Historic Haitian Names
Bonapat, Polin —Pauline Bonaparte (1780-1825), the ravishing sister of Napoleon Bonaparte (and who was not opposed to posing nude!), was the wife of Victor-Emmanuel Leclerc, commander of the some 21,000 French troops sent in early 1802 to subdue the slave rebellion and then to proceed to Louisiana. (This was the largest army ever sent from the Old World to the New.)
At her palace on the outskirts of Cape Haitian was Pauline’s luxurious court of artists, musicians, and ladies’ maids. She returned to France almost exactly nine months after her arrival, following the death from yellow fever of her
Channmas—the Champ-de-Mars, the park and parade grounds adjoining the National Palace; completed by the Square of the Heroes of Independence. In this area are statues of Toussaint Louverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Henry Christophe, and Alexandre Pétion; as well as of the Unknown Escaped Slave. Recently another martyr of the colonial period was added: the Unknown Indian.
Desalin, Jan-Jak—Jean-Jacques Dessalines (1758-1806). Although often accused of being excessively bloodthirsty even within the context of a bloody revolution, he nevertheless had the courage to do what no Black man had ever before dared: to proclaim (January 1, 1804) the independence of a Black nation, the final victory of the world’s only slave revolt ever permanently to succeed.
It has been said that Toussaint Louverture gave Haiti liberty, Henry Christophe gave Haiti dignity, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines gave Haiti independence.
Divalye, Franswa—Dr. François Duvalier (1907-1971), often familiarly called “Papa Dòk.” He was one of the physicians who led the successful campaign to eradicate the tropical disease called yaws (Creole: pyan), as well as being an outstanding anthropologist. However his years as president of Haiti (1957 until his death) were characterized by ruthlessness and terror. The international jet airport which bore his name was inaugurated in 1967 and has been considerably enlarged since.
Fòlibète—Fort-Liberté is the last town of any size (c. 3,000) on Haiti’s northeast coast before the Dominican border. Its superb natural harbor has never been fully utilized.
Gonayiv—Gonaïves is Haiti’s third largest city (c. 100,000), founded in 1738. Twice it has played an important role in the cause of Haitian freedom: independence was proclaimed here (January 1, 1804), and it was here that the first demonstrations began which culminated in the downfall of the Duvalier regime (February 7, 1986). (See also Conversation 17, lines 43-51.)
Gran Ri — Port-au-Prince’s main thoroughfare is officially named Avenue Jean-Jacques Dessalines (avni Jan-Jak Desalin),but is popularly known as simply Gran Ri(“Main Street”).
Jakmèl—Jacmel is a charming old (1680) coffee-exporting town of some 16,000, on Haiti’s southern coast near several of the country’s best beaches. Its old mansions (“coffee palaces”), quiet streets, two attractive pensions and a luxury hotel on the beach, plus an excellent road and proximity to Port-au-Prince, make it a favorite yet unspoiled tourist spot.
Jeremi—Jérémie (French) or Jeremy (English), founded in
1765, is situated near the end (northern side) of Haiti’s long southern peninsula. Although a relatively important town (c. 35,000), it has an aura of mystery due to its isolation and almost impassible road. It was here that Alexandre Dumas’ father was born.
Jolikè, Oblen—Aubelin Jolicœur, journalist and art dealer, has served as Haiti’s Secretary of State for Information and Coordination, as well as Director General of Tourism. He is prominently described in the Hachette Guide Bleu volume on the Antilles, and immortalized as Petit Pierre in Graham Greene’s novel concerning Haiti, The Comedians (1966), as well as in the film version of the following year starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Alec Guinness and Peter Ustinov.
Katedral — the imposing pink and white stone edifice is Haiti’s main Roman Catholic cathedral, begun in 1884 and completed in 1913.
Kenskòf—Kenscoff is a picturesque little town (c. 2,500) above Port-au-Prince, even higher and thus cooler than Pétion- Ville. It is known especially for its flower market.
Kolon, Kristòf — Christopher Columbus (145l-l506), whose real name of course was Cristoforo Colombo, and of whom it is said: “Lè li pati, li pa t konnen ki kote li prale; lè li rive, li pa t konnen ki kote li te ye; epi lè li te tounen, li pa t konnen ki kote li te ale!”
Kòmye Plaj — Cormier Beach is an exceptionally fine bathing area some half hour’s drive from Cape Haitian, with a resort hotel beside the sea.
