An expatriate of New Orleans – and professional chef – who has lived in Los Angeles since her childhood, blogs about the journey from New Orleans to Los Angeles back to New Orleans, and points along the way.

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Haiti and New Orleans

By on Jan 13, 2010, 6:24 pm in Current Affairs, History, Personal Reflection | 0 comments

I listened with empathy and a measure of recognition today, to newscasts interviewing Haitian expats in the U.S. Their voices tremble as they speak of anxiously awaiting news of the fate of their loved ones, and recounting a night of little or no sleep.

Haiti and New Orleans have historic connections. Their people share a past of brutal plantation culture, slavery and a racial caste system under French colonists in the 17th and 18th century. The present day country of Haiti was formed in 1801, after an extremely bloody period of slave rebellion on the island of Saint Domingue in the 1790’s.  The island was split into two countries (the other being Santo Domingo, or the modern day Dominican Republic), and many post-rebellion refugees from Saint Domingue eventually found a home in New Orleans. Ned Sublette, author of The World That Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square writes “The southern United States was in a panic. The slaves of Saint-Domingue had risen up and killed slavery itself.” He further states that  “Haiti was central to every major event in the hemisphere at the time, and most especially to the Louisiana Purchase. Slavery continued for in the southern United States for another 70 years…but the Haitian revolution was the turning point.”  He also connects the slave rebellion with the French Revolution as a fundamental event in shaping the modern world. So perhaps, in some way, we all owe a debt to Haiti.

New Orleans is often referred to as a Caribbean city, and many of its distinctive rhythms (along with the voodoo culture) arrived there directly from the islands of Saint Domingue and Cuba. It traded with the newly established nation of Haiti, long before the government of the United States recognized it as a nation.

Unfortunately, the nation of Haiti has not fared well, suffering dictatorial governments, bruising poverty, and I might add, little or no help- and sometimes harm- from its huge northern neighbor.

And the news of today’s earthquake is heart wrenching. As I said, I can empathize having seen my beloved city of New Orleans face an unprecedented disaster, and yet this is oh so much worse. I hope that if you have stuck with me this far, you will do whatever you can to help the citizens of Haiti now.  I’ve listed below a few organizations that are on the front lines helping.

Doctors without Borders 

Habitat for Humanity

Oxfam

The Clinton Foundation

Yele Haiti 

Also, you may text "Yele" to 501501 and $5 will be charged to your phone bill and given to relief projects through the organization.

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