Oooga booga booga!
By any standards, Haiti represents a very great concentration of misery and dashed hopes. In January 1804 – a key date in the history of a bedevilled country – the African slaves overthrew their French masters and declared the world’s first black republic. Haiti became an emblem of slavery’s longed-for abolition. And the slave leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture, was hailed by William Wordsworth, among other Romantics, as a “morning star” of the Americas.
Since independence, however, emperors, kings and presidents-for-life have misruled the Caribbean nation through violence and theft of public funds. The constitution is made of paper, they say, but the bayonet is made of steel.In January 2004, I returned to Haiti for the first time in 13 years. Preparations were under way for the independence bicentenary, but no one felt much like celebrating. The capital, Port-au-Prince, looked even more dilapidated and the streets round Toussaint L’Ouverture airport appeared to have degenerated into a slum.
Familiar smells of drainage and burning rubbish hit me as I made my way to the Hotel Oloffson