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The Andrew Freedman Artist in Residence Program presents the two person exhibit by Josué Guarionex and Melissa Calderón entitled “Suspicious Activity.” Free and open to the public, the exhibition takes place from November 14 to December 6, 2014, at the Andrew Freedman Home, 1125 Grand Concourse, Bronx. The opening reception is on Friday, November 14, from 5:30pm to 9:00pm.

“Suspicious Activity” melds political and ecological concepts with the ritual and symbolic significance of materiality and process. This exhibition also presents a snapshot of current political and ecological worldviews, addressing topics of surveillance, labor, inequality, and extinction through a historical and philosophical lens.

Artists Calderón and Josué Guarionex create a unique dialogue through materials and concepts, focusing on the current status quo of imbalance and indifference embedded within political systems and its treatment of the natural world. Their work investigates the current state of complacent ideology while addressing the duality of an ever-changing world within the Sisyphean cycle that history cannot escape.

Melissa A. Calderón born and raised in The Bronx, New York. She uses ecological concepts to create different bodies of work, and investigates the space in-between; memory and re-memory, the ephemeral and the eternal. Her work also explores the social and political landscape of change while drawing upon historical references of power, fragility and perception. Calderón has exhibited at El Museo del Barrio, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, The Queens Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Portland Museum of Art, Arsenal de la Puntilla and Galería 20/20 in Puerto Rico, Pioneer Works, Longwood Arts Project among others. She is a PEPATIAN artist; a South Bronx-based organization dedicated to creating, producing and supporting contemporary multi-disciplinary art by Latino and Bronx-based artists founded by visual artist Pepon Osorio and dancer/choreographer Merian Soto. Moreover, she continues to be an advocate and activist for arts revitalization in the South Bronx. Melissa founded the Mott Haven loft series CONVERSIONs and has co-founded organizations such as Haven Art Space and Coalition of Mott Haven Artists. Fall projects include works at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Art in Odd Places Festival on 14th St in NYC, and inclusion in the book Strange Material Storytelling through Textiles from Arsenal Pulp Press.

Josué Guarionex took his first steps in artistic creation alongside his family: his mother is a dressmaker/fashion designer and his father a cabinetmaker/wood artisan. He studied Civil Engineering (1991) at the University of Puerto Rico in Ponce and later pursued studies in diesel mechanics. In 1996, he pursued Visual Art studies at Universidad de Sagrado Corazón. During this period, professor Nitza Luna recommended him to serve as the assistant of renowned photographer Jack Delano. In Puerto Rico, Guarionex also assisted several photographers in charge of advertising campaigns, underwater and tabletop photography. He also coordinated photographic productions such as the advertising campaign for the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and St. Croix US Virgin Islands in 1997. After moving to New York City, he became part of the Puerto Rican artist community in El Barrio and began an audiovisual project dedicated to the documentation Afro-Puerto Rican music. His first exhibition of sculptures, RollingPin=Espacios Ideales (RolllingPin=Ideal Spaces) took place in September 2009 at the Guatíbiri Gallery in Río Piedras, PR. His work has also been exhibited at BAAD Theatre, El Museo de las Américas IV Biennial of Photography in San Juan, Hostos Community College, Dominico-Americano Cultural Center, Palacio de Bellas Artes of Santo Domingo, Bronx Art Space, Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the Andrew Freedman Home.

For more information, see http://www.visionesculturales.com/

Posted by: ivetteromero | October 29, 2014

Gonsalves proposes CARICOM panel to help solve cricket crisis

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St Vincent’s Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is advocating the assembling of a three-member CARICOM panel to help resolve the ongoing contract dispute between West Indies players, their union WIPA and the West Indies Cricket Board.

In a letter to WICB president Dave Cameron last week, Gonsalves said the current crisis was too serious a matter to be solved by the Board alone, and suggested the wider of engagement of CARICOM.

Gonsalves proposed the panel be comprised of current CARICOM chairman, Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne; Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell and former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson.

“I consider that a mature engagement with regional governments through CARICOM may assist in finding satisfactory ways to the impasse,” Gonsalves wrote in the letter, which he read on the popular Mason and Guests cricket show on 92.9 FM Radio here Tuesday.

