By: Ford Pierre
The Palace of the Belle River, or Palace of 365 Doors is among the most beautiful tourist sites in Haiti, a true masterpiece of art and culture. architecture, whose fame is based on its splendor and in particular its 365 doors. In reality, around two centuries old, this fascinating building, close to the Artibonite river, remains a source of curiosity with its beautiful, ingenious but above all unusual structure. In this article you will discover some details that you do not know about this magnificent royal castle, the darling of the commune of Petite rivière de l'Artibonite.
Historical Background of the Palace of 365 Doors in Haiti
The “Belle Rivière Palace”, better known as the “365-door palace”, is located precisely in Petite Rivière de l'Artibonite, built during the reign of King Henri Christophe, in order to better establish his kingdom on the entire extent of the greater northern region of Haiti, particularly in the department of Artibonite.
This building was built between the years 1816 and 1820, by a French architect named Louis Dupeyrac, to serve as a residence for Henri 1er, nicknamed "king builder" according to history, because of his many constructions during his period of governance of the northern part of Haiti, divided at the time after the assassination of the father of Haitian independence, Jean Jacques Dessalines.
Construction of the Haitian Belle-Rivière palace
Its construction started in 1816, but was still under construction during the fall of the kingdom of the North, in October 1820, the Belle-Rivière palace, which should have been composed of several levels, unfortunately remained unfinished. On the other hand, in terms of importance, this palace is the second after that of Sans Souci, on the list of nine built by Christophe.
It should be noted that the Palais de la Belle-Rivière had already undergone major restoration and completion work as part of an intervention that was made under the presidency of Sténio Vincent, in April 1932. According to the 'ISPAN, the building has a rectangular plan 68 meters long and 11 meters wide. Its walls are made of stone masonry and clay bricks, bound by a lime mortar. On its west facade is attached a vast rotunda, 12 meters in diameter. The east facade, rear, is distinguished in its axis by a projection surmounted by a reinforced concrete pediment, added during the intervention of 1932. At the same time, it was decided to provide the roof with a sheet metal cover. corrugated supported by a wooden frame. The structure of the palace, then in ruins, was consolidated, its walls coated with cement plaster and its numerous openings fitted with wooden shutters.
About 82 years later, under the presidency of Michel Joseph Martelly, a second rehabilitation of this monument was carried out by the National Heritage Preservation Institute (ISPAN). This restoration and exterior development work took place under the direction of the Haitian architect Philippe Châtelain.
Contrary to what we believed, the palace with 365 doors does not really have 365 doors. Indeed, King Henry had the project to build this building with several levels and a total of 365 doors, but he could not achieve this goal. So the building is so called, because of its many openings.
Classified as National Heritage of the Republic of Haiti by a presidential decree published on August 23, 1995, it is a place of memory symbolizing a glorious past of the Haitian people.
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Haitian Heritage Month lasts throughout the month of May each year. It's such a fun time to celebrate Haitian culture, food, history, pride and overall FUN that always comes along with Haitian events. As a promoter of everything-Haitian, I am sharing my favorite Amazon products that rep Haiti with the Haitian flag, traditional games, cookbooks, spices, books for kids on Haiti and so much more!
Haitian Pride Items on Amazon for Haitian Heritage Month
By: Ford Pierre
A military building of indisputable beauty, the Citadelle Laferrière is an architectural marvel among the countless attractive sites abounding in the Caribbean. Indeed, from a height of 914 meters above sea level, it has dominated the entire city of Cape Town and eastern Cuba for two centuries. For a better experience, fasten your seat belts, because this article offers you a short tour of Haiti, more precisely in the North department, to show you around this gigantic fortress, one of the largest and most beautiful on the American continent.
Where is Citadelle Laferrière, Haiti, located?
Located in Milot, at the top of the Bonnet à l'Évêque, at the southern end of a ridge, is the Citadelle Laferrière, also called Citadelle Henri. It is a majestic military fortification, built the day after the proclamation of Haiti's independence, under the orders of King Henry Christophe, with the aim of defending the northern part of the island against any possible return of French settlers. At that time, Haiti's independence was still fragile, it was necessary to preserve this hard-won freedom.
