Sample translation of: Ti difé boulé sou istoua Ayiti


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Sample translation of: Ti difé boulé sou istoua Ayiti
Alternate Title:
Ti dife boule sou istwa Ayiti
Abbreviated Title:
Sample translation of: Controversial Issues in Haitian History
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Haitian Creole and English
Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebblethwaite
Koleksion Lakansièl
Place of Publication:
New York City
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Caribbean Area, Haitian history, Haitian Creole, Haitian political science   ( lcsh )


This file includes sample translations of Chapters 1 and 2 of Michel-Rolph Trouillot's Haitian Creole work, "Ti difé boulé sou istoua Ayiti" (Controversial Issues in Haitian History).

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 1 Ti dif boul sou istoua Ayiti Sample Translation of Chapters 1 and 2 by Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebblethwaite Sample translation of Controversial Issues in Haitian History by Michel Rolph Trouillot (originally published as Ti dif boul sou istoua Ayiti, Brooklyn, NY: Koleksion Lakansil, 1977). We have employed the same typographical features as Trouillot; these include different font styles, sizes, boldface, the creation of paragraphs, and indentation. 1. Ill hold Ill hold a a gathering gathering to know what happened to my brothers and sisters oh yes! The night sprawled itself over the back of the mountains. A mournful little wind was blowing, but the children didnt stop playing. Sdni was running behind Asfi1, his belly bloated from saturated fats, his weewee dangling in the darkness. Up in the sky, the moon was beginning to peek underneath the petticoat of the stars, but nearby, by the fence, three lightning bugs were playing hide and seek with misery. 1 In Haitian Creole Sdni [ dnye in current Haitian Creole spelling] means, literally, the last or the youngest. Asfi [ Asefi in current Haitian Creole spelling] translates as enough girls or no more girls. While some of the characters names in this text are derived from intuition or personal descriptions, others may reflect the Christian tradition or the specialized work p erformed by that individual. Lamsi means Mercy, Tipous is little sprout, Tipi is little Peter, Tis is little sister, and so on.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 2 Lamsi stoked the fire, threw on a piece of wood, and then she said: Children, stop! All the adults raised their heads. Lamsi looked at them. They were so many, she couldnt count them all. Tipous was there, Roro was there, Fifi was there Voklin had even come with his drum. Timari brought coffee. Nrstan had a few stalks of sugar cane that he cut in very small pieces so everyone could have some. Lamsi said: Family members, we called this gathering because Grinn Prominnin2 has returned. Since the time of President Tibab, we sent Grinn Prominnin to seek out the limits of our suffering. We sent him to find out which spirit of death killed the Emperor3, which spirit of death killed Tipi, Sfanm and Marilis which spirit of the dead has been plaguing the family up to this very day that Im speaking We gave him drink, we gave him food. We gave him good clothes to make the trip easier. Days went by, water under the bridge, my late father had departed this life. Some folks started saying that Grinn Prominnin was already dead. Other folks thought he ha d given up. And then this morning, I was really surprised, I was bathing upstream, and who did I see? Grinn 2 Grinn Prominnin, or Grennpwonmennen, is a central figure in Haitian folklore. Maximilien Laroche calls him th e conscience of the Haitian people: with Bwapiwo, his sidekick, Grenpronmennen sees, hears, and thus advises us before we speak. ( Teke, Port au Prince: Ed. Mmoire, p. 45). Grennpronmennen is represented as a wandering storyteller who travels through space and time, bringing a wealth of stories and historical knowledge (as in the case of Ti dif boul ) to the people of Haiti. 3 Written as Lanpr in the Kreyl text, the Emperor is Jean Jacques Dessalines, who fought alongside Toussaint Louverture in the Haitian Revolution (17911804). After the death of Toussaint, Dessalines led the struggle through its final stages, ultimately proclaiming Haiti independent from France and himself Emperor on January 1, 1804. His rule was brief: Dessalines was ambushe d and killed at Pont Rouge in 1806.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 3 Prominnin! His age was starting to show, his face looked tired, and it was like (that didnt make me happy at all) he looked like a city slicker. But a weight lifted from my heart when he kissed me on both cheeks and said: Sister Lamsi, courage, you can call for the gathering. Well find out what happened to our families. So where is he? Make him talk then! Lam si glanced backwards; she looked at the candelabra thicket. The candelabra thicket opened up. A man came forward, head lowered. My family, I say: Honor. Respect, Grinn Prominnin.4 The sorrowful little breeze stopped blowing. The man rolled up his pa nt legs and sat down on a trunk between Tis and Fanfan. Brothers and sisters, I bring news. Since the time of President Tibab, Ive done nothing but travel. I saw mountains, I saw rivers. I saw savannahs, I saw the sea. I set my eyes on other countries, I learned to speak languages But when I finally reached the yard of the olden days, I 4 Honor Respect are greetings made by Haitians when they enter a friends property or to express mutual consideration publically. In Haitian storytelling the narrator often begins a session by addressing the listener s with the word Honor, to which they reply, Respect. This exchange is akin to the call and response Cric / Crac, used in many oral traditions in the Caribbean.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 4 knew that if we really wanted to locate the limits of our illness, we must turn and look backwards We must confront all the crises that happened in the family, we must search for marks that they left in our souls. But, we dont know what happened. Even Grann Andrmiz, who was born donkey years ago under President Sylvain Salnave5, doesnt know what the Emperor said. Well, thats what I came to do here. Thats the only thing I came to do here. I came from the realm of the past to tell you what was done. I came from the land of experience to speak the language for us. As for me thats all I can do I come from too far away The mournful breeze returned, it stirred up the little flames of the fire. The flame rose, rose, lighting up the whole family. Grinn Prominnin turned to look at Sdni: That one was born when I was away, no? Hes one of those who were indeed born when you were away. Hes the last one. The one born after him died. But Loulouz is pregnant again. The soft little wind carried the words away. Sdni put his head on Asfis shoulders. Grinn Prominnin cleared his throat. Up in the sky, the stars were giving the moon a head start, but right close, b y the fence, seven lightning bugs were playing hide and seek with misery. Grinn Prominnin said this In January 1820, General JeanPierre Boyer, president of Haiti, invaded Jrmie He made an announcement to inform people everywhere, even though they hadnt succeeded in capturing 5 Sylvain Salnave was President of Haiti from 1867 until 1869, when he was executed. A lthough light skinned, Salnave was associated with the noiriste tradition in Haiti. (Nichols, David. From Dessalines to Duvalier New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1996, 108.)


