[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
28131: Sajous(History)Time Cover Story Feb.22 ,1954/Paul Magloire/Haiti (fwd)
Monday, Feb. 22, 1954
Cinnamon-skinned girls in Dior dresses, starchy diplomats and officers
sparkling with gold braid gathered one night last week in the majestic,
tile-floored great hall of the Presidential Palace in Portau-Prince. The
ball in honor of Jamaica's visiting Governor Sir Hugh Foot and Lady Foot.
at 10, the orchestra blared out a march, and Lady Foot entered the room on
the arm of a huge, kingly-looking black man resplendent in white tie, tails
full decorations. His Excellency Paul Eugene Magloire (pronounced
mah-glwar), President of the Republic of Haiti and host of the evening,
stayed on until
2, ceremoniously dancing with each guest in the order of her husband's rank,
gravely bowing to Lady Foot's parting curtsy.
The ceremonial public appearances of Paul Magloire are always kingly.
Usually he is in one of his uniforms (cost: $300-$1,000 each), which
employ the old-fashioned trappingsâ??the plume, the spurred boot, the epaulet
the aiguillette. His manner, too, is regal; one aide carries his special,
seven-inch cigars in a leather box; another stands ready to hold his gold-
cane like a staff of office. A vast, burly manâ??he stands six feet and his
chest measures 44 in.â??Magloire carries off his formal appearances with
dignity. When on parade he is being what he knows many lowly Haitians want in
a President: a father-king, a national bon papa of regal mien. Loving it,
He gives us jobs and moneyâ??oh! oh!
He can stay in the palace as long as he
In the palace, between ceremonies, Magloire puts aside fancy dress and
operates as the kind of detail-cracking, eleven-hour-a-day executive that any
topflight Detroit industrialist could understand. He rises in the dawn
of his capital's unbelievably numerous roosters, and hops on an exercise
machine. After a rubdown, he breakfasts in bathrobed comfort on fruit and
lait. Then, in a suite filled with alabaster busts, stuffed pink cranes,
Empire clocks and pictures of himself and other Haitian heroes, the President
reads reports and mail, takes a thoughtful second look at work saved over
the night before. At 7:30 he showers and dresses, usually in grey gabardine
or white linen, a silk tie with a gold clasp, grey suede shoes. Soon he is
sitting at a cluttered desk in a smallish office conspicuously free of
He speeds through his work, reading documents and penning "O.K. PM" on them.
When his ministers call, he half turns in his chair, folds his hands in his
lap, watches sidelong from penetrating brown eyes, and rumbles out courteous,
unruffled answers. He usually lunches with his family of one son and four
daughters (although Mme. Magloire is currently in a Baltimore hospital for a
checkup and the two elder daughters are attending a Brookline Mass, convent
school). After a siesta, he goes back to work until dinner at 7. He sometimes
takes an evening off for poker or bridge, and occasionally drops in at the
city's biggest nightclub, where he sits with a few young aides, cradling a
highball in his big hand, beaming at the dance-floor merriment but taking no
in it. More often he works through until 10 or 11 p.m., especially if the
day's schedule calls for another public appearance. Pageantry takes time â??
but Magloire recognizes that it is part of his job of ruling tiny Haiti.
Mulattoes Y. Blacks. The nation ruled by President Paul Magloire is the
western third of Hispaniola, a mountainous, sun-drenched Caribbean island on
rum-and-bougainvillea side of the Tropic of Cancer. The size of Vermont, it
teems with more people per square mile (299) than any other republic in the
hemisphere. Through the streets of its capital, Port-au-Prince (pop.
move midget French cars, bulging orange buses, sad-eyed donkeys and a steady
trickle of sewage. In the city's malodorous Iron Market, women traders, their
skirts hitched up to the thighs, carry on a haggling commerce in used
bottles, flour-sacking for dresses, red beans that are sometimes sold not by
but by the bean. Above all this, in fresh, violet hills overlooking the city
and the turquoise bay are the villas and the hotels of the rich, the
diplomats, the foreign business colony and the tourists.