He added: “I do not think that this huge complicated issue can be handled in an ad hoc manner or by the WICB alone. This is an extraordinary enterprise which takes us beyond the boundary.”

The experienced leader, who played a key role in resolving the impasse between the WICB and Chris Gayle two years ago, said while his proposal was not a new one “the urgency of now demands its embrace.”

For full article, see http://www.stabroeknews.com/2014/news/stories/10/29/gonsalves-proposes-caricom-panel-help-solve-cricket-crisis/

Also see http://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/66334/west-indies-cricket-board-players-meet-to-settle-payment-issue

Posted by: ivetteromero | October 29, 2014

Jamaica Biennial 2014 –Renee Cox and Richard Mark Rawlins

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The National Gallery of Jamaica Blog reports that the selection of the juried section of the Jamaica Biennial 2014 was completed on October 20. Judges Diana Nawi and Sara Hermann selected 65 works by 53 artists. The gallery is still receiving submissions by the invited artists (the submission period ends on November 7). Here are excerpts of the blog’s information on two of the six specially invited artists: Renee Cox and Richard Mark Rawlins:

Renee Cox is a New York-based photographer and mixed media artist who is known for her seminal and at times controversial presentation of Afrofuturistic photography to the art world. She has also worked as a fashion photographer in Paris and New York. Cox was born in Jamaica and moved to New York where she received a degree in Film Studies at Syracuse University. Cox has been featured in many museum exhibition including the Spelman Museum of Fine Art (2013), the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art (2008), the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke (2006), the Brooklyn Museum (2001), the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston (1996), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1993), to name a few. Cox’s work was recently featured in the book and exhibition Pictures from Paradise: A Survey of Contemporary Carribean Photography as part of the Contact Photography Festival 2014 in Toronto, Canada.

[. . .] The Jamaica Biennial 2014 will feature a selection from Cox’s latest body of work, Sacred Geometryconsists of digitally manipulated black and white portraits that display self-similar patterns. They are executed with precision, creating sculptural kaleidoscopes of the human body while exploring the power of symbols as elements of collective imagination. The inspiration for Cox’s new work comes from fractals, a mathematical concept centuries old and used by many ancient African cultures. “Sacred Geometry” has also been the result of Cox’s embrace of the digital world. Bridging the gap between the old and new technology has brought on new challenges and endless possibilities Renee Cox’s biennial submission will be shown at National Gallery West.

Richard Mark Rawlins is a graphic designer and contemporary artist who lives and works in Trinidad. He is the publisher of the online magazine Draconian Switch (www.artzpub.com), and collaborator in the Alice Yard contemporary art-space initiative. His most recent exhibition, STEUPPS (2013), took place at Medulla Art Gallery, Port of Spain, Trinidad. He has had several solo exhibitions in Trinidad and was a resident artist in Vermont Studio Center, Vermont, USA (2012). His work has also been exhibited at the Museum of Art and Design, New York (2010) and in Kingston, Jamaica (2012).

Rawlins will feature two new works at the Jamaica Biennial 2014, Finding Black and #DidYouHearYourself, a scathing commentary in political mores in contemporary Trinidad. He had the following to say about the series Finding Black: ‘I think the control and presentation of one’s own image is an important concern. How you are perceived shouldn’t be defined by passing “poplitical” references which often make simplistic, stereotypical or racist depictions of blackness.’

[Image above: Renee Cox - From the Sacred Geometry series (2014)]

For full blog post, see http://nationalgalleryofjamaica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/jamaica-biennial-2014-bulletin-2-renee-cox-richard-mark-rawlins/

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Last week, Chloe McCardel, a 29-year old Australian ultra-marathon swimmer, became the first person to swim 128km unassisted in open water under Marathon Swimmers Federation international rules. Taking 42.5 hours, the 29 year old swam from Lighthouse Beach on the southern tip of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, finishing at Nassau at around 1am local time. Upon ratification, Chloe will have completed the longest open-water solo, continuous, unassisted marathon swim in history.