Architectural details of Haiti's Citadelle Laferrière
Erected at more than 900 meters above sea level and extending over an area of approximately 10,000 square meters, with walls that rise up to 130 feet in height and more than 5 meters in thickness, it has the capacity to accommodate between 2000 and 5000 men.
It composes with Fort Ramier which is in the center of the plateau, the largest arsenal of the time, with cannons of all kinds, two hundred balls and other artillery pieces. Throughout its structure, the Citadel gives off an impression of strength and power, which illustrates well the defensive role it played in post-colonial times.
Equipped with bakery ovens, but also very large cisterns to store water and also warehouses to store food for a period of one year for 5,000 soldiers, its structure makes it possible to collect rainwater in order to to redistribute it for the services of the fort, the food of the palace Sans Souci and the inhabitants of the region.
How long did it take to construct the Citadelle Laferrière?
Inaugurated 18 years after independence, its construction lasted fourteen years and required more than 20,000 workers, while 2,000 of them would have lost their lives on the job. What is even more interesting is that the blood of the latter, with a mixture of animal blood, molasses, sand, clay to name a few, would constitute the mortar of this monument, which still explains its solidity, according to the opinion of the guides. Despite its solidity, part of the Citadel was damaged in 1842, following a powerful earthquake that seriously shook the town of Milot. Fortunately, thanks to the National Heritage Preservation Institute (ISPAN), reconstruction work has been carried out to safeguard this imposing building. UNESCO made it a world heritage site in 1982. Explore more pictures we've taken through the years of the inside and surroundings of Citadelle Laferrière here.
Why is Citadelle Laferrière important?
Finally, even two centuries later, the Citadelle Laferrière continues to tell the story. It is synonymous with resistance and resilience. This site is much more than a touristic importance for the Haitian people, it is a living witness of its past greatness. It has become today the symbol of pride of an entire nation.
Check out more pictures of Citadelle Laferrière and the surrounding area of Cap-Haïtien on our blog.
What are your favorite memories or places in Haiti?
By: Ford Pierre
One of the most beautiful tourist sites in the country of Haiti is located in the center of the capital (Port-au-Prince), Champ de Mars is a fairly pleasant space that can be used for meetings with friends, family walks and other activities that can help you relax. Located near the Presidential Palace partly destroyed by the 2010 earthquake and the 2004 Tour, there is the statue of Jean Jacques Dessalines (Icon of the country's independence), the Marron Inconnu (famous sculpture by Albert Mangones), the statue of Alexandre Pétion, the standing statue of Toussaint Louverture, the statue of Henri Christophe on his horse, the Museum of the Haitian National Pantheon (Mupanah) and its flamboyant gardens, as well as artistic exhibitions around the streets and other wonders of the construction of the beginning of the century transformed into a Creole museum and antique shops. All this is to say that in addition to being an admirable place, Champ de Mars is a place full of history. Let's discover together in this article the history of this beautiful place.
From Idea to Conception
The idea of the Champ de Mars development project dates back to 1907 under the chairmanship of Nord Alexis. A contract for the construction of a large-scale public park which provided for the construction of a central roundabout around the statue of Jean Jacques Dessalines from which five large avenues will start was signed by Pétion Pierre-André, the Secretary of State of the interior at the time and Mr. Victor Gentil. The contract implied that demarcated spaces were to be lined with public gardens with benches adorned with flowers. A bandstand will also be set up as well as a metal stand. Due to the scale of the project, its implementation stretched over several years.
It was only on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of independence, more precisely in 1954 under the presidency of Paul Eugene Magloire that this place was built. The space consists of a series of public squares divided by large boulevards. Its last conception which dated from 1999 when it was rebuilt to celebrate the city's 250th anniversary was heavily affected by the 2010 earthquake. The area was fenced off for a period after. For much of Port-au-Prince's history, the Champ de Mars was used for military parades, until 1912 when it was transformed into a hippodrome with wrought-iron bleachers facing the National Palace.
