This was first island in the New World to be "colonized" . I wonder if the origin of that word actually comes from Christopher Colombus - known in Spanish as "Colon". The other third of the island, now Haiti, was a massive slave "colony" - great productive plantations of coffee, cocoa, oranges, indigo, cotton. During the "colonial" period of the Thirteen Colonies of the United States, Haiti by itself was producing more than all thirteen combined. But at such a price! The French did not bother to "breed" slaves, but rather imported new ones every year, fresh from Africa. Their passage was so hard that usually half of them died, many by suicide. But it was in the interests of the French planters to have the strongest slaves, the survivors.
However in the end, this practice aided the Haitian revolution as more and more people who arrived had the recent memories and the force of Africa in them. I speak often of Haiti with my French friends here who have not had the advantage of the 50-200 year discussion of the issue that we have had in the United States. Indeed, even now France is just beginning to hold the discussion on "affirmative action" - even using the English phrase, which is anathema to the French establishment.
One man recently said to me:"But slavery has always been with us, since ancient times." A true observation. Slaves were always part of ancient culture, usually taken as prisoners of war. Yet the African slave trade was distinctly different in that the Africans were considered "subhuman". Even today, there are those who hold that genetic racial distinctions render the Africans less competent or capable of sucessful life.
While I applaud the attention given to Africa, I often want to climb up on some high spire and shout out: "Haiti First!"
But it is easier to look at Africa - so exotic, so rich in tribal heritage, so far away. Americans can even look at Africa through a hazy cloud of self-righteousness. We fought the Civil War over this issue, didn't we?
This island, these two nations, seem to be carrying on to the future what was done to them in the past, like an abused child who often becomes an abuser. Both governments rank high on the international corruption scale, femicide, rape, child abuse, incest, prostitution, are common in both countries.
What will it take to break the cycle?