McCardel has been readmitted to a hospital to recuperate from the effects of jelly-fish stings suffered during her record-breaking 128 kilometer swim. She was stung at least 15 times; some of those stings became sunburned and have become infected. Here are excerpts:

Wearing only regulation bathers, a swimming cap and goggles, Chloe arrived exhausted, greeted by a group of locals and media, and was escorted by her husband and support crew for a medical check-up and few hours sleep.

He husband, who travelled alongside her on the support boat and scheduled her various pauses for food and water, said: “I know she will take some time to recover from this massive achievement which she has spent her entire swimming career preparing for. She is elated at successfully setting this record in this way, and is a very, very proud Australian.”

Chloe is expected to remain in the Bahamas until comfortable enough to travel and is expected to arrive back in Australia in early November.

For original article, see https://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/news/chloe-mccardel-sets-open-water-world-record-longest-unassisted-swim/ and http://www.startribune.com/world/280037292.html

Also see http://swimswam.com/chloe-mccardel-readmitted-hospital-record-breaking-bahamas-swim/

Posted by: ivetteromero | October 29, 2014

France threatens to close St Martin-St Maarten border

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Tensions between St Martin and St Maarten rise as a French parliamentary committee point out unequal development between the two parts of the island. As committee chairman René Dosière puts it, “The Dutch and the French side are two completely different economies, without a border or customs.” According to a French parliamentary committee, the Dutch part in the south is enriching itself at the cost of the French part in the north. The French part of the Caribbean island of St Martin-St Maarten is impoverished; the Dutch part is just getting richer. According to the article, French politicians are angry and they want to do something about the discrepancies.  

Purchasing power: The island was divided in two in 1648 in the Treaty of Concordia. There was free movement of people and goods. And the French want to break that now. “All the money that France invests in the French part of the island, ends up in the southern part, which is the Dutch kingdom,” explained Dosière.

The French side is part of the EU; the Dutch part not. “In the Dutch St Maarten the rules are more flexible, wages and taxes are lower and the products are cheaper.” The French part uses the euro and the Dutch dollars.

French officials exchange their salary, which is paid in euros, immediately at favourable exchange rates in the south. According to Dosière, thousands of French do that every month. Thus they gain 30 percent of their purchasing power. They spend their money also in the Dutch part, because everything is much cheaper there. More and more French business owners leave for the Dutch part to earn money. So the money from the French state goes to the Dutch part, the parliamentary committee concluded, and France thereby subsidizes the development of the Netherlands in St Maarten.

Migrants: Another problem is that the French part is unwillingly saddled with migrants. “The migrants enter through the Dutch part because there is little monitoring,” said Dosière. “The Dutch agents know that the migrants still travel to the French part, because they can get education, health and social benefits easier.”

According to Dosière, the Dutch government doesn’t care and is uncooperative to change. [. . .]

For full articles, see http://caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-France-threatens-to-close-St-Martin-St-Maarten-border-23402.html and http://sxmgovernment.com/2014/10/27/english-translation-french-to-tighten-borders-between-french-and-dutch-st-maarten/

hyatt_1Hyatt Regency Trinidad, located in downtown Port of Spain, is sporting a new color this month – pink. From pink spotlights and flags displayed on the exterior of the hotel to pink ties and pins worn by staff, Hyatt Regency Trinidad is showing its support for cancer survivors and Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“October is a very dear month to Hyatt Regency Trinidad. Along with supporting the efforts of Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society to raise awareness within our community, the hotel is offering a series of internal events to educate our staff about breast cancer and preventative care,” said General Manager Russell George.

Here are a few ways the hotel is raising awareness during this special month:

  • Hyatt Regency Trinidad hosted the sixth annual Survivors’ Breakfast on October 3.

In partnership with Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society, the event celebrated 50 breast cancer survivors with a musical performance by H2O Phlo & Lugo, a presentation by Ms. Brafit Ltd., and a motivational speech by Don La Foucade.

  • The hotel will host a series of events to promote wellness amongst Hyatt Regency Trinidad team members.  On October 27, the hotel will be the temporary home of a mobile cancer screening unit, where both male and female employees can seek preventative health testing. A cancer awareness lecture will follow on October 29.
  • Throughout the month of October, guests can enjoy afternoon tea at Cinnamon, and 50 percent of sales will be donated to the Trinidad and Tobago Cancer Society. Tea is served on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m., along with sweet treats and desserts decorated in pink. Reservations can be made by calling 868-821-6550.