Current Situation of Champ de Mars
As a reminder, Champ de Mars was originally a place of homage to the heroes of Independence and a space for relaxation. Yet nowadays, we see that it is no longer what it once was or what it should be. The largest public square in the country has become a profane place where all the social routs occur. By the greatest surprise, the different squares of the Champ de Mars have become the place of all activities, except those for which they were designed. All the buildings have almost lost all their charm of yesteryear.
To learn more about interesting Haitian landmarks, check out tourism in Haiti.
By: Ford Pierre + Diana Pierre-Louis
What is the cultural importance of soup joumou?
All Haitians know the Soup Joumou and all Haitians consume Soup Joumou, but how many know its history and origins? Let's discover the story behind this mythical dish made from giraumon (a variety of pumpkin, found in the West Indies) and why it is traditionally eaten on January 1st.
There are often multiple versions of the origins of different types of soup. And when we talk about the origins of Soup Joumou in Haiti, two versions are often spoken of.
A colonial antecedent for Soup Joumou
First of all, the first suggests that Soup Joumou existed long before Haiti's independence, that is to say since the time of the colony. But its consumption was only reserved for wealthy settlers at the time. The slaves were prohibited from consuming the soup. It was not until the proclamation of Haiti's independence on January 1, 1804, with the authorization of Dessalines' wife (Marie Claire Heureuse) that Haitians began to consume Soup Joumou throughout the country. The objective was to show the whole world, more precisely to France, that Haiti had become a free and independent state.
A national invention for Soup Joumou
The second version tells that the Soup Joumou is from the invention of Marie Claire Heureuse. When her husband, General Jean Jacques Dessalines was preparing to deliver his speech for the occasion in the city of Gonaïves on January 1, 1804, she wanted to offer a nutritious food that would allow the newly free to resist shortages and other consequences of the war. She therefore proposed Joumou soup because it corresponded to all of these criteria. This soup could help the peasants to remain powerful in the face of hunger for almost 15 days. Previously, Claire Heureuse used Joumou to treat tuberculosis patients at the time. It was after discovering the virtues of this plant that she decided to create the soup. It is therefore from this moment that Joumou soup entered the Haitian tradition.
A world heritage for Soup Joumou
About two centuries later, the symbolism of the Soup Joumou continues to mark Haitian territory. Every January 1, almost all Haitian families consume the soup. It is a tradition to remember and remind the world that Haiti is the first free black nation. And thanks to the considerable efforts of several patriots, in 2021 it entered the world heritage of UNESCO. It all started in March 2021 when Haiti submitted the candidature of Soup Joumou, to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for registration among the Intangible Cultural Heritages (ICH) of humanity. A few months later, during its 16th intergovernmental session on Thursday, December 16, 2021, UNESCO adopted the inscription of the traditional Haitian "Soup joumou" on the list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. It is the first meal shared by humanity's first black nation.
Every January 1, families and friends in Haiti and abroad travel around to different family and friends houses to enjoy the soup together. Although the ingredients remain mostly the same, each person's flavors can vary depending on which recipe they learned from or which recipe they follow. Luckily with the Internet, there are a plethora of recipes to choose from and I guarantee any will be tasty!
I always follow the ingredients list and recipe for Soup Joumou out of our book Freedom Soup by by Tami Charles (Author), Jacqueline Alcántara (Illustrator). It's so easy to follow and simplifies the whole process which includes a long list of ingredients and steps.
Cooking essentials for Soup Joumou
Below is a video in Haitian Creole on how to cook Soup Joumou
By: Derline Pierre-Louis, Guest Blogger
Reading about sauce pwa congo took me back to living at home with mom. Sunday after church, the table would display two or three whole fish, fried or cooked in sauce, a fresh cooked beet, watercress, fresh cooked carrot salad, a glass bowl of white rice, which can be eaten on its own, sauce pwa congo with coconut milk-depending if we were having guests and they did not eat coconut milk in their sauce pwa and of course juice made from either corosol, papaya, or mango or limes to name a few.