Kristòf, Anri — Henry Christophe (1767-1820), Haiti’s only king, ruled Northern Haiti from 1807 until his death. Called “the Civilizer,” he governed with an iron hand but made of his domain a showcase of prosperity. (See also Conversation
18, lines 35-44.)
Kwadèboukè—Croix-des-Bouquets, a small town (c.4,000) just northeast of Port-au-Prince, known especially for producing metal sculptures.
Latòti—LaTortue (French) or Tortuga (English), is the island off the northern coast of Haiti where French, English and Dutch pirates sallied forth to attack the gold-laden Spanish galleons returning from the New World. Beginning c. 1629, it was the French who gained control of Tortuga, and thus from there that France gradually extended its influence over what was to become the wealthiest colony of the Americas. Called “the mother of Haiti,” today it is sparsely populated, rugged and almost roadless, and very much off the beaten track.
lotèl Olofsonn—the Grand Hotel Oloffson, built in 1888 as the Haitian president’s summer palace, was later the U.S. Marine hospital during the first American Occupation of Haiti (1915-
1934). Still bearing the name of its subsequent Norwegian ship-captain founder, it is an incredible fantasy of turrets and towers intertwined with vines and tropical flora, described as “a Gothic white gingerbread castle resembling a Mississippi riverboat shipwrecked on a tropical isle.” It serves as the setting for Graham Greene’s novel and film, TheComedians,and has long been a favorite American gathering place in Haiti.
lotèl Wa Kristòf—Cape Haitian’s hotel Roi Christophe, built in 1724, with its balconies, interior courtyards and beamed- ceiling dining room, has a unique, almost colonial charm.
Louvèti, Tousen—Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803), the brilliant leader of the Haitian Revolution, “the slave who became the savior of his country.” Tricked into captivity by the French, he was left to die of exposure in a dungeon in France. Haiti’s destiny might well have been vastly different had he been allowed to remain.
Mache Fè a—The Iron Market, thus named because of its iron roof and not because iron is sold there (though one could no doubt find that too, since there is practically nothing that is notsold there!). Built in 1889 under President Hyppolite, legend has it that this huge, venerable structure with its four minarets was originally destined for India by its European manufacturer, but through a shipping error landed in Haiti. Whatever the case, no visit to Haiti is complete without witnessing its noisy, teeming life, “more vitally alive, more crowded, more clamoring, than the deck of a sinking commuters’ ferry.”
Milo—Milot, the small town (c. 2,000) near Cape Haitian where are the ruins of the Sans-Souci palace. From Milot one begins what used to be the some two-hour trek up to the Citadelle. Nowadays, however, one can drive approximately five miles up a dirt road past Milot, and then hike or go on horseback the last two miles.
Mize Da Ayisyen—the Museum of Haitian Art (belonging to the Episcopal secondary school of Saint-Pierre) is in effect Haiti’s national art museum. Opened in 1972, it houses a permanent collection of Haitian masters such as Hector Hyppolite, Philomé Obin, Jasmin Joseph, Salnave Philippe- Auguste and Bernard Wah, as well as temporary exhibits.
Moulen sou Lanmè — Moulin-sur-Mer, north of Port-au- Prince, is a large, charming beach resort which includes a truly excellent museum of Haitian history. There are two large swimming pools and a restaurant looking onto the sea. Its spacious lawns even have peacocks wandering about.
Nèg Mawon—bronze statue of the Unknown Escaped Slave blowing a conch shell (such as used to sound the call to the Haitian Revolution). The sculptor was Haiti’s great Albert Mangonès (1968). For the slave, there were but two ways out: suicide, or the hills. Some chose the former, more chose the latter. (See also Conversation 16, lines 30-35.)
Okap — LeCap-Haïtien (French) or Cape Haitian (English), “the most subtly beautiful city in the West Indies” (Selden Rodman), and Haiti’s second largest metropolis (c. 150,000). Founded in 1670 and long the colonial capital, its old iron- balconied houses give it the same special appeal one finds in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Okay—Aux Cayes, or Les Cayes, Haiti’s fourth largest town (c. 75,000) and one of its oldest (1667). It was here in 1785 that the famous painter of birds, James Audubon, was born; and where Simón Bolívar took refuge for seven months and proclaimed in 1816 the abolition of slavery in Spanish America.
Olofsonn—see lotèl Olofsonn.