For more information on Hyatt Regency Trinidad, please visit www.trinidad.hyatt.com or call 868-821-6550.

Also see http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2011/10/06/hyatt-goes-pink-cancer-awareness

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 27, 2014

The Adventures of Seepersad Naipaul

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This tribute to pioneering Indo-Trini reporter Seepersad Naipaul by Shereen Ali, appeared in Trinidad’s Guardian.

Many of us ma y know of characters like the mysterious Bogart, the posturing “tough guy” who hardly says a word; or Popo the carpenter, who is always “making the thing without a name,” yet rarely building anything—just two of the characters brought vividly to life by the artistry of Trinidad-born novelist VS Naipaul in his 1959 memoir of childhood, Miguel Street.

VS Naipaul in these short stories created memorable characters through his deft way of setting up a scene, his use of creole dialogue, and his clear plots, evoking characters poignant in their colourful, flawed, tragicomic details.

But how many of us have ever heard of the writing of another older, more sympathetic Naipaul—VS’s own father, Seepersad? Seepersad used these same elements, a generation before his son did, to tell his own good stories, using the more compact (and ephemeral) vehicle of newspapers, not novels. Some of his best stories were printed in the T&T Guardian in the 1930s.

Seepersad Naipaul was the centre of attention on the evening of October 9 when the Friends of Mr Biswas and the National Library hosted a talk by American professor Aaron Eastley on the elder Naipaul’s newspaper writing career.

Eastley is the director of graduate studies at Brigham Young University in Utah. His talk was part of a series of events planned by the Friends of Mr Biswas to focus on the role of T&T journalists. The next in the series, later this month, will be a talk by former T&T Guardian editor-in-chief Lennox Grant on Patrick Chokolingo.

The Central correspondent

Naipaul (1906 – 1953) was the T&T Guardian’s “Central correspondent” in the early 1930s. He worked for the paper for three periods, from 1929 up to just before his death in 1953.

At the time, said Eastley, the Guardian was conservative and exclusive; it wrote for the white urban elite in Port-of-Spain. But led by a new editor, Galt MacGowan, the paper decided, from 1929 to the early 1930s, to modernise, and liven up its menu by appealing to a wider audience, with more local content. Seepersad Naipaul was hired as the paper’s very first East Indian reporter.

It was a collaboration which paid off, said Eastley, at least for a few short years—a time when Seepersad Naipaul discovered a whole new expressive profession—one which not only let him write stories, but editorialise through them, and sometimes even take part in them. Guardian sales rose; and readers in remoter parts of the island had something different to read.

Amazingly, Seepersad was largely self-taught. Eastley sketched for the audience Seepersad’s “harsh home life”—coming from a broken home, he was farmed out to relatives; he helped raise cows and goats in the mornings before going to school every day barefoot.

In all likelihood, this Naipaul would have faced a future of rural obscurity. Yet in school, and out of it, he taught himself to read, write, and understand more of the world around him. Literacy was the key to his escape from the canefields.

That Seepersad became a writer at all was incredible, said Eastley: “The story of Seepersad the journalist is a story of perseverance and luck, audacity, delusion and resilience,” he said, as he shared with the audience his admiration for a man who may have been quirky and over-the-top, but who persisted, despite various setbacks, to make his own mark in the world.

Seepersad loved a lively, unusual story. This not only delighted his editor MacGowan; it tickled T&T audiences, giving truth to the idea that sometimes, people want more than just the facts.

Seepersad loved to write engaging stories about ordinary people—often very short stories, yet well told, conjuring up vivid scenes with economy and effective sensory detail.

Eastley introduced Seepersad’s writing style with quotes from his work, including this one, the start of a story about an old man: “Alone, uncared and unlooked for, save for the sentinel presence of a faithful dog that seldom leaves his master’s bedside, a man crippled with age lies convalescing from a long illness in a tiny, palm-thatched cabin that he’s built with his own hands among the lone coconut palms on the Caroni coast.”

