Once upon a time, Christopher Columbus discovered Haiti….


When I was younger in Haiti, I enjoyed visiting “Quai Colomb,” a park erected in memory of Christopher Columbus by the harbor of Port-au-Prince on the Bicentenaire, a brand new name for Croix-des-Bossales.

It was always a delight to wander around this place early evening where the waves of the seashore carried some salty air to the bronze sculpture of Columbus’ face and also the remembrance of thousands of kidnapped Africans dropped off this place.

The last time I saw this Columbus’ statute was on the basement floor of the City Hall building in Port-au-Prince when it was dechouke (uprooted) in 1986 from its socle by the population accusing Columbus of Haiti’s dire situation.

These memories came to my mind early this morning, December 5th, on Christopher Columbus day discovery of Haiti.

History-Key-Christopher-ColumbusIn preparation for the release of “HaitiShift,” my next book on Haiti for 2019, I just read last night a chapter from Boies Penrose’s book “Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance.” It contains some good contents on Columbus’ voyage from Spain to the new world and his settlement in Haiti.

This book also brought some fresh memories to my mind about some history lessons I had to memorize word by word by heart from elementary classes.

Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy. Since childhood, he enjoyed the sea. As a young man, he had a vision, and an intense enthusiasm to discover new lands.

Understanding the earth is a sphere contrary to the knowledge of his epoch, he had gone on multiple voyages in the Mediterranean before his 1492 great adventure.

He managed to find sponsorship from the Spanish queen Isabella who put him in contact with the Pinzon brothers who put three boats at his disposal: La Nina, La Pinta, and La Santa Maria.

Columbus was captain of La Nina. The Pinzon brothers, sailors of skill and experience, took command of the other boats.

The expedition left the Spanish port of Palos on August 3, 1492. “It was the most important single voyage,” Boies reported.

After two months of sailing, they saw lands, which turned out to be San Salvador, on October 1992. Salvador, the savior. Columbus has been saved. His sailors became impatient, and exasperated. Some threatened to kill him.

Others, led by one of the Pinzon’s brothers, made defection and sailed away in the Pinta on their own at the end of November.

Native Indians told him of a great island he discovered on December 5th, which he called Hispaniola, Little Spain. He took formal possession of the island for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. This was the first Spanish Colony in the New World.

The weather was bad. The Santa Maria, the biggest flagship, was wrecked on a coral reef. It was broken up. Columbus erected a fort off Cap-Haitien with its timbers, called Natividad.

He traveled back to Spain on January 4, 1493, leaving 39 sailors to constitute the ancestor of Haiti, and all Latin American colonies.

What happened after he lef ? This colony became the engine of wealth creation for several European Nations and the place of the biggest human trafficking in History. In my next post, I will write about what he left.

 

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Tell your stories to connect and dicover: no shame, no blame!


I attended City Speaksa storytelling event, last night in Pompano Beach, Florida, which reminds me, back in the days in my homeland  Haiti, when my dad used to gather us together, just to tell us stories.

Sometimes, they were folktales of Bouki and Malis, the villain and the smart; and other times it was just about his personal stories, telling us about his day to day dealing with  this thing called “life.”

Last night, it was about life stories from folks in the city, telling us their narratives about their life segments, and how they intersect with us, the listeners.

There were tellers, there were listeners. Moods swang from joy to sorrow. It was a real life experience.

I enjoyed it. It was a person to person moment. I discovered myself in the stories I heard, and connected with the speakers.

As Mij Byram, an expert storyteller, who introduced the event, said :

“Storytelling is about the connection. That connection is not magic. It’s real. It is about touching the hearts and imaginations of listeners. It is opening them to adventures, feelings and possibilities.”

“In  a story,”Mij added, “we can walk through fear and chase the villain. We can experience sorrow and joy and do it in the safe harbor of a story. A story can change thoughts and ideas.  A story can touch your heart, make you laugh or make you cry, it can comfort or challenge. A story can help you see yourself and your world in a new way.”

That’s excatly what happened to me when I left Pompano Beach last night reflecting, thinking, and pondering about what I heard about immigration, illegal immigration, thick accent, police interactions with black people, depression, and anxiety.

It was fascinated. A great delightful moment. I loved it.

Be well,

Roosevelt

 

NB.: City Speaks is a 50 minute event followed by a time of public interaction and reflection. To know more about their programming click here….

Hell: ‘Whatever you fear most…’ an oustanding Edwidge Danticat’s folk story!


I am reading Edwige Danticat. Her recent memoir “Brother, I’m dying” is amazing. She tells her family story in poignant way. She combines her story with the story of her dad, her uncle, her countries, her travels, her neighborhood, her grandmas.to free herself, and to free us as well to tell our own story, and to live the life we want.

She used the power of words to include  folktales, stories that she heard from her parents to make good learning lessons from life.

“Hell” is one of those stories told by Danticat’s Granmè Melina.

12501577_114057308995588_315286960_n(1)Here is the story. Enjoy… And share with friends, fans, and family.

A man, one day fell asleep and woke up in a foreign land where he knew no one and no one knew him. Finding himself on his back in the middle of a dirt road, filled with strangers, he looked up at the blurry faces around him, which were framed by a gloomy gray sky, and asked, “Where am I?”

“You’re where you are,” answered a booming voice.

“Where’s that?” he asked.

“Where you need to be,” replied the voice.

“I din’t ask to be here,” the man said, “wherever it is.”

“No matter how you ended up here,” said the voice, “here you are.”

Tired about the roundabout conversation, the man said, “I want you to tell me right now where I am. If you don’t, I’m going to be angry.”

“Who cares about your anger?” answered the voice. “No one is scared of you here.”

Truly upset now, the man said, “Tell me where I am right now!”

“You are in Hell,” replied the voice.

And since these were long time ago, the man didn’t know what hell was, even though he could already see that it was not a happy place.

“What is hell?” he asked.

“Hell”, replied the voice, “is whatever you fear most.”


A story told by Edwige Dandicat in “Brother, I’m dying.” Thanks again Edwige to share with us the power of words and storytelling.

Roosevelt Jean-Francois

Fulbright Scholar, Connector, Speaker