By Patrick Bellegarde-Smith
Westview Press, Boulder, Co., 1990
ISBN # 0-8133-7172-4

Review by Bob Corbett

The title of this worthwhile volume is a metaphor. Haiti is a breached citadel. As acts of nature, sun, rain, wind and seasons erode the citadel of Haiti, so too is the country of Haiti being eroded by internationalist sentiment, eating away at her culture and way of life. What remains today of the citadel is a ruins probably beyond restoration. What remains of Haiti is a similar ruins.

Bellegarde-Smith, grandson of one of Haiti's most important writers, Dantes Bellegarde, and great, great grandson of Argentine Bellegarde, one of Haiti's important women leader's, loves this land he left, and writes her history with feeling and compassion.

A central thesis of the book is that the early structures of society and culture, established in the colonial period, dominate the structures that are modern Haiti. In the period of Henry Christophe, (1806-1820), Bellegarde-Smith argues that the building of the forts (including the Citadel itself) and the constant military preparation for the expected re-invasion of the French, set the pattern of general militarism which dominated life until the U.S. occupation of 1915-1934.

Yet there is an air of apology about Bellegarde-Smith's book. Yes, there were the days of glory and greatness. No one can doubt the great achievement of the slaves in overthrowing their French masters and setting up an independent republic. No Haitian author ever forgets this. But that we nearly 200 years ago. What has followed has been 186 years of misery for the great masses of the people; 186 years of corruption by a tiny elite. There is little glory in Haiti's history since 1804 and Bellegarde-Smith is much too easy on this fact of life in modern Haiti.


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Bob Corbett corbetre@webster.edu