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
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
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!
By: Ford Pierre
Have you ever heard of or tasted Haitian "Konparèt"? This famous succulent candy is rich in vitamin B6 is renowned for its originality. This Haitian treat that looks like a cake and tastes delicious!
Origins of Haitian Treat Konparèt
The "Konparèt" comes from Jérémie, the capital of the department of Grande-Anse in Haiti. This resplendent city, known for its poetry, because it is the city of poets and for the originality of its gastronomy that makes you drool. Speaking of its gastronomy, all Haitians know that "Tonm-Tonm" and "Konparèt" are emblematic figures in the field. In other words, Jérémie is the capital of "Konparèt" in Haiti and the natives are very proud of their products. But what is paradoxical is that they do not really consume it, because the majority of "Konparèt" are exported through other regions of the country and sometimes even abroad. However, many other parts of the country produce "Konparèt", but in terms of quality and quantity, the city of Jérémie is the best producer.
When we talk about this magical product, people wonder what is its recipe is or where the formula comes from. According to legend, the magic formula of "Konparèt'' came from a Martinican who during her stay in Jérémie would have taught Grann Louqui (Grandma Louqi) how to prepare the recipe. And since then, the succulent candy sprung up in Jérémie with the name "Konparèt".
Preparation and Indulgence of Haitian Konparèt
To prepare the "Konparèt", certain ingredients are very important. Flour, milk, cinnamon, banana fig, sugar cane, ginger or even coconut are the essential elements that constitute it. Once all of these ingredients are put together, it will create a paste and after the paste goes in the oven, the "Konparèt" is ready to be consumed. However, it can be consumed in different ways, either with cheese, milk, "Manba" (peanut butter) or even avocado!
Check out this recipe if you're brave enough to make it! Or follow this Pinterest board to save for later.
Let us know in the comments what your favorite Haitian dessert is.
Have you ever tried to ship something to Haiti?
Now is certainly not the time to try or to attempt to arrange logistics in order to get items to Haiti. As I have been following the news and social media accounts, there are many people trying to 'do their part' by organizing activities to collect items that are needed by Haitians and rescue relief workers. In my opinion, it's a 'feel good' activity that is often self-fulfilling and also temporary. The thought is: If I donate _____, I will feel good because _______ many people will benefit. Then I will move on with my life and feel like I made a difference. Let me break it down to those who don't understand Haiti and the challenges that are associated.
In a perfect world, your items would arrive to Haiti and Haitians would get your items in a timely manner and then start using them. In reality, this often never happens because of many logistical issues in getting goods to Haiti. There are professional thieves who stay at the port or even work there that are ready to receive your donated items that they confiscate and never reach those in need. Also, in this particular instance, getting to the south of Haiti in Ley Cayes where the earthquake happened is not easy on a good day. Now add in debris and chaos from the tragic earthquake, country insecurity, foreigners trying to get in on the one-way-in-one-way-out road. I beg you to rethink the way you 'help, donate, organize, collect, etc. for Haiti.
When I didn't know any better yet, I advocated for a small non profit to collect backpacks and school supplies for Haiti. It 'felt good' knowing that the items collected would be distributed to those who needed it. Until they weren't. I asked months after the collection if the items arrived and I was told no, they did not have the funds to ship the items and didn't know how to logistically get them there in a way they could afford it. This is where my experience influenced my philosophy. So what happened to the backpacks and supplies? Did they ever make it? Did they end up donated here in the US instead? The donors will never know. Lesson learned for me....
Find orgs and businesses that you can buy from IN HAITI.
If you want to help and contribute to the relief efforts in Haiti, consider doing it differently. Haiti doesn't need your old tshirts or tennis shoes. If you buy products from Haitian businesses, you're helping them succeed already. Plus, you're not adding to the chaos logistical nightmare. Here's a short list of orgs and businesses I trust:
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me in the comments.
When I met my husband Endy (then-boyfriend), he would tell me all about Haiti. He would tell me stories about growing up with his siblings, his best friends. He would tell me about the journeys they had to get to school, the funny stories of dressing up in their parents clothes and the soccer games they played on the roof of their house. He would tell me how beautiful "The Real Haiti" was. I mostly just listened, and quietly doubted that a place I always heard was a "third world country," could be beautiful.
What? You're going to Haiti on vacation!?
It took years of convincing to plan a trip to Haiti...7 years actually! Endy planned everything for our 10 day adventure. Although I was excited, my worried mind kept playing questions over in my head like, "what if we can't find water to drink?" and "what if we get TB or yellow fever?" As I type these ridiculous things (that I never actually said out loud), I can't even believe I thought such judgmental things about a place I'd end up falling in love with!
As an innocent Italian-American, red-headed, 28-year-old, I really had no clue what Haiti was really like. I had no clue that visiting Haiti would change my life. As our vacation plans neared, I secretly wanted to back out or hoped for some reason we weren't going to end up going (sad, but true).
The time came and we flew from Florida to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. My life was forever changed and my eyes and heart were opened like they had never been before. For more of an in depth look about what I saw and experienced, read my blog about things I noticed while in Haiti. Before my first trip, my husband encouraged me to start a blog about Haiti to share what we saw. I wasn't fully on board with the idea, but I did. When I was there and then returned home is when I started blogging about all-things-Haitian and really fell in love with the idea of blogging. I embraced the culture and through my experiences, I had to share all of the amazing things that were so new to me.
Since I started The Real Haiti, Endy and I got married and have two little boys now! Although we don't get to travel to Haiti as much anymore (adulting too much), promoting the Haitian culture, food, people and life in Haiti is still my passion! I couldn't find one place online with resources for teaching kids about Haiti and Haitian Creole so I created my own for my boys and am sharing it with you!
The Real Haiti has a kids section (there's also a tab above) where you can find a variety of resources to teach your kids or students about Haiti
What's new with The Real Haiti
After developing a variety of digital resources about Haiti that focus on cultural education and celebration, we evolved into a membership style resource center called The Real Haiti Academy. You can now enjoy the option of a "pay what you can" model starting at $0. You have the option to pay $0, $15, $25, $50 or $99. No matter how much you pay, you will be getting the same access to the membership with all of the digital resources.
As a member of TRHA, you’ll connect with a community of Haiti lovers who are passionate about keeping the Haitian culture alive. Be proud of your (or your family's) heritage. Encourage multicultural diversity as you're raising your children at home and in your community.
Find out exactly what's included in The Real Haiti Academy.
In this time of uncertainty, one thing I am certain about is that I am not in control of anything. God is in control. I have been given a God-given talent and passion to develop this website and these resources. This is how I am sharing with my digital community who has supported The Real Haiti in one way or another.
"My family and I love exploring, learning about and celebrating our Haitian heritage through The Real Haiti Academy. Our 9-month old son loves the songs, videos & virtual field trip - and the resources keep coming. We're looking forward to using more of the resources as he grows. It's even been fun for my husband to have Creole resources (rather than French). Such an awesome tool! - Kara Jeudy
While all of this started as a fear of Haiti, then a love for Haiti, it's now my business and a huge part of my life. I am so grateful for all of you for following my page for all of these years. Lastly, thank you always for your encouragement! Happy anniversary of The Real Haiti blog and business. Mesi anpil!!!
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Blog post updated 7/26/20 - eight year anniversary of The Real Haiti as a business.