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 5 Goman, Malft and Malfou (the three main rebel leaders), the army managed to crush the last band of maroons who were sowing disorder in the country. I n January 1820, Boyer invaded Jrmie. In October 1820, Boyer invaded Cap Hatien. In February 1822, he invaded Santo Domingo. In April 1825, France recognized Haitis independence. A huge crisis ended. After thirty years of fighting, a different kind of society the society we inherited appeared on Haitian soil. With another kind of leader. Another kind of slave. Another kind of maroon. To understand that society, our society, we must begin to understand what kind of life disappeared into the wildernes s with the three maroons of La Grande Anse. For us to understand the illness we suffer from, we must know what kind of illness courses in our blood. Today, we are in control, but we arent able to do all that we want. We alone are responsible for tomorro w, but yesterday evening is nipping at our rear end. We alone have the right to choose, but the rules of the game were predetermined, and we did not write them. From 1789 to 1820, a crisis in our bone marrow took hold of Haiti. And it was during that crisis, over the course of just 30 years, that the fence of the society that we inherited was built. The problems of the generations that preceded us weigh like lead barbells on the minds of todays little guys. From 1789 until 1820, the Haitian people accomplished the one and only slave revolution in all the memory of humanity. But during those same 30 years, a native born class mounted a plot at the expense of the people, it derail ed the revolution. And if we really want to fully understand which illness we suffer from today, we have to retrace the path of that crisis. On the one hand, a revolution; on the other hand, a coup. Thus, when all the ashes have cooled, when Boyer invade d Jrmie, I myselfthey themselves himself you yourself Sister Lamsi, please, give me a little cotton tea. This story requires refreshment