All from her garden in the backyard or bought from a Haitian or Latin market. The food was tasty, of course, but fresh, not from a can. You know how long it take to cook fresh pwa congo from the tree or dried pwa congo from a bag? Thank you for this trip back to salivating memory taste bud trip.
Pwa congo is pigeon peas. Green peas is pwa france or pwa vet. Pwa france/vet is sweet so we'd soak it in salt water to reduce the sweetness, and it can make it's own sauce or is sometimes mixed with pwa congo because pwa congo is more expensive, so to stretch it, green peas would be added. However, when cooking pwa france/vet with rice, it doesn't need to be soaked in salt water, as the water cooking the peas and rice has salt and that reduces the sweetness.
It's the same concept with Lalo and spinach. Lalo is a different green from spinach and has a different texture and preparing it can be tricky. If not cooked properly, it can become slimmy like overcooked okra (kalaloo). People form L'Artibonite are experts in this dish. When you see Lalo sold in restaurants, it is usually mixed with spinach, to stretch it. It's not commonly found in the markets and are imported from Haiti. This information varies slightly or drastically depending on which part of Haiti you're from.
What is your favorite Sunday food memory in Haiti?
By: Ford Pierre
What is the Battle of the Vertières in Haiti?
Each country has its own story. Every country has a milestone date or event that they are unlikely to forget. It can be either an independence, a battle or an occupation. November 18, 1803 is a date that marks one of the most significant days in the history of the Republic of Haiti, the “Battles of Vertières”. This November 18, 2021, Haiti will celebrate the 218th anniversary of this very important event in its history as an independent nation. Let's find out together in this article what the "Battle of Vertières" is and what it represents for Haitians.
The Course Of The Battle And What Caused The Battle of the Vertières
This battle took place in Cap-Haitien (called Cap-Français at the time), more precisely in Vertières, a district located in the Nord department at 3.45 km from the city. It opposed the Indigenous troops led by General Jean-Jacques Dessalines to those of the French army (the largest army at the time), commanded by General Rochambeau. On this day, Dessalines orders to take the fort of Vertières located on a hill near the city and inhabited by French troops almost decimated by disease and war. It should be mentioned that Dessalines did not physically participate in this battle. The one who led the Haitian troops was François Capois, nicknamed Capois-Lanmo for having continued to advance after having come close to death on several occasions. During this battle, the Indigenous army had a total of 27,000 soldiers against 2,000 for the French army. But the latter had everything in its favor because it was better equipped with more sophisticated weapons and superiority in military strategy. About 12,000 soldiers perished on the Indigenous side after 12 intense hours of bloody and merciless fighting. But thanks to the malicious and clever strategies of Dessalines, the Indigenous managed to shatter this myth which made people believe that the white man is superior to the black man by winning the victory over the greatest military force at the time, namely the French army. It is the biggest and the ultimate of the three great battles of the War of Independence. The two others are that of Ravine-à-Couleuvre (23 February 1802) and that of Crête-à-Pierrot (4-24 March 1802).
Haitian Heritage Over The Last 218 Years
The "Battle of Vertières" constitutes an important phase in the history of Haiti. This symbolic and historic battle marks the end of a long period of slavery. November 18, 1803 remains and therefore remains a mythical date which constitutes the essential element of Haitian historical heritage. 218 years after the Battle of Vertières, this date of November 18, 1803 has lost its historical significance for a few years while it is the very day of Haiti's independence. It was this battle that led to the official proclamation of independence on January 1, 1804.
In popular culture, a monument was erected and inaugurated on the Vertières site under the presidency of Paul Eugène Magloire, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Haitian independence.
Dany Laferrière, academician and brilliant Haitian writer, entered the word "Vertières" in a French dictionary for the first time on November 18, 2019 to recall what this word means in the history of Haiti.
Do you have any plans to honor this historical day this November 18th?
By: Ford Pierre
Halloween is a celebration that originated in Anglo-Saxon countries. The word is a contraction of the English expression "All Hallows Eve". It originates from the Celtic festival (Samhain), organized to welcome the deceased and the Celtic New Year, more than 2,500 years ago. The Celtic calendar then ended on October 31, and that last night was the night of the god of death (Samhain).