Palè Nasyonal—the present National Palace is the third one on the same site - the first destroyed by naval gunfire in 1869, and the second by a mysterious explosion in 1912. Designed and built by the Haitian architect Georges Baussan, its beautifully classical lines and startling whiteness make it the capital’s most outstanding edifice. (See also Conversation
16, lines 23-24.)
Panteyon Nasyonal—the Museum of the Haitian National Pantheon (inaugurated in 1983), near the National Palace. It is made up of a magnificent permanent collection concerning Haitian history, including artifacts from the pre-Columbian period, the colonial regime, Revolutionary times, and extending up to the government of François Duvalier. Beautifully displayed in an underground marble museum, nowhere else can one find such a panorama of Haitian history. Adjoining it is a gallery for temporary displays of Haitian and foreign art.
Petyonvil—Pétion-Ville, above Port-au-Prince, is in effect an elegant suburb of the capital. Named for Alexandre Pétion (1770-1818) who served as president of the Republic of Southern Haiti from 1807 until his death, the town is by far the country’s wealthiest community per capita.
Pilat—the pleasant little town of Pilate, in northwestern Haiti, has curiously had somewhat of a reputation for being the “zombi capital” since the publication of certain sensational accounts in the 1920’s. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Pòdepè—Port-de-Paix, founded in 1664, was the first French town on the Haitian mainland. Today, with a population of c. 50,000, it is the leading town of the Northwest.
Pòtoprens — Port-au-Prince was founded in 1749 in order to establish a more centrally-located capital than Cape Haitian. The population of the city and its immediate environs is estimated today at approximately two million and growing. For better or for worse, it is incontestably the center of Haitian life, certainly moreso than are New York or Washington for the U.S., or even Paris for France.
Remon-le-Ben—Raymond-les-Bains, less than a half-hour drive from Jacmel, is an unspoiled semi-circular beach with fine white sand, partially shaded by palm trees. Many consider it Haiti’s finest.
Revolisyon ayisyen—the Haitian Revolution was a long, incredibly complex, 13-year struggle waged initially to gain equal status for the Mulattoes, then freedom for the slaves, and finally for national independence. At times there were as many as eight opposing forces: (1) wealthy French planters; (2) poor French townspeople; (3) Mulattoes; (4) French royalists; (5) French republicans; (6) Spanish; (7) British; (8) and (most important of all) ex-slaves. However the most potent force was . . . yellow fever.
Triggered by the French Revolution (1789), its real birth came with a famous Voodoo ceremony under a slave named Boukmann on the night of August 14, 1791, in a remote spot called Bwa Kayiman (French: BoisCayman), and culminated in the declaration of independence at Gonaïves by Jean- Jacques Dessalines on January 1, 1804 - the first Black countryever to proclaim its independence, and the second independent
nation (after the United States) in this hemisphere.
Sansousi—Henry Christophe’s majestic palace of Sans-Souci (Milot), with its polished mahogany walls, huge tapestries and crystal chandeliers, had a cold mountain stream made to flow under its marble floors (an ancestor of air conditioning!) and emerge below as a fountain. Its numerous bathrooms were an innovation for the times. Completed in 1813, it was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1842.
Sent-Trinite—the Protestant Episcopal Holy Trinity Cathedral (1924), in downtown Port-au-Prince, whose murals constitute some of the greatest Haitian art ever created. Internationally known artists such as Philomé Obin, Wilson Bigaud, Castera Bazile and Préfète Duf(f)aut painted (1949-51) Bible scenes depicting a Haitian Christ and disciples (but a White Judas!), evolving in a very Haitian decor. Called the “Sistine Chapel of Naïve Art” by André Malraux, it is a ‘tourist must.’
Sitadèl—the Citadelle (constructed 1804-1820), Henry Christophe’s great mountain fortress intended as a center of resistance in case of a re-invasion by the French, is reputedly this hemisphere’s largest man-made monument. It was intended to be able to accommodate as many as 10,000 troops for a siege of a year or more. Even today its thick walls enclose some 365 huge bronze cannon. It was never used, its greatest enemy being time. (See also Conversation 18, lines 28-44.)
Tousen Louvèti — see Louvèti.
Wa Kristòf —see lotèl Wa Kristòf.
Wout Nasyonal Nimewo En—National Highway Number One is an excellent two-lane, well-paved road running north from Port-au-Prince first along a series of beaches, through a desert with large cacti, and then across a breath-taking range of mountains to the sea and Cape Haitian.
TI KOZE KREYÒL
A Haitian-Creole - Conversation Manual, Bryant C. Freeman, Ph.D. (paj 111-118)