Haiti is proud to be an all-Negro nation, a "Black Republic"â??but it is by
means a classless nation. The creme is a hereditary, mostly mulatto elite,
about 2% of the 3,500,000 population. Well-to-do lawyers, doctors, poets and
government servants, the elite like to think of themselves as "colored
Frenchmen." They quote Racine, appreciate fine wines, prize lightness of skin
occasionally give elegant banquets at which the waiters change gloves with
every course. Their language is French and their religion Roman Catholic.
are Haiti's Brahmins, and just a little way down the social scale, they are
beginning to blur into a growing middle class of U.S.-style businessmen,
progressive farmers, tradesmen and artisans.
But 90% of all Haitians are black, barefoot, unlettered peasants, tilling
small patches of land. The peasant works the soil with a hoe rather than a
plow, picks coffee from 25-ft. wild trees, builds wattle-and-daub huts with
airy scorn for the right angle. His women carry the freight of Haitiâ??on
heads. Almost any grandmother can balance 100 Ibs. of charcoal, a huge basket
of cabbages or a severed cow's head and tote it 40 miles.
Most of the peasants are God-fearing Catholics who go to Mass early every
Sundayâ??just as soon, in fact, as the
Saturday-night voodoo dance is over. "Bon Dieu Bon," they say; God is good,
and supreme in matters of the soul, but the voodoo loa of remote African
memoryâ??Maitresse Erzulie. Papa Legba and the snake-god Damballaâ??are still
serviceable in such workaday matters as appeasing the dead and assuring
successful births. The peasants are poor (per capita income is $62 yearly,
in the hemisphere), but they somehow rise above the deadening poverty of the
Andean Indian or the Moscow streetsweep-er. They have sun, fertile (but dry)
land, fruitful trees, personal freedom and hot-blooded vitality.
The conflict between these two extremesâ??the rich and the poor, the cultured
and the uncouth, the mulatto minority and the black massâ??has kept Haiti
for most of the 150 years since it first proclaimed its independence, yet
the contest is basically economic, i.e., the haves to keep and the have-nots
get, rather than racial. Say the Haitians: "The rich Negro is a mulatto, the
poor mulatto is a Negro."
Queen of the Antilles. Modern Haitians can trace the roots of this basic
division back through a turbulent history that still clings like a remembered
nightmare. Columbus discovered the island on his first voyage, pronouncing
estimated 1,000,000 Arawak aborigines "lovable, tractable, peaceable, gentle,
decorous and praiseworthy." Spanish exploitation and smallpox soon wiped out
the lovable Indians. In the 17th century, French buccaneers loosened Spain's
grip on the island and France fastened onto the western end; a century later
Saint-Domingue was France's proudest colony, the "Queen of the Antilles."
Its foreign trade of $140 million yearly dwarfed that of the infant United
States, and the profits from sugar, chocolate, indigo, coffee and cotton
many a chateau on the Loire or town house in Paris.
To till the plantations, the French repopulated Saint-Domingue with Negroes
from Dahomey, Senegal and the Congo. On jasmine-scented nights, white
planters took to wenching with African maids, and ultimately produced a
light-skinned class of freedmen with color lines so finely drawn that a
record recognized 250 different blood combinations. By the time the French
Assembly pronounced the Rights of Man. 40,000 whites were lording it over
gens de couleur, while both were keeping a firm hand on 450,000 black
One Saturday night in 1791, the drums at a plantation voodoo dance subtly
changed their beat. On other plantations the talking drums picked up the word
and passed it on. Minutes after the signal, the lush, peaceful colony of
Saint-Domingue flamed up in murderous revolt. With pruning forks, machetes
torches, the slaves massacred 2,000 French planters and their families, fired
the canefields and the great houses. In the following decade of turmoil,
Toussaint L'Ouverture, an obsequious slave coachman until he turned himself
general, led his black armies to bloody victories over the French and the
interventionist Spanish and English as well.
"Gilded African." In Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte scoffed at the "First of the
Blacks" as a "gilded African," and sent 90 ships and 40,000 veterans of the
Egyptian campaign to retake Saint-Domingue. By treachery, the French captured
Toussaint and shipped him off to France to die in a moutain prison. But in
the end, black troops and yellow fever smashed the French for good.
The new nation picked the Arawak word Haiti (meaning Mountainous Land) for a
name, then proceeded to split itself in two. In the north, the fabulous
Henri Christophe made himself King, set up a ludicrous aristocracy and built
monumental stone fortress on a needle-top mountainâ??history's greatest feat
construction by Negroes. Christophe's labor force, mostly sugar workers,
toiled from dawn to dusk to keep his treasury solvent. Once the King spotted,
below him, a subject asleep in the door of a hut. A 56-pounder was loaded,
aimed, touched off; loafer and house vanished.
But such cruelty taught the Negroes, as they say now, that "the stick that
beats the white dog will beat the black dog too." In the end, led by the
Duke of Marmelade, they revolted, and in 1820 Christophe, brought to bay,
killed himself with a silver bulletâ??providing a theme, a century later, for
Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones.
In the south, meanwhile, a mulatto general, Alexandre Petion, held office as
President over a government of elite former freedmen. He gave black war
veterans bits of land and ruled with an easy hand. When Christophe died,
gratefully turned their backs on the Emperor's ruthless labor discipline and
embraced the subsistence economy Petion developed. Sugar production, 67,000
tons in 1791, dropped to 15 tons in 1826. The less populous, Spanish-speaking
eastern end of the island broke away, resumed the old Spanish name Santo
Domingo, and became the Dominican Republic. The world forgot the drowsy
island, and Haiti itself seemed somehow hypnotized for nearly a century,
rivers ran dry, land was worked out, men grew torpid, and government
degenerated into a quickening cycle of revolutions.
Enter the Marines. By 1912, rebellions had ousted eleven of 18 Haitian
Presidents. Then, in the space of 43 months, one President was blown up in
palace, another was poisoned, three more deposed. The U.S., fearing the
powers might try to intervene, decided to act first.
A new revolt was forming near Cap-Haitien, under an ambitious politico named
Guillaume Sam. Admiral William B. Caperton, U.S.N., on the U.S.S.
Washington, met Sam unofficially and offered him tacit support, urgently
not to "loot or burn down the cities." But once in office, Sam balked at
signing a treaty for U.S. occupation of Haiti. Instead, he jailed and
suspected revolutionariesâ??then panicked and fled for asylum to the French
legation. A raging mob broke into the building, found Sam hiding under a bed,
dragged him out, literally tore him limb from limb, and paraded through
Port-au-Prince with his head on a pole. Haiti's history had hit bottom.
Caperton, waiting in the harbor, immediately landed two companies of marines
three of bluejackets, and the U.S. occupation began.
Exit the Marines. There was much in the occupation to trouble the U.S.
conscience. Puppet Presidents, all of the elite class, were shuttled in &
With almost embarrassing speed, the U.S. gave Haiti a new constitution,
masterminded by Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt; the
removed the defiant clause of all 16 previous Haitian constitutions
foreigners to own land. Officers from the U.S. South ("they know how to
handle the blacks, you know") humiliated highbred Haitians.
But the Marines effectively ended the cycle of revolutions, disarmed rebels
and bandits in mountain warfare (the death toll: 1,500 Haitians), restored
peasants to the land, improved health and sanitation, built roads. Setting up
small gendarmerie, they lifted from Haiti the crushing burden of an army
that once had 6,500 general and staff officers. They trained civil servants,
building a nucleus of Haitians competent to run the machinery of government.
Most important, they set up rural schools, where peasants could begin to get
education they needed to compete with the elite. Such was the reputation of
the Americans for efficiency that the surname of Dr. W. W. Cumberland,
customs receiver, became an accepted Creole word meaning shortcut.*
With the Good Neighbor policy, occupation became obsolete. In 1934,
Roosevelt visited Port-au-Prince, ordered the Marines to run down the U.S.
pull out. For Haiti, it was the end of one era, the opening of another.
Under the Citadel. When the marines were first splashing ashore at
Port-au-Prince in 1915, Paul Eugene Magloire had just turned eight years old.
birthplace was Quartier-Morin, a few miles southeast of Cap-Haitien. His
was Eugene Magloire, a peasant so energetic that he rose to be one of the
generals then running Haiti's army. The general was killed in a shooting
accident in 1908, and the infant Paul was brought up by two brothers in
Cap-Haitien. The Brothers of Christian Instruction gave him a Catholic
stressing French and Latin, while in his family's fields he learned the
peasant's ways and Creole tongue. Cap-Haitien, "Paris of the New World" under
French but since burned and sacked a dozen times, gave him a sense of past
and present despair.
Magloire got a degree in arts and letters from the National School in
Port-au-Prince and taught school for a year, but soon concluded that he could
live on a teacher's pay. He transferred his ambitions to the military, and
graduated from a Marine-supervised gendarmerie training school. Soon
political education began.
President Stenio Vincent, a poet-nationalist elected on an oust-the-U.S.
platform when the Marines supervised an honest election in 1930, picked
Magloire for his aide-de-camp. But Vincent's government stumbled in 1937,
the Dominican Republic's Dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, in a moment of
rage, let his forces massacre an estimated 15,000 Haitian cane-cutters who
crossed the border to seek harvest work. The Haitian President settled for
an indemnity of $550,000 from Trujillo. With murdered Haitians thus
priced at $37 each, Haiti soured on Vincent, and his government succumbed in
1941. The next President was Elie Lescot, a member of the elite, who chose
Magloire first to be chief of the national police, then head of the palace
guard, a key position.
Tableau in the Palace. President Lescot was snobbishly antiblack, and word
got around that he had accepted favors, up to & including a $35,000 gift from
the hated neighbor. Dictator Trujillo. One day early in 1946, blacks appeared
in the streets carrying signs "A bastesmulatres!" Stores hastily shuttered
their windows and women in the hills refused to come to town with food for
Soon Magloire and other officers called on the President. The scene that
followed had the studied formality of an 18th-century tableau. Magloire
the President that he could not fire on the people. The military men offered
Lescot safe conduct to the airport and a ticket to Canada. Lescot,
essentially a logical man, accepted. Thus ended a classic Haitian coup de
"tongue revolution" in which rumors of discoatent, troubles or violence
in the capital bring on a spontaneous general strike and shake the regime
To rule the country, the officers first set up a temporary military junta,
then ordered an election for Congressmen who would choose a President. One
candidate was a brooding, ulcer-afflicted lawyer named Dumarsais Estime, son
black peasant parents who lived in the voodoo-haunted pine forests near Mount
La Selle. His strongly anti-mulatto position made him the idol of the
blacks, and won him the election.
Heyday of the Authentiques. Black Haiti entered a time of tumultuous
transformation. For his peasants, his "authen-tiques," (his "real" Haitians)
schemed to smash the elite and create a new ruling group of rich, powerful
blacks. The authentiques quickly caught the idea: the soul of Africa began to
show itself in novels and paintings. A written form of Creole was devised.
Voodoo, which elite laws passed under Catholic pressure had driven
was openly tolerated again. Estime dreamed big: schools, hospitals, roads,
docks, industrialization. He did succeed in raising wages for black workers.
But all he really built was a rainbow-painted fairgrounds for a pathetically
unsuccessful 1950 International Exposition. He crippled the U.S.-owned
Fruit Co.'s Haitian operation, then found that the country had no banana
business left. Meanwhile, official corruption got out of hand; a few insiders
got rich quick; word got around that $10 million of the $26 million spent
the fair had never been accounted for. The big wheel that turns once and
flips out a Haitian President began to move.