Right away, Seepersad gets the reader involved in this old man’s plight—despite his derelict, lonesome circumstances, the old man soldiers on in the tiny cabin he’s bravely built for himself.

Another quote, this time from a crime story, showed Seepersad’s love of active, emotive language—the kind that uses screaming headlines, urgent verbs and sensational details to sell newspapers: “Green-eyed jealousy made this man kill the only woman he loved, hack a man to death, sever the right hand of another and deprive a 16-year-old youth of an ear.” It was a lively story about domestic violence.

In some stories, Eastley said Seepersad entertained people with enthusiastic tales of personal adventures—including, once, staking out a haunted house to try to capture ghosts. Another time, Seepersad wrote about spending the night with frogs in a tree—after being knocked off his bike.

Prof Ken Ramchand, head of the Friends of Mr Biswas, in a 1987 Guardian article, wrote that Seepersad’s stories “included news of…quarrels, woundings, beatings, village feuds and family vendettas…Seepersad was interested in odd or extraordinary characters: a woman 112 years old who had seen slaves being lashed and shipped; a Hindu doing penance by the river; and a man they called Robinson Crusoe”—who set out from Chaguanas to discover an overland route to Tobago.

It wasn’t all fun and games for Seepersad, though. Eastley emphasised that Seepersad also wrote serious stories, covering religion, politics, natural disasters and other issues of the day professionally, while getting important interviews, following up on stories and showing intelligent initiative in helping to report on and shape the news.

Seepersad’s journalism also recorded the “changes taking place in the Indian community; the errors and confusions into which it was falling in its ignorance about itself and its past, and its inability or unwillingness to propel or project itself into the future,” wrote Ramchand in 1987, referring to the fragmentation of traditional Indian culture in Trinidad in the 1930s, as a new creolising world emerged—a world “without ritual, custom or ceremony.” These changes dismayed Seepersad, whose response was often to make a joke of things.

“For a frightened man, he was brave,” commented Ramchand: “His journalism and his short stories remain an accurate and despairing representation of a community in crisis.”

Seepersad’s conversational, accessible newspaper story style, his sometimes bizarre, macabre humour, and his professional curiosity were a part of his media persona. He seemed to possess a keen, intuitive sense of media as a kind of theatre, where any story can get a chance to play itself out on the stage of the page. And he used the vehicle of newspapers to not only “play himself,” but to comment on and investigate his society.

Eastley described how Seepersad re-imagined the staid island journalism at the time to carve out a bold, unique voice all his own; a voice that was creative, often sensational, and certainly dramatic.

Seepersad’s stories spoke (without contempt or condescension) to ordinary folk. He wrote not just for businessmen in boardrooms, but for villagers and housewives and the common man. He expanded the narrow range of newspaper writing at the time.

Seepersad’s legacy

Eastley suggested that behind the scenes, the very act of writing for a daily newspaper quietly inspired Seepersad’s own two sons, Vidiadhar and Shiva, to imagine writing careers they might never otherwise have pursued.

Eastley quoted this reflection, written by VS Naipaul: “There was a big ledger in which my father had pasted his early writings…This ledger became one of the books of my childhood. It was there, in the old-fashioned Guardian type and layout…that I got to love the idea of newspapers and the idea of print.”

Eastley’s talk showed that in important, perhaps largely unacknowledged ways, Seepersad helped pave the way for local voices to express themselves, and to be heard.

“He courageously refused to be controlled by public opinion,” said Eastley, “…and he never devolved into bitterness. Throughout his life and throughout his journalistic career, there were absolutely moments of utter desolation, of utter disillusionment. It’s true that his opportunities were severely limited, but within that, we still see his genius…And he ultimately never gave up on life…He never ceased, as a writer, to try to connect with people.”

Who are the Friends of Mr Biswas?

The Friends of Mr Biswas began in 2000 to develop the Naipaul House at 26 Nepal Street, St James, as a museum and a library for research on the writings of the Naipaul and Capildeo families, and as a form of cultural tourism.

