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
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?
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.
It was a cool brisk morning in Petionville, Haiti when we left the Best Western hotel to go to a radio studio to be interviewed. Chef Alain Lemaire and I were in the hotel shuttle bus preparing to talk about an upcoming food festival that Alain was cooking at and I was photographing. It was my first "solo" trip to Haiti without my husband. It felt weird, but also empowering.
The interview was going pretty well until the popular talk show host started speaking to me in Creole. I froze. I started sweating and panicking because my Creole was not good enough to speak on a Haitian radio station. I kindly told him that I was more comfortable speaking English for the interview and he pretty much said, how can you have a website about Haiti and not even speak Creole? I was mortified, but we continued the interview which was also broadcasted in the US. In the end, it went well and I was happy I did it.
Although I was embarrassed about what had happened, I didn't let it stop me from continuing to spread the word about The Real Haiti. From then on, I made it my business to continue to learn as much as I could about Haiti even if I didn't know or speak Creole perfectly.
Since then, I created The Real Haiti Academy, the first and only digital site with Haitian cultural lessons and activities for kids. I did years or research, collaboration and executing ideas to make sure I was providing something that was not available....
The interest sparked when my husband and I started having kids. I didn't want to be stuck in a spot where I "couldn't talk or teach about Haiti because I didn't speak Creole perfectly" with our boys. In order to teach them about Haiti and introduce them to the Creole language, I started creating worksheets, coloring pages and activities about Haiti and the Haitian culture. Truth is, I created them myself because it was impossible to find any online!
Sticking to our original mission of bringing light to the amazing culture, places and people of Haiti, I am thrilled to be connected and happy that you've found us by downloading the freebie worksheets.
If you like the freebie worksheets, I promise you will LOVE The Real Haiti Academy. It truly is a one-of-a-kind platform that has endless amounts of multimedia materials to learn about Haiti. You won't find this unique information anywhere else....and it's easy....all in one place!
P.S. You don't need to speak Creole to use it. Everything is in English and Creole.
In 2010, husband and wife team, Endy and Diana, started The Real Haiti travel blog to show the world the other side of Haiti through their experiences. Now parents of 2 young boys, the couple has expanded The Real Haiti to include teaching resources on Haiti and the Haitian culture.
We are a husband and wife team who live in Florida with our two boys. We started traveling to Haiti regularly over a decade ago and The Real Haiti blog was born in 2012. We were selected as winners of the former Minister of Tourism's rebranding contest with the slogan, "Experience It" or "Se La Pou'w La!" We were given a plaque by former President Michel Martelly and attended a special ceremony to launch the official logo and slogan.
The mission of The Real Haiti has always been to educate others about Haiti and all of the amazing things that she has to offer. Because the news generally focuses on the negative, we were motivated to start sharing encouraging pictures, videos, stories and memories about Haiti. While we still share the beauty of Haiti, The Real Haiti has become much more than sharing pretty pictures.
The Real Haiti has become the missing link between you and Haiti. We are industry leaders in connecting you to people, places and things in Haiti! Need a photographer in Haiti for hire? Don't know where to start in planning a trip to Haiti? Not sure how to ethically import goods for your business? We can help!
Who is The Real Haiti for?
We are so passionate about sharing the Haitian culture with you. Let's work together to show the world The Real Haiti!
May is here and it is Haitian Heritage Month! Here is a list of Haitian Heritage Month events in South Florida:
Palm Beach County Haitian Heritage Month events -
Broward/Miami Dade County Haitian Heritage Month events -
If you don't live in South Florida or your area doesn't have any organized events, we have tons of resources on this website about Haiti and the Haitian culture like tourism, culture, food and so much more. We also have an eWorkbook, free printable worksheets and memberships full of great Haitian culture info!
Happy Haitian Heritage Month!
History is not my specialty nor my passion, but since this blog is about educating others about The Real Haiti, I did some research about the Haitian holiday Dessalines Day, celebrated on October 17th (the day of his assassination).
Jean-Jacques Dessalines is referred to as one the founding fathers (or Emperor) of Haiti, but many don't speak of him because of the controversial violent massacre of thousands of "white Haitians," also known as native French people. Read more about the 1804 Haiti Massacre here.
A Haitian educator, Louis Mercier, once said, "Whatever the means he employed to accomplish his ends, Dessalines remains the most powerful spirit in our history....One cannot be a real Haitian unless one is a Dessalinian." With gaps in the historical information, Haiti still celebrates Dessalines Day on October 17. Read more about the Haitian Revolution, Haiti's Independence here.
The Importance of an Education in Haiti
I have yet to meet a Haitian that doesn't think school is important. School is a top priority among Haitian parents and families. No matter how poor or wealthy, everyone values education in Haiti. Despite what you may read or hear in the news, the majority of Haitian children go to school. Parents will do everything that they can to make sure their child gets an education no matter what. Their determination is one of those things that fascinates me most about the Haitian culture.
Just like we do in the United States, parents and students in Haiti prepare to go back to school in the same ways as us. Because I've never attended school in Haiti, I can't express my experiences on that. So, I asked a friend of mine, Fedno Lubin, who is a student in Jacmel, Haiti. Fedno is also a photographer who I hire occasionally to capture The Real Haiti. *All photos on this post are by Fedno Lubin*
About Schools in Haiti
Haitian students primarily go to private schools, which means there's tuition fees or there are tuition waiver programs available to some. Here's a breakdown of how the education system in Haiti works: (research info below provided by classbase.com)
Common grading scales:
80.00 - 100.00 or 8.00 - 10.00 Très Bien (Very Good) US - A
70.00 - 79.99 or 7.00 - 7.99 Bien (Good) US - B
60.00 - 69.99 or 6.00 - 6.99 Assez bien (Satisfactory) US - C
50.00 - 59.99 or 5.00 - 5.99 Passable (Sufficient) US - D
0.00 - 49.99 or 1.00 - 4.99 Mal (Fail) US - F
According to the Ministry of Education in Haiti, the official school calendar has September 4 as the start day for back to school.
What are your favorite memories of 'back to school' in Haiti or somewhere else! Share it with us below in the comments.
I hope you find these freebies useful to teach your children, friends, family or students about Haiti and the Haitian culture! Use it at home, at a family gathering, for a school presentation, or in your classroom to help teach diversity and culture awareness!
Get a FREE 4-page worksheet/poster bundle of Haitian Cultural highlights with Haitian Creole and English!
Where in the world is Haiti?
Numbers in Haitian Creole
Colors in Haitian Creole
Popular Authentic Haitian Food
You may use these online, but please link back to TheRealHaiti.com please!
If there are other topics you'd like us to cover, just let us know! ENJOY!
May is Haitian Heritage Month! What better way to honor our heritage than by looking back to the father of modern Haiti—François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, also known as Toussaint L'Ouverture or Toussaint Bréda. As the leader of the only successful slave revolt in modern history, L’Ouverture helped form Haiti’s constitution and win its independence from France. L’Ouverture declared black, white, and mixed residents of Haiti to be socially equal and paved the way for the United States to orchestrate the Louisiana Purchase from France.
Here are five ways to celebrate L’Ouverture, one of Haiti’s most legendary residents, by exploring his mention and history through contemporary culture: