brothers-in-arms.

After Dessalines’s crushing defeat of the Napoleonian forces, the Polish fighters elected to stay and live in the newly etched nation. Dessalines granted them full citizenship and ownership rights. This was DACA before we knew it. Someone in Washington DC ought to pay attention and learn one thing or two from this venerated land of ours. The Polish became the first immigrants to the First Black Independent Nation of the world and, per the Haitian Constitution, became Black sons and daughters of the country on par with the natives—a privilege they enjoyed until the 1960s calamity (that’s another story…). So, behold, petty politicians of Washington and elsewhere. And I don’t just mean the Donald Trumps of the world. I don’t worry too much about that clique, as they have shown time and again their true colors. I am targeting those who had always thought ill of Haiti and Haitians, and now via a suddenly awakened sanctimonious feeling find themselves at the forefront of the widespread condemnation of the malicious statements, just because they came from Trump. I direct my ire and fire on those who have been harboring similar thoughts, but unlike DT never had the gull to blurt them out. On those hypocrites who have always shown discomfort vis-a-vis Haiti and Haitians and think of us in pejorative, dismissive, and diminutive terms. They are legions out there. To them, I say, Behold!

We are a great country. Should they care to know, I would tell that crowd that, under Dessalines’s auspices, Haiti provided safe haven to American slaves whom ship captains would bring to Haiti in exchange for $40 so they could fulfill their aspirations to live in a society that regarded them as wholesome human beings. Furthermore, he offered to buy African slaves en route to Jamaica from British traders to set them free. Dessalines’s abolitionist stance extended to his successors all the way through the 1850s—a legacy pursued with vigor by Jean-Pierre Boyer, under whose presidency an estimated 13,000 African-Americans emigrated to Haiti in the 1820s. Such actions did not endear Haiti to the good graces of the powers-that-be, who waged a relentless destabilization campaign against the young nation to thwart its agenda of restoring the Black race into its splendor of yesteryear. The small country had to fend for herself against the joint forces of the power axis. Regardless of how pernicious their actions might be, they never deterred this sacred land of ours from fulfilling its mission of providing solace to the wretched of the earth. In that vein, Haiti responded to Simón Bolívar’s cries for help in his fight against Spanish colonial rule to free Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. President Pétion supplied him with crops, money, men, and military advice.

(Just landed in Fort Lauderdale for a three-hour layover. To be continued.)

To the coterie of detractors or pseudo-sympathizers, I will say that when the young Greek revolutionaries sought help in their liberation endeavor, they knew where to turn when everyone else looked the other way. President Boyer, who was facing the predicament of Independence debt payment, could not provide any pecuniary relief, but summoned the Haitian revolutionary fervor to strike the chords of encouragement and unconditional support. Moreover, he went on to send coffee shipments to them which they consume or sell on the commodities market. And Haiti was the first country to recognize the independent Greek nation.

Shithole, shithouse, or whatever other derogative or pejorative terms are thrown our way are not how we Haitians and freedom seekers the world over view Haiti. These words only exist in the lexicon of Washington’s nincompoop or pseudo-sympathizers’ devious minds. To well-meaning and well-informed friends, Haiti remains a standard bearer, a beacon, the land where freedom was born. The country whose voice rose, via the impassioned speech of Ambassador Émile Saint-Lot, in the United Nations to successfully prevent the partition of Libya. The country that stood by the U.S. and declared war on Germany and the Nippon Empire after Pearl Harbor to the tune of 1 million dollars remitted by President Lescot to buy USA bonds in support of the American war effort. The country that could not be silenced when Italy’s aggression against Ethiopia was considered a fait accompli by the western powers. We cannot forget Général Nemours’s prophetic words…

(I’ll have to stop here, as my battery is down to 15%. Also, the departure from Fort Lauderdale is nearing. My heart is racing as though it is going burst out of my chest. BTW, I plead for your indulgence, in case you find slips or inaccuracies in this post—given the circumstances in which it’s written. All the best to Haiti. She shall survive.)


  1. Général Nemours pronounced these proverbial words at the tribune of the League of Nations: «Craignez d’être un jour l’Éthiopie de quelqu’un», which proved prophetic in that France, which turned a blind eye to Italy’s aggression, came to be occupied by Germany.
  2. I did kiss the land, though not the way I planned as the airport configuration changed. I did it upon leaving the compound.
  3. What about the tears? Well, midflight from Fort Lauderdale to Haiti, suddenly I felt a knot in my throat and my eyes were like islands in a sea of tears. Overwhelmed with emotion, I wept unstoppably for at least three minutes. It was liberating.

—Etzer Cantave, 2018

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