The Naipaul house is immortalised in VS Naipaul’s 1961 novel A House for Mr Biswas, a classic work of West Indian fiction based on the struggles and triumphs of Naipaul’s father Seepersad. The Naipaul House was the family home of Seepersad and Droapatie Naipaul, who lived there from 1946 until Droapatie died in 1991. The house was bought from the Naipauls in late 1996 and is now a national heritage building.

At last week Thursday’s talk by Prof Aaron Eastley on the newspaper writing of Seepersad Naipaul, Ramchand announced a plan for a conference next year on the work of all three Naipaul writers (Seepersad, and his sons Vidiadhar and Shiva), pending support from the Sport and Culture Fund.

Ramchand also announced Eastley’s generous donation to the Friends of Mr Biswas of digital scanned copies of many of Seepersad Naipaul’s Guardian newspaper stories, previously unavailable.

For the original report go to http://www.guardian.co.tt/lifestyle/2014-10-16/adventures-seepersad-naipaul

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 27, 2014

Rebekah Bowman: Portrait of the Cuban Ballet School

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An exhibition, Portrait of the Cuban Ballet School, by the American photographer Rebekah Bowman and curator Roberto Chile will be inaugurated this Monday at José Martí Memorial, as part of the side events of 24th International Ballet Festival of Havana, Cuban Headlines reports.

The photographs that Bowman will exhibit these days in Havana contain a high testimonial value. The artist shares more than twenty pictures in medium and large format describing different times of classes and rehearsals in the National Ballet School.
About this photographic series Doctor Miguel Cabrera, Historian of the National Ballet of Cuba referred in the Cuban digital media Cubadebate “she captures many aspects of the daily ritual of the class, both taking place in the ballet bar as in the center of the room with a clever eye”.

Cabrera also outlined that the pictures show “the close student-teacher bond in the correction of ballet poses and the giving of an expressive sense, a feeling, to every physical challenge, without which it would be impossible to achieve a true art”.

For this Ballet Festival are also scheduled the photographic exhibitions Choreography and Shakespeare and his masks, of the authors Pere Artal and Javier NC. Mezzanine, respectively.

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Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 27, 2014

Laurent Dubois: How Will Haiti Reckon with the Duvalier Years?

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This piece by Laurent Dubois appeared in The New Yorker.

In January, 2011, one year after an earthquake killed tens of thousands of people (by some estimates, hundreds of thousands), Jean-Claude Duvalier landed unannounced in Haiti following twenty-five years of exile in France. In the years between his return to the country and his death on Saturday at the age of sixty-three, he circulated freely about Port-au-Prince, meeting with old friends, dining at fancy restaurants, and occasionally accepting invitations to government events. For Haitians who had suffered imprisonment or torture under his regime, or who had been forced into exile themselves, Duvalier’s unapologetic presence in the country was shocking. A group of twenty-two plaintiffs, the Collectif contre l’impunité (the Collective Against Impunity) had been pushing for a trial against him, and had been gathering evidence to present in court. This February, they won a victory when a Haitian appellate court ruled that Duvalier could be charged with crimes against humanity under international law. The next step never came, and now it is too late. According to the Human Rights Watch lawyer Reed Brody, who worked on the case, “Duvalier’s death robs Haiti of what could have been the most important human-rights trial in its history.”

Instead of a trial, we’ll have a funeral. What will it look like? Who will speak, and what will they say? In a tweet, Haiti’s President, Michel Martelly, made clear the tone he would seek to set: “Despite our quarrels and differences, let us salute the departure of an authentic son of Haiti.” But how we remember Duvalier is much more than a matter of “quarrels and differences”; it is a question of how, decades on, we should remember and confront a haunting and traumatic history of political repression.

Jean-Claude Duvalier was the grandson of Duval Duvalier, an immigrant from the French Caribbean colony of Martinique. He was also, in crucial ways, the son of a U.S. occupation of Haiti. That occupation, which lasted from 1915 to 1934, gave Jean-Claude’s father, François, his major professional and political opportunities. François studied in a medical school set up by the United States, which had closed down the existing Haitian medical school because its professors opposed the occupation, and he spent a year at the University of Michigan. He absorbed and became a part of the major cultural currents generated by the U.S. occupation, notably the teachings of the great Haitian thinker Jean-Price Mars, and wrote historical and ethnological studies.