Later, Catholics decided to celebrate All Saints 'Day on November 1 and if we refer to the expression "All Hallow Eve" it means the eve of "All Saints' Day". And today, this holiday is mainly celebrated in Western countries, specifically Anglo-Saxons.
What is Halloween in Haiti like? Do Haitians Celebrate Halloween?
Influenced by Western culture through films, documentaries or even social networks, for some time in Haiti, we have been struck by this tendency to want to celebrate Halloween as they do in the United States, Ireland, Canada and elsewhere, without thinking about the cultural consequences that this could have on our society. There is nothing wrong with wanting to adapt to other cultures, but keeping cultural authenticity is also important. What should not be forgotten is that what makes the strength of cultural globality is diversity and divergence. A proper identity is therefore essential to be part of international globe.
The Day of the Dead in Haiti
The day of the dead is celebrated differently in Haiti, every November 1 and 2, voodoo followers celebrate their gods of death by visiting cemeteries to dance, drink and spit around the graves. This traditional festival is called "The Guédés festival", or Fet Gede with it's colorful theme of black and purple.
Who are the “Guédés” in the Haitian Culture?
According to voodoo mythology, the “Guédés” are the spirits of death and resurrection represented by a family of “Loas”. They are beings who have already lived in real life and who manifest their states of coarseness when they arise. Under the influence of these spirits, subjects express themselves in strange ways and sometimes make fun of people. Traditionally led by Barons, they are used to eating peppers and glasses. Sometimes they even smear their intimate parts with chili and rum without feeling anything.
The Vibe During the “Guédés” Festival?
Every November 1 and 2, there is a parade through cemeteries in Haiti full of people with faces whitened with talcum powder who honor the souls of the dead by disguising themselves as a voodoo spirit. The aroma of coffee mixes with the smell of alcohol as you approach all Haitian cemeteries. After prayers and offerings, the “Guédés” fall into a kind of trance, attracting the eyes of several Haitians and foreigners. According to what people say, the Guédés consume alcohol and hot peppers because they come from a cold world.
While these traditions and customs may be a shock to you because you have not heard of it before, it is a part of Haitian culture that is appreciated by some. By others, it is a concept that they cannot grasp or understand. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate what you believe in, therefore, we strive to show the other side of Haiti that we don't often hear about or associate with stereotypes.
By: Ford Pierre
In the Haitian culture, depression is viewed as a taboo topic. Some believe depression is made up or an exaggeration of negative feelings. Many think that "Haitians aren't depressed" or "depression is not a Haitian problem."
Depression and Stigma in The Haitian Culture
Depression is by definition associated with social dysfunction and major personal suffering, and globally linked to precarious socio-political and economic conditions.
In Haiti, there is a distinction between "depression" to mean discouragement and "mental depression" as understood by Western psychiatry. Depression places a heavy psychological burden on the patient's caregivers and the patient himself, and can be associated with shame in the face of community support, due to the stigma surrounding it. When an individual experiences repeated psychotic episodes and their functioning is disrupted, they can be characterized as insane and considered to be definitely dysfunctional. His cognitive ability and judgment may never be reliable again, even after a long period of remission.
The Use of the Term "Moun Fou" in The Haitian Community
The term "Moun Fou" in Haitian context is a ready-made expression, used wrongly and through, or even a lack of language. This is due to the level of education of the population and the absence of a mental health policy in the country. In Haitian culture, an individual with an episode of any neurological disorder (depression, anxiety, or addiction to psychoactive substances) is considered insane. On the other hand, many Haitians qualify as "Moun Fou" often by extension, any person having thought or acted clumsily, without the term having anything to do with a pathology. It is important to understand the context of the term "Moun Fou" in Haitian society.
Postpartum Depression in Haitian Women
A couple of years ago, I was curious about postpartum depression in Haitians so I asked someone who works with pregnant women through the non-profit organization Midwives For Haiti.
Q: Can you tell me about the prevalence of depression in Haitian women during pregnancy and post partum?