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 6 2: A Black Code/Cord Ay ay to tie up the little pig Janptro Chain that is fully a chain he broke it not to mention a rope. School has its rules, work has its rules, the state has its rules. The Bible has the Ten Commandments. Traffic has its rules, war has its rules, peace has its rules, the cemetery has its rules: stiff corpse, get up and go! Theres room in the cemetery Latin has its rules, English has its rules, Creole has its rules. Agriculture has its rules, speech writing has its rules. Even dances have rules: if you dont wear a tie, you cant come in. That is to say, when we look up, we see the sky is full of rules. Others give them all kinds of names. There are commandments, there are regulations, there are codes. (Not the kind of cords6 that you tie up pigs with, although that would have been better.) There are decrees, there are legal decrees, there are laws. (It is not the bitter aloe7 that they use for remedies but that would have been better.) Thus each rule could be there for nothing? No, director! As if they could be innocent? No, judge! As if thats just life? Stop, reverend, stop! Lets get to the bottom of the matter. 6 Note that kd code and kd rope, cord are homographs in Haitian Creole. 7 Not e that lalwa law and lalwa aloe plant are homographs in Haitian Creole.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 7 What could it mean for the law to be bitte r? The first major law that came into being in Haiti was the regulation they called the Black Code that took effect in 1685. Who wrote the Black Code? Why was it written then? They say the law is the same for all, but we all know that is French! Was the Black Code the same for everyone? My friends, what could make the law bitter? Like all rules, before the Black Code was thrust upon us, it got a perfumed bath. It donned the cloak of justice, supposedly to keep slave master s from mistreating slaves. But general History showed us that it isnt what they said that counted, it was what they did when they stopped speaking The person who had the Black Code written was a French minister they called Colbert, the only important minister in the government of Louis 14 who strongly favored commerce. So, when they told us the Black Code was there to improve the condition of slaves, we were surprised. Since when have hawks understood the misery of chickens? The law didnt serve the int erests of everyone equally. The law served above all the interests of the classes that controlled the State Since in 1685 it was the colonists who ruled Saint Domingue, we can bet money that the Black Code served their interests. And as the colonists were dependent upon French merchants, we can bet a million that the Black Code wasnt able to bother the merchants. Lets dig our fingers in a bit deeper...


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 8 Little cucumbers and eggplants France began to have a grip on Haiti in 1625. But, at that time, it was not commerce that really interested the French. Most of the Frenchmen who were in Saint Domingue were a band of thieving pirates who were holding up Spanish, English and Dutch boats that they found in the region Haiti (Tortuga8 island especially) was like a barracks where they came to rest after each raid. Besides the filibusters there were other kinds of Frenchman who did not often take to the sea. Either they hunted pigs and cattle, or they worked the land. T hose who hunted were called buccaneers because they roasted the animals over big bonfires The farmers worked the land. When I say worked the land, we must not think that they worked hard like so many Haitian farmers do today, because whether they were far mers or buccaneers, they had many slaves who worked for them. The buccaneers and farmers had two types of slaves: The indentured ones (white slaves who were there for a short time). The black ones (who were slaves for life). 8 Tortuga is a small island on the northern coast of Haiti.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 9 However, the filibusters, buccaneers and farmers all got along like co wives, and also they got along with the slaves, whether white or black. Although the slaves worked hard, the slave masters of that period protected them. Are attentive readers surprised? As if Im telling lies? As if to say Im not serious? Bad critics start babbling Those who want to speak, speak. Those who want to listen, listen. Im not coming to cheat for the whites, nor am I saying that slavery wa s a good thing. But if we want to understand why Lamsi gave Magrit a dirty look, we have to understand what went on long ago, starting with colonial times, when they were living together with their good friend Jrilis Words right and left Words in front and behind Words here and there Words Every five cent coin has two sides: heads arent tails. All that exists has its opposite. There is life, there is death. Day is not night. But its a lot of nights and a lot of days that make life go forward. Old folks with experience always tell me: there is no proverb without its opposite... Rotten teeth are strong on ripe plantain [but] the smallest is the fiercest. Better late than never [but] leaving earl y means nothing its knowing the way that counts.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 10 Deserving ones dont ask [but] the child who doesnt cry doesnt need breast milk. If you cant do it, dont force it. [but] looking fancy doesnt mean you can do it. A macho guy singing in the henhouse makes himself happy [though] the Customs barrier was as tough as all that, the bums piss split it open. Every coin has two sides. Heads isnt tails. All that exists has its opposite. If you didnt have life, you wouldnt have death. If there were no high, there wouldnt be any low. If there were no front, there wouldnt be a back. If there werent mountains, there wouldnt be ravines. If there were no rich people, there wouldnt be any poor people. If there werent exploiters, then there wouldnt be exploited people. With the confusion of war, war as life and death, war between slaves and masters, large l andowners and farm laborers, they call that contradiction Its a war where anything goes. But


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 11 it is that war which makes life go forward. A contradiction is a flame under Sister Lamsis bean cauldron. At one moment, the cauldron explodes: teeth stay stuc k in ripe plantain, slaves slit their masters throats, death climbed up on lifes back, day bursts the bubble of night. But, if we look closely, when dusk is about to fall, the battle between day and night is ready and resolute. Either the dew hasnt ye t fallen, at that moment its not yet entirely night, but its no longer day. Or the moon hasnt yet gone, at that moment its not yet day but we cant call it night, because the rooster already crowed for the third time. At that moment we can say: the co ntradiction hasnt yet unfolded its wings. Its sitting on both sides of the fence. Its being weaned. But were certain it will come out into the open. Either it is night, or it is day. Dusk doesnt last long. A contradiction goes through three phases: th e budding phase, the critical phase, and the out of control phase Im sure you now understand why the buccaneers and farmers who were living in Saint Domingue around the 1650s didnt mistreat their slaves. Its not due t o their being better than


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 12 Karad or Praloto, no. Its because a slave in a garden didnt scare them. Around 1680, of the whites who were in Saint Domingue, 1,400 were men. Among the slaves there were 1,100. Society was budding. The slave/master contradicti on was still in its weaning phase. Dont forget: a contradiction goes through three phases: the budding phase, the critical phase and the out of control phase If you understand that truth, you will also understand that a situation of indifference cant last for long. Contradictions are like market stands: they don't stay in place. Dusk doesnt last for long. Why do masters make slaves work? So they can make money. When they begin to make money, what do they do to make more money? There are two things they can do: 1) go find more slaves to add to those already working 2) make the slaves work harder. The whites of Saint Domingue didnt do anything less. In 1665 there were many black slaves. But, the more time passed, the more the whites piled slaves up, the harder the slaves worked The unhappier the slaves were. In 1680 there were already 1000 slaves in Saint Domingue. In 1679, when the contradiction hadnt even reached the second stage, Lamsis cauldron began to leak: a group of slaves took up arms under the orders of Father Jean. This is a truth from History: the contradictions in a society must be maintained for the future For factory owners to make money, there must be many people who work and they must work harder every day. For masters to make a profit they must always get more slaves, and they must mistreat them. For a society to advance, the strength of its production must increase. But the more these forces increase, the harder the slaves work, and the more slaves are unhappy. Therefore, around 1680, either in Saint Domingue, or on another island under French control, the contradiction was developing. Around 1685, it began to get worse. When the forces that produce swell, the contradictions meet at the wrenching crossroad, the others show up with laws, decrees and regulations to tie up the little pigs up with rope In 1685 they set the Black Code loose on the streets. The Black Cod e contained 60 articles. It appears as though there were parts of it that repeated other parts of it. So we wont go through it line by line, word by word, like some others would have you study it. On the contrary, were going to organize what we read, we re going to mix it up, were going to unfold it so we can see the truth behind all of that French language.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 13 Yoyo is a good man For a system to be sustained in a society, that society must reproduce itself, that society must continue to produce the same type of people it was producing, along with the same kinds of classes For the bourgeois to eat meat, there must be cattle, ther e must be goats. To have cattle and goats, the cattle and goats must bear offspring. In the same way, for a society of masters/slaves to endure, the slaves must work constantly. So, they mustnt die in vain. At the same time as its crushing the slaves that society must control the energy of the slaves. If all the slaves worked so hard that they died after three months, the masters wouldnt have the time to recoup on their investment, the masters would lose money. If all factory workers toiled so hard that they died like flies in insecticide, the big bourgeois wouldnt have proletariat to work for them, and they wouldnt have clients to buy their merchandise. Thats what made them give workers Saturday and Sunday off. Its not on account of liking them, no! So, we uncover a big contradiction thats in every society. For the upper class to thoroughly exploit the lower class, the upper class must manage the strength of the lower class


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 14 He sells meat / with all the spices ins ide of it! There are a ton of articles in the Black Code that were there to conserve the energy expanded by the slaves, so that the society would be able to continue to function in exactly the same way. Louis XIV mandated that they not dismember slaves without reason, that they not crush their arms, that masters give them food, drink, and rest (articles 22 through 27). He ordered that slaves rest on Sundays, and that masters not separate babies from mothers (articles 6712). In truth, the Black Code declared that slaves be given food, but at the same time it clamped down on them. A slave didnt have any rights. They considered him like any other kind of property, like a horse, a dog, or a chair, a table. The Black Code said it like this: a slave is a p iece of furniture! The slaves were not allowed to buy or sell anything (article 18). They werent allowed to approach the State for anyone, even if the others had abused them (article 31). They didnt have the right to carry either weapons or big sticks (article 15). If they raised a


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 15 hand to the master of the house, to the woman of the house, or to the children of the housemaster, the housemaster had the right to kill them (article 33). So, my friends, we find two functions that the Black Code had in Sa int Domingue: 1) preserve the energy of the lower class 2) keep the lower class from becoming agitated. But that wasnt enough for some. Because, in order to take up arms, to strike the master and his wife, the warped idea had to occur in your head, and there had to be something behind it. Also, the Black Code arranged itself in such a way as to prevent the idea of revolution from entering the head of the slave. Article 16 bluntly outlaws the assembly of slaves from different properties, whether by day or by night, whether for weddings or for other reasons, whether its in the house of a white person, or elsewhere. As for meetings on the highway, or in the backwoods, that is not possible. The article required the beating of slaves who didnt obey the law, and if they began again they should be killed. Article 17 reinforced this law: if the masters gave the slaves any room to organize meetings, the masters had to pay the consequences.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 16 Attacks on common sense I dont know if you understand. This article, those who wrote it intentionally wanted to blind the slaves for 33 generations. Scholars who study whats in the mind that makes one not a fool, have made it known that communicative interaction helps a man or a woman think! Its the words of the neighborhood that help neighbors reflect. But for neighbors to converse, they have to meet one another, they have to come together. To shut down meetings is to shut down speech. To shut down speech is to shut down thought. To shut down thought is to shut off liberty The Black Code attacked the common sense of the powerless people of Haiti. For us to fully understand this type of attack, we must understand how the colonists split up the slaves in Saint Domingue. The colonists intentionally never put slaves who came from the same tribe in Africa together. Thus the slaves who were in one house didnt serve the same lwa9 or speak the same language. The colonists did that so they would force their own ideas and their own language into t he heads of the African slaves of Saint Domingue. But the slaves showed off to the masters. They took the colonists language and they wound it up in a bunch of African languages and they established Creole. They took the religion of the colonists, they wr apped it in their own religion and they produced Vodou10 Thats what made a lot of scoundrels not want to see either Creole or vodou. Be careful, Im not taking a stand for either Creole or for vodou. No language is better than any other one. Native crimin als are ready to tell people bad lies in good Creole No religion is better than another. Some people also use 9 Trouillot writes Ositou sklav ki t nan youn minm lakou pat svi minm loua [...]; the expression svi lwa [loua] refe rs to serving the Vodou lwa (spirits). 10 Although Trouillot writes vodou, we update the spelling to Vodou since scholarship on the religion and culture largely employs the capitalized form Vodou in both English and Haitian Creole sources. This spelli ng has been adopted since scholars widely agree that Vodou tradition should be classified among the family of world religions alongside Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc (see Olupona and Rey 2008).