Out of these influences, François Duvalier—who was elected President in 1957—crafted a twisted interpretation of Haitian history and politics that formed the ideological basis for his authoritarian regime. Haiti, he argued, drawing upon the racist theories of the French theorist Arthur de Gobineau, was best suited not for European-style democracy but for leadership of a despotic “African” kind. Given that the Haitian Revolution of 1791 to 1804 had been central to the development of modern universal human rights, Duvalier’s interpretation was both historically suspect and deeply cynical. But it served his purposes, and those of many outside the country, well. A 1967 State Department study concluded that while Duvalier “approached psychotic proportions at times” he was a fitting President for Haitians, who were a “paranoid” group as a whole, burdened by a generalized belief in “animism.”

Jean-Claude was born in 1951 and grew up in Haiti’s National Palace, which doubled as a fortress and an arsenal. Elected in a murky and violent political campaign that began in 1956, his father responded to threats against his regime by expanding and perfecting his use of political repression and violence. He gradually eliminated or coöpted all potential sites of opposition within the country: labor unions and student groups, the Catholic Church, and the military, which he supplemented with a group of loyal paramilitaries that became known as the Tontons Macoutes.

On April 26, 1963, armed men attempted to kidnap Jean-Claude as he was driven to school. No one was harmed in the attack, but François Duvalier responded with a series of indiscriminate reprisals against military officers he suspected of scheming against him. His forces first attacked the house of a military officer, François Benoit, killing his family members and setting his house on fire while his seven-month-old baby was inside.

“Duvalierist violence appeared limitless,” the Haitian scholar Michel-Rolph Trouillot wrote in his classic 1990 study “State Against Nation.” “And because it seemed limitless, it has been called irrational.” In fact, however, there was a broader strategy: violence was “a daily sign of the omnipotence of a state that obeyed no logic besides its own…. A tally of its causalities would count more scapegoats, more victims of sheer arbitrariness, of accidents of birth, or of presence at inopportune times and places than opponents who represented any real menace.”

Some U.S. leaders, notably President John F. Kennedy, offered lukewarm support to Duvalier’s opponents. But ultimately the regime was considered a necessary counterpoint to communist Cuba. Starting in the mid-nineteen-sixties, one U.S. President after another funnelled aid to Duvalier, even as waves of Haitian immigrants fleeing poverty and political oppression arrived in the U.S..

When François died in 1971, Jean-Claude inherited this carefully crafted form of centralized violence. To make sure the transfer of power went smoothly, the U.S. dispatched warships to the coast of Haiti. In his first speech, Jean-Claude declared, “The United States will always find Haiti on its side against Communism.”

Bolstered by the U.S., the regime operated with impunity. Government funds were embezzled and siphoned out of the country, which later enabled Duvalier to live well in exile. Poverty, environmental decline, and poor health conditions in much of the country went unaddressed. Those suspected of political opposition were imprisoned, tortured, or forced into exile. The notorious Fort Dimanche prison, where many prisoners were held, was the most vivid symbol of Duvalier’s repression.

In order to boost the economy, Duvalier offered incentives to foreign companies to set up factories in Haiti. Boosters claimed the country would become the “Taiwan of the Caribbean.” The factories came, and they did offer employment to some. (At one point, every ball used in Major League Baseball was manufactured in Haiti.) But the idea that such investment would provide a stepping stone to broader economic development proved false: without sustained support for the agricultural sector, which had always been the central economic engine in Haiti, and without broader investments in education and infrastructure, these initiatives mostly benefitted the companies that ran them. Worse, they contributed to the steady and unplanned expansion of Port-au-Prince. The major monument to this economic experiment is Cité Soleil, the sprawling slum that expanded around one of the industrial zones and housed far more people than could ever been employed by the factories.

Duvalier’s years in power triggered a vast wave of emigration, beginning in the nineteen-sixties and expanding in the seventies to include a diverse array of Haitians from all classes. They travelled however they could—by plane if they were lucky, more often on precarious boat journeys. The emigration created a Haitian diaspora in New York, Miami, Boston, and Montreal. Remittances became the major source of foreign aid to Haiti, comprising up to a third of the money flowing into the country by the early nineteen-eighties.