Decline & Fall. The President lost control of his ministers; some of the
followers he had enriched turned on him and the newspapers called his
a "tremendous scorpion." Frustrated and frenzied, but sure that he was still
the choice of the blacks, Estime tried to alter the Constitution so that he
could run for a second six-year term; to back him, 20,000 of his supporters
rioted in the streets of Port-au-Prince. But the disorder was quelled, and
presently the same junta that had deposed Lescot marched again on the same
carpet to Estime's office and sped him on his way to Manhattan (where he died
last year, a lonely exile).
For Magloire, the moment of decision had come. The boy who had played in the
ruins of Haiti's glory below the Citadel, who had ushered in one President
and sent two on their travels, resolved to be President himself. He had the
election law changed to allow direct vote of the people, staged a sure-fire
campaign with festive bamboches with free rum, food and dancing. By 151,115
votes to 2,000 for his opponent, an obscure architect, the people voted him
Magloire took officeâ??and took with him his conviction that 1) neither
nor mulattoes should dominate Haiti at the expense of the other group, and
2) he must avoid quick, flashy works (e.g., Estime's Exposition) and
concentrate on long-haul technological advances.
No Little Troubles. "Zafair nÃ¨g pas jamm piti" say the Haitians. "Negro
troubles are never small." But before facing the troubles of his country upon
taking office, Magloire counted his assets. The economy was stable at its
simple, garden level; the currency was sound (and convertible) at five
gourdes to a
dollar. The culture, traditions and national vitality were so rich and
varied that only overwhelming reasons could justify much social tinkering.
land reform, the crying need of most of Latin America and the Far East, had
a fact in Haiti for more than a century. Nevertheless, the central problem
was land and agriculture, partly because the population was shooting up (at
the present rate of growth, it will reach 6,300,000 by the year 2000).
singled out more efficient food production as his No. 1 task.
Man with a Plan. In 1951, Magloire announced a five-year development plan
emphasizing agriculture. Its costâ??$40 millionâ??was a measure of his
daring; in impact it was as though the U.S. were to put $100 billion toward a
single end. The plan's axis is the damming of Haiti's biggest (and only main)
river, the central Artibonite, and the irrigation of some 80,000 acres that
are now dusty desert in the dry season and muddy lakes in the wet. The U.S.
Export-Import Bank lent $14 million, Haiti voted $8,000,000, and last year
engineering contract was let to Houston's Brown & Root, Inc. Concrete work
is about to start on the storage dam, to be 225 ft. high and 1,075 ft. long.
Downstream, a diversion dam and a net of canals will distribute the
Artibonite's tamed waters, better the lives of 160,000 peasants. Forty
kilowatts of power can be added later, doubling Haiti's present output of
Magloire's plan also calls for agricultural schools, a county-agent system,
cooperative use of tractors, a farmers' bank, reforestation and grain
storage. Construction of 300 miles of new roads is an important corollary,
hope for the time when a peasant can send more to market than his wife can
carry down a mountain trail. And because three-R learning is basic to all
up-to-date farm technology, Magloire's modern Black Magic includes new
have been built, with room for adults as well as one-third more children than
FOA & FAO. Impoverished Haiti draws valuable technical aid from the U.S. and
the U.N. The FOA and FAO (the U.S. Foreign Operations Administration and the
U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization) are among seven alphabetical
agencies helping in Magloire's plan. One man leads a Brahma bull through the
to help breed good Haitian cattle. Another patiently instructs peasants in
the use of the wheelbarrow. Another explains what a plow is, and how to guide
oxen. One group of U.S. technical experts set up several dozen credit unions
to fight usurers lending to farmers at 20% a month; others showed how to grow
1,600 Ibs. of rice on an acre that formerly gave 280 Ibs.
The technical aid men's biggest achievement has been in health; the
loathsome, running-sore disease of yaws, which once infected 62% of Haitians,
been almost wiped out by the injection of one massive shot of penicillin into
each of 2,623,141 peasant rumps. 'Now Magloire and FAO are tackling malaria,
venereal disease and tuberculosis. The U.S. has spent $5,959,000 in technical
aid for Haiti, the U.N. $617,800. Haiti has matched these contributions with
Magloire's be-kind-to-mulattoes policy has not slowed the cultural tempo of
Estime's authentique movement. Over Francophile opposition the President has
made Creole the beginning language in schools rather than French; formerly
children entered school to be confronted for the first time with a language
that, however admired in diplomacy, was gibberish to them.