A: "It is not in our screening process at the pre-postnatal screenings in Haiti- largely because we have no one to refer them to to get help and medications are not available or difficult to get for treatment. And we have no research about this.
Personally, my guess is that it is a huge problem because mothers have so little, have to work so hard to just have food and water for themselves, are worried all the time about their children dying, have already lost children, etc.
We are about to do the class on PP depression/anxiety and will ask the students what they know about it. We know of Haitian women who are depressed because of their behavior. Recently a midwife had a baby with cleft palate that died about a week later of aspiration and she just laid on her bed for months. Finally went back to work after 3 months but not because she was ready."
The Importance of Mental Health Across The Island of Haiti
Nowadays, there is an increase in mental disorders in Haiti. The country lacks a planned mental health policy according to the needs of the population, especially at a troubling time when poverty, instability and insecurity have reached their peak. Moreover, the budget allocated to mental health represents less than 1% of the overall budget reserved for public health.
Mental health is extremely neglected and ignored by the authorities when it should be the most representative in the fight to protect citizens and help them maintain full mental well-being, because according to WHO forecasts, neurological disorders are the second leading cause of death in the world.
A friend of The Real Haiti Marie Valsaint, Founder and CEO of Haitians Thrive, provided us with a Development and Validation of a Haitian Creole Screening Instrument for Depression by Andrew Rasmussen, et. al. This document is useful to those trying to identify, diagnosis and treat mental illness, especially depression in the Haitian community.
Do you have any research on depression in the Haitian culture that you'd love to share? Please let us know and we'd love to support you and our community.
By: Ford Pierre
Haitian sweet treats are not only delicious, they are beautifully crafted with rich historical meaning behind them. With it's popularity in Haiti and abroad, many love the Haitian fudge candy dous makòs. If you've been lucky enough to taste the delicious Haitian dessert "dous makòs", I bet you haven't thought about how this magic formula originated. Typically, we don't think about the stories behind food, but they are so important, especially in the Haitian culture for preserving the authentic gastronomy.
Today we will explore together one of the tastiest Haitian products, the "dous makòs".
The Origin Of Dous Makòs
This rectangular-shaped multicolored candy, made mainly from milk and sugar, is part of the food heritage and marks the identity of the city of Petit-Goâve. "Dous makòs" is a specialty of the city of Faustin Soulouque (Emperor of the Republic of Haiti between 1847 and 1859, under the name of Faustin 1st), this commune, located 68 km south of Port-au-Prince, in the western department. The natives of Petit-Goâve attach so much importance to their product that even a carnaval celebration bears its name "Kanaval Dous Makòs la".
Historical Reference For Dous Makòs
According to what the story tells, the "dous makòs" was created in the 1930s by Mrs. Macoss. This oral history tale turned a corner when in 1939, Mrs. Fernand Labarre, an employee in Madame Macoss's factory, took over the activities of her late boss by marketing the multicolored candy under the name "La Douce de Madame Macoss" hence the name "Dous Makòs". In fact, the creation of this fabulous dessert is attributed to Mrs. Macoss.
Dous Makòs Ingredients And Recipe
The formula has been carefully learned and transmitted over the years by the Labarre family; they consider it a family recipe. The candy fudge can be found for sale in all areas of Haiti. It's a staple item to bring as gifts to family and friends, especially when visiting from Haiti.
There are three types of "dous makòs" depending on the milk used for a rich range of flavor such as chocolate etc. This candy is striped with five color layers, two of which are pink and brown. It is generally pink in color, this color is obtained by diluting pink cochineal powder in ordinary alcohol or clairin (Haitian Creole for drinking alcohol).
Today, even if it is a pioneer in the field, the exclusivity of the dous makòs brand is not attributed to the Labarre family because there are other workshops in Petit-Goâve and in neighboring regions which produce it. The delicious "dous makòs" is one of those products that have made a special place for themselves in Haitian gastronomy.
If you're looking for dous makòs for sale, check out Bon Bon Lakay to purchase online!
Let us know in the comments if you've tried dous makòs and what you thought of it!