Yesterday, November 18, was a day of holiday, celebration, and tremendous national pride in Haiti. The school in Grande Saline marked the occasion with a community-wide parade and party that included reenactments, music, and dancing. At a time when most of the news from Haiti centers around unrest, turmoil, and suffering, yesterday’s news from the school in Grande Saline was all about celebrating some of the amazing and unique history that makes Haiti unlike any other place in the world.
November 18 commemorates The Battle of Vertières is a much loved day of national pride throughout all of Haiti. This holiday celebrates the November 18, 1803 decisive victory against the Napoleon’s army of French soldiers.
The Haitian battle for independence began in 1791 when Toussaint Louverture led the first successful uprising of slaves. After several years of brutal conflicts, the Battle of Vertières was the last major battle of the revolution and marked the beginning of the end of French colonial rule and oppression.
By 1803, Louverture was dead and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, one of his lieutenants, led the final bloody battles of the revolution. The victory at the Battle of Vertières is credited with bringing about Haiti’s Declaration of Independence on January 1, 1804. This revolution resulted in the creation of the first independent black nation and had major ramifications throughout the entire world. It played a critical role in the end of the transatlantic slave trade, and remains the only example in modern history where an uprising of an enslaved people led to the creation of an independent nation.
In the pictures and videos from the celebration in Grande Saline, you can see a depiction of another classic symbol of Haitian freedom. The Nèg Mawon (“The Unknown Slave”) is a bronze statue in Port-au-Prince, Haiti that depicts a runaway slave and commemorates the abolishment of slavery. Designed by Haitian sculptor and architect Albert Mangonès and completed in 1967, the sculpture serves a moving reminder of the call to rebellion against the slave-holding France in 1791. The striking sculpture show a man with one leg powerfully extended behind him, a broken shackle around his ankle. In one hand he holds a machete, a sign of his willingness to fight. With the other hand he raises a conch shell to his lips, representing the traditional call to action. The Nèg Mawon survived the 2010 earthquake and has become the nation’s iconic symbol of freedom. In fact, the Nèg Mawon viewed across the world as a symbol for freedom.
We hope you will enjoy these images and short videos from yesterday in Grande Saline. It was a wonderful day for the entire community. One of the best things about this recent news from Grande Saline is that the tremendous national pride associated with celebrating Battle of Vertières and the birth of Haitian independence was matched and perhaps exceeded by the pride the community has for their thriving school and their enthusiastic children. “Our purpose is to create a true center of excellence here. It takes a tremendous effort, because we are only beginning our work. I thank you to all of the donors who have made sacrifices to help our community and school,” Pastor Berlando.
It is easy to focus on the negative in Haiti. But even in times of trouble, we must not lose sight of the positive spirit of history, pride, perseverance, art, culture, faith, resilience, and hope that are inseparably intertwined with all of the other aspects of life in Haiti.