Showing posts with label Haiti’s pact with the devil? (Some Haitians believe this too) by Bertin M. Louis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Haiti’s pact with the devil? (Some Haitians believe this too) by Bertin M. Louis. Show all posts

Monday, June 23, 2014

Haiti’s pact with the devil? (Some Haitians believe this too) by Bertin M. Louis, Jr.

 Haiti’s pact with the devil? (Some Haitians believe this too)   by Bertin M. Louis, Jr.

"On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince, Leogane, and other parts of Haiti. The day after this catastrophe, Reverend Pat Robertson, the host of the 700 Club and an influential voice in the American fundamentalist movement, remarked that centuries ago Haitians swore a pact to the Devil in order to gain their freedom from slavery under the French. The moment to which Robertson referred in his comments was the Bwa Kayiman Vodou ceremony that launched the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). Despite the humanitarian efforts of his charitable organization currently assisting Haitians with earthquake relief, Robertson’s remarks strike many as callous and racist. But missing in some of the responses to those remarks in the midst of this unimaginable tragedy, which include condemnations and historical essays, is an important reality of the contemporary Haitian religious landscape which has been neglected thus far and bears analysis: some Haitians (Haitian Protestants, in particular) also believe that Haiti is cursed.

Evangelical Protestantism is a growing religious movement in Haiti which currently represents a third of the country’s population of over 9 million. Increasing numbers of Haitians, both at home and abroad, practice various forms of Protestant Christianity, such as Pentecostalism and the Baptist, Nazarene, and Methodist faiths.  For example, the majority of Haitians in the Bahamas practice Protestant forms of Christianity. In interviews conducted with Haitian Protestants in Nassau, Bahamas in 2005, some of my informants claimed that Haiti “got its freedom the wrong way”—that is, because of the Bwa Kayiman Vodou ceremony that launched the Haitian revolution in 1791, the same Vodou ceremony that Pat Robertson referred to as a “pact with the Devil” in his untimely commentary. Vodou, formed between 1750 and 1790 on the plantations of colonial Haiti, is a creolized African religion that many Haitians currently practice. Vodou was important in the struggle for liberation among enslaved Africans because, as Leslie Desmangles rightly observes, the rituals of Vodou provided the spirit of kinship that fueled the slaves’ revolt against their colonial masters.
Part of the Haitian national narrative well known among Haitians and scholars of Haiti is the Bwa Kayiman Vodou Congress led by Boukman. Boukman was a maroon who escaped from a plantation near Morne Rouge and led a Vodou ceremony that was pivotal to the beginning of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804). At this ceremony Boukman encouraged enslaved Africans to dismantle the plantation system of Saint Domingue (Colonial Haiti) through the same type of violence that had been wrought upon them. As slaves who produced indigo, tobacco, and, at one point in history, two-fifths of the world’s sugar and half of the world’s coffee, it was not uncommon for slave masters, as Alex Dupuy writes, to “hang a slave by the ears, mutilate a leg, pull teeth out, gash open one’s side and pour melted lard into the incision, or mutilate genital organs. Still others used the torture of live burial, whereby the slave, in the presence of the rest of the slaves who were forced to bear witness, was made to dig his own grave [...]. Women had their sexual parts burned by a smoldering log; others had hot wax splattered over hands, arms, and backs, or boiling cane syrup poured over their heads.” All of these heinous acts were committed to force slaves to perform their duties on plantations."

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  Haiti’s pact with the devil? (Some Haitians believe this too)