In these diasporic communities, sometimes referred to as the “liberated territory” of Haiti, intellectuals, artists, and activists criticized the Duvalier regime and protested U.S. policies that simultaneously sustained the dictatorship and turned away its fleeing victims. The Carter Administration’s emphasis on human rights led to an easing of political repression in the late seventies, during which journalists—notably those at Radio Haiti—began criticizing the government from within. With the election of Ronald Reagan, Duvalier’s regime once again lashed out against its political opponents, but the seeds of opposition had been planted, and by the early eighties resistance in both rural areas and cities expanded. After several high-school students were killed by police during a protest in Gonaïves, a national uprising broke out and forced Duvalier into exile. During the following decade, the country was haunted by what Trouillot called “Duvalierism after Duvalier,” as democratic advances were met with military coups carried out by members of the old regime. These political upheavals brought more suffering to Haiti’s people, and sent new waves of migrants towards the United States throughout the late eighties and early nineties.

When Duvalier is buried, there will be many conversations in the streets and homes of Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, and Gonaïves, but also in those of Brooklyn, Miami, Montreal, Cayenne, the Bahamas, Guadeloupe, and Paris. The memories of those who suffered under the Duvalier regime have been passed on quietly within families inside and outside of the country, and more openly through such writers as Marie Vieux-Chauvet, Frankétienne, and Edwidge Danticat. But many have inherited a hesitation to speak about what happened during those years. The deep desire for closure, redemption, and reparation is still shadowed by a legacy of impunity and forgetting. Haiti’s future depends on a serious reckoning with the inheritance of the Duvalier regime. Now that Jean-Claude is gone, what shape will that reckoning take?

For the original report go to http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/will-haiti-reckon-duvalier-years

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 27, 2014

Haiti’s Citadel a symbol of hope

citadelle1

Once one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Caribbean, Haiti is now one of the region’s least-visited destinations due to its political instability and a poor tourism infrastructure, ioltravel.com.au reports.

One of the country’s bright spots however is the imposing Citadelle Laferriere in the north of the country near the border with the Dominican Republic. The largest fortress in the Americas, it still draws visitors looking to explore.

The ruined Sans-Souci Palace is at the start of the trail to the Citadel, where tourists can buy souvenirs, hire a guide or rent a horse for the 90-minute uphill trek to the summit of the 910 metre Bonnet a L’Eveque mountain.

Now considered a symbol of Haiti, the fortress was commissioned by Henri Christophe a year after the country gained independence from France in 1804. Christophe, a key leader during the Haitian slave rebellion, was also responsible for the Sans-Souci Palace, which was built in the same style as its namesake in Potsdam near Berlin but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1843.

Wooden huts and banana trees line the trail to the fortress and it is clear to see that the people here are significantly poorer and more subdued than other parts of the Caribbean.

The Citadel offers many of the villagers a living, including Charles, who offers his services as a tour guide.

“I speak English,” says the 13-year-old.

Charles names all the trees and plants in the area, as well as explaining why so much deforestation has taken place in Haiti.

“Many of us live without electricity or gas so have to cook using wood fires,” he says.

Cap Haitien and the Atlantic coast where Christopher Columbus’ ship Santa Maria sank in 1492 are visible from the gun battery of the fortress.

The Citadel with its four-metre thick walls was built between 1805 and 1816 by over 20 000 workers to keep the newly independent nation of Haiti safe from French attacks. Today, it still houses more than 200 cannons and 15 000 cannon balls.

Taxi driver Augustin Gilles warns that darkness is about to fall so it is time to drive the 17 kilometres back to Cap Haitien. The road is full of potholes and many Haitians travel at night without any lights on their cars.

The 43-year-old walked with his customers to the fortress and charged 80 dollars for the seven-hour round trip that also included a tour of the local villages.

“It’s very safe here in the north,” he says.

Violence is much more prevalent in Port-au-Prince where much of the population continues to live in deplorable conditions four years after the devastating earthquake that shook the country.

For the original report go to http://www.iol.co.za/travel/haiten-citadel-a-symbol-of-hope-1.1771138#.VE8F6UuWGAQ

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