Peyi Nou Ka Chanje by Haitian-American author Monano Pierre-Paul, is a short theatrical play in which the 6 main characters talk about the social, economic and political situation of their country and how they each would approach the changes needed in Haiti.
According to some of the testimonies submitted to Monano, this book is the first Kreyol-written theatrical play that many Haitians have read, and it has raving reviews! It is a very fun book that you will enjoy from start to finish.
Download a free PDF version of the book here.
Monano has distributed the book for free throughout Haiti. He has sent 10,250 copies of it back home. It is now available in over 50 libraries, schools and churches all over the country. Thank you Monano for sharing your talent with the world!
By: Ford Pierre
What is Rara in Haiti?
With Rara, a stigma and appreciation are both present. The Rara is a popular and traditional sophisticated celebration that happens in different cities and regions of Haiti, such as Léogane, Pestel, Gonaïves, Port-au- Prince and Nippes. As a cultural celebration for more than half a century, Rara's artistic expression changes through time and space. This article shines the spotlight on this cultural element now anchored in the life of the Haitian people.
When is Rara in Haiti?
The term "Rara" is a popular and traditional Haitian festival which covers the period of Lent. It opens on Ash Wednesday and closes on the Monday or Tuesday following Easter. These festivities are carried out by band parades, called "bann Rara" (in Haitian Creole), in urban areas (particularly working-class neighborhoods) as well as in rural areas, particularly in the departments of Artibonite and West (especially Léogane), qualified as bastion of this popular practice, although the departments of the South and Grande Anse are not left out.
History, Origins and Practice of Rara in Haiti
This cultural practice draws its roots from and beyond the 15th century, in diverse origins that embrace the different peoples and civilizations that lived on the island of Haiti: Amerindians, Africans, Europeans.
Of colonial origin, as slaves were allowed to sing and dance at the end of the week following the carnival of their masters and the last three days of Holy Week, this object of distraction was a pledge of hope. In its early days, the Rara was called “Chayopye” by slaves, unable to walk properly, due to the chains they wore on their feet. At that time, the feet and the mouths were the sound instruments used to create the atmosphere. Then, over time, traditional instruments (drum, cymbal and other foreign wind instruments such as saxophone, trombone, baritone, and helicon) are incorporated into it.
Haitian Rara Music and Voodoo in the Haitian Culture
There are three aspects of Rara: the playfulness covering the festivities, the social dimension affecting what is called "lava entel nan rara" (denouncing someone, their actions) and the spiritual dimension revealed by the link between rara and voodoo.
Like the majority of Haitian cultural phenomena, it is important to mention the close relationship of Rara to Voodoo. It cannot be conceived, so to speak, apart from this religious aspect. Indeed, many researchers attest that a band of rara is formed following the specific request of a loa, deity of voodoo. To attract protection and chances of all kinds, on the leaders, members and participants of the group, voodoo ceremonies are celebrated at the beginning of the annual cycle of Rara and before each performance or outing.
At the level of its organization, the Rara is hierarchized as follows: after the Master Rara, comes the one who wears the “Fwèt kach”, known under the name of colonel or leader in certain regions, generally assisted by a deputy called major who wears a flag called the banner. Then the rear guard protects the tail, preceded by three queens.
The Haitian Rara has undergone a fairly significant evolution over time, both in terms of traditional instruments and its structure. At the heart of a collective tradition, the Rara is an essential element of Haitian cultural heritage, to be protected and passed on to future generations.
Whether or not you agree with Rara celebration, it is a very important part of Haitian culture which should be preserved to teach future generations about. We highlight photographs from Rara in The Real Haiti Activity Bundle, which also gives a snapshot of the Haitian culture and celebration!
By: Ford Pierre
The Longest Living Known Haitian Author
On this day June 13, 2022, the president of FORF, Odette Roy Fombrun, celebrates her 105th birthday. Indeed, this icon of the Haitian education sector, also known as a writer and historian, occupies her place on the list of the deans in the age of the country. She is a prolific author whose numerous books and textbooks have largely inspired the most productive authors of her time. In short, her life is as long as her career, during which she received numerous awards. Let's discover together some points on the life of this dean emeritus, nicknamed "kok batay" by her collaborators, and who received the title of "Living national treasure".
Odette Roy Fombrun's Life Accomplishments
Odette Roy Fombrun, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, June 13, 1917, is the seventh of a family of 11 children. She is the daughter of engineer Louis Roy and Henriette Denis. She did her primary and secondary studies successively at Sainte-Rose de Lima and at the École Normale d'Instituteur before graduating from the Nursery Training School in Boston. Nicknamed "kòk batay'' by her collaborators, she has devoted her life to educating young people and finding solutions to the many problems facing her country. She is the author of numerous school books designed to capture young people's interest in history (in French and Creole), geography, social sciences, morals and civics (in French and Creole), and also extracurricular books including children's literature books, detective novels and an essay, Ma vie en trois temps.
As a Haitian Historian, she wrote “The Flag and Arms of the Republic'' and “The Ayiti of the Indians”. She has also produced and published hundreds of newspaper articles reflecting her passion for her country. She was a member of the commission which prepared the preliminary draft Constitution in 1987, a member of the History Society - she wrote in her journal - and a member of the committee of the BPW club of Port-au-Prince, of which she served as president for four years. With her husband, Marcel Fombrun, she spent 27 years in exile, 17 of them in Africa, where she learned and wrote about the lives of children on this continent. She has received a large number of honorary titles, including that of GRAHN, that of "exceptional woman" and that of Honor and Merit to the rank of knight, without forgetting the title which is special to her: "Kòk batay", because given by her fellow workers.
Finally, mother of 5 children, grandmother and great-grandmother of more than 30 grandchildren, she is currently a consultant for Éditions Deschamps and president of a foundation she founded with her children in 2007, the Odette Roy Fombrun Foundation, for education. Also, the honorary titles received and the many honor plaques that adorn the walls of the Foundation that bears her name eloquently testify to her involvement in various social fields and the well-deserved appreciation by her large audience of admirers. In 2009, for all of her achievements throughout her centenary, she was awarded the National Treasure Prize.
Even today, Odette Roy Fombrun prepares booklets for preschoolers while continuing to reflect and offer possible alternatives for a better Haiti.
We have free worksheets perfect for preschoolers and higher to teach kids about The Real Haiti! Download them here.
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?