The greatest flowering of Haitian self-expression, the primitive painting
that bloomed in Estime's time, goes on. This explosion of art, the most
spectacular since Mexico's, has made painting one of the best-paid
Haiti and planted colorful pictures in fine collections from Paris to Beverly
Supply & Demand. Most of the elite still cannot bring themselves to hang
this peasant art in their homes. Nor has the extravert President Magloire
time to puzzle out its moody meanings. He has other worries. He knows that
cold historical odds are against his serving through the end of his term in
1956; only twice has a Haitian President been on hand to smile a welcome to
his legally chosen successor. And not every citizen is singing. "He can stay
in the palace as long as he wants!"
Haiti's supply of government jobs at any given time is only about one-third
as great as the number of people qualified by education or training to fill
them. After any President has been in office three years, it is plain who the
lucky ones are, and the hungry outsiders naturally begin to grumble, agitate,
fire bitter charges of inefficiency and graft. Magloire's good friend, Chief
of Police Marcaisse Prosper, has provided an unfortunate focus for
criticism. The juiciest current gossip of Haiti concerns Prosper's new
hilltop home in
fashionable Petionville, big as a U.S. small-city high school, lavishly
furnished by Manhattan's W. & J. Sloane. The prosperous Prosper's salary is
The 6,000-man army backs Magloire (Congress made him its commanding
general), but might be helpless against a popular coup de langue. On the
he has many strengths. Items: Â¶ The price of coffee, Haiti's No. 1 cash
is up, as every U.S. housewife knows, and the 1954 crop is likely to be
good. Despite price drops in sisal and sugar (production of which is almost
to where the French had it in 1791), exports plus imports should stay steady
at the recent level of $80-$100 million yearly. Since most government revenue
comes from import-and-export duties, the budget is likely to remain at
around $26 million (v. $8,400,000 ten years ago). CJ Magloire has been able
along with Trujillo on a general-to-general basis that lets ill-armed Haiti
keep its selfrespect before its excessively well-armed neighbor, although
there is virtually no trade across the border.
Â¶]f U.S.-Haitian relations are excellent. Â¶ A promising tourist industry
doubled since 1951, bringing Haiti as much cash income ($2,750,000) as sugar
did last year.
Successful Failure. Tourism may be Haiti's greatest single asset in the
years just ahead. Holiday travelers, especially the kind who hope for
more than a kidney-shaped swimming pool at the end of their plane rides,
quickly sense a warming magic in Haiti. Flaming poinsettias and throbbing
can make the blood run quicker, even in a dowager from Des Moines. The heady
amber rum, made from whole cane juice aged in old sherry casks, is so cheap
that a big evening can cost just $1 â?? which is also the price of a savory
featuring flaming Haitian crayfish. The weather is good the year around, the
scenery spectacular. Heroic history seems to hang in the air, especially in
the north, around Cap-Hai-tien; it becomes almost tangible in the presence of
the 3,000-lb. cannon, graved with the arrogant "N" of the Napoleon who lost
them, in the gloomy gun galleries of the Citadel.
By the standards of 1954-model materialism, the world's first black republic
should perhaps still be reckoned an insanitary, barefoot failure. But by
less pragmatic standards, it must be counted a heart-warming
peaceable, individualistic, persevering and utterly free. With an eye cocked
awakening Africa, Paul Magloire passionately argues: "Haiti has shown by its
struggle for liberty and progress that the black race and small nations can .
. . achieve a status equal to that of any other human group. Haiti has given
the lie to those who pretend that certain races are unfit for liberty,
equality and self-government."
-Nowadays, by derivation, Cumberland also means the wire-jumper used by some
Haitians to bypass electric meters and thereby shortcut the bills from the
U.S.-owned power company.
Copyright Â© 2006 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited
----- End forwarded message -----