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 17 vodou to disrespect the Haitian people But like it or not, Creole and Vodou are the first two battles that workers had on Haitian soil under the foreign colonists. But, lets return to the Black Code When you understand how they separated the Africans in Saint Domingue, we see better how the Black Code sought to tie up the slaves. When the Black Code declare d that it denied slaves the right to assemble, even for the celebration of marriage, its as though it stole the soul of the people, it put it in a jug, and then buried it underground. Speech is one of the rights that every man and woman is born with. It s ones right to say: Good morning, dear sister, for a woman to say: How are you. Its a right to respond joyfully, Not bad, dear sister, but if we get together during the day, tomorrow will be more beautiful. Cover ups conceal it Therefore, we find three important functions that the Black Code was trying to fulfill for the upper classes in Saint Domingue: 1) The Black Code was there to direct the energy of the slaves 2) The Black Code was there to keep the slaves from taking up arms 3) The Black Code was there to allow colonists to take control of the minds of the slaves, to keep them from thinking about their problems. It was for that same reason that the Black Code directed masters to baptize the slaves. There were a wh ole bunch of articles in the Black Code that tried to help the colonists convert the slaves, because many knew a lot of ideas in the Bible could help slaves become more docile. But the Bible has its own contradictions too. It says the little people have to obey the law, but it also said: everyone is worthy (as a child of God). The colonists of Saint Domingue understood this contradiction. They knew that there were parts of the Bible that werent made for slaves. They knew that there were many articles in th e Black Code were there just for show.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 18 For them to put their hands on Africa, on America, for them to be at ease with abusing the slaves, the colonists in Europe carried along as if they really wanted to convert other people of the earth. Today, in the same way, so they can easily suck a small country dry, a column of vampiric countries pretend that theyre coming to help the little people They make the sign of the cross with the left hand, they scarf down our food with the right ha nd. The articles in the Black Code dealing with religion were sweet, flowery smelling pieces of shit, policemans trickery. They were there to allow the colonists of Saint Domingue and the bourgeois in France to confess and take communion without their consciences reproaching them, without other countries (without other classes in their own countries) protesting. They were there to help prolong slavery with the blessing of the church. This is a contradiction that is found in many laws: among all the bloodthirsty regulations, there are regulations that are there to make the upper class look good, to serve as a cover up. The fourth function of the Black Code in Saint Domingue was to hide the exploitation of the slaves.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 19 Each firefly lights up its own eyes But that didnt always count for some. Some didnt want slaves to get together with slaves, and some others also didnt want the freedmen to help slaves. On the contrary, the Black Code inflamed the cinders of hate so tha t the slaves hated the freedmen. They had the right to kill slaves who raised a hand against free blacks (article 34). And if a freedman helped a slave to escape, that free black had to pay a heavy price. Since, in Saint Domingue society, three quarters of the freedmen were mulattos, that article cleaved a rift between free blacks and mulattos. It made blacks hate the mulattos. It made mulattos run away from blacks. As for the blacks who were free, either because their mothers were freed or because their masters had set them free, this law came to force them to disregard their old friends, so that each firefly would only light up for his own eyes. The sixth function the Black Code was trying to fulfill in SaintDomingue, was to sow d ivision between slaves and free blacks so that the powerful white colonists could frolic in peace. But the issue of the freedmen didnt end there. The secretaries of Louis XIV knew that the freedmen represented a doubleedged sword. If they put their hea ds together with the slaves, that wouldnt be good for the colonists, but if they put their heads together all the way with the colonists, that could be bad for France. They could organize themselves to exploit the slaves without France ever eating the fat of the pig. So, even though articles 57 59 said: the freedmen are equal with whites, article 58 (in the middle) said: if the freedmen are disrespectful to their former masters, they must be severely punished.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 20 Breaking the code/cord My friends, I dont know if you see this, but the law isnt as simple as they want us to think it is. The law is a weapon in the hands of the classes in power, so they can clasp the society tightly And this weapon strikes on many sides, in many ways. In Saint Domingue, the Black Code was there: 1) to help reproduce the output of the slaves 2) to hinder the slaves from finding opportunities to revolt 3) to keep slaves from thinking about their situation 4) to make slaves be more submissive 5) to cover up the exploitat ion and the crimes of the colonists 6) to keep other classes (and other categories) from taking the side of the slaves 7) to keep the free blacks from uniting with whites against the French bourgeois. My friends, these are the inner workings of the Black Code. The question we should ask now is whether they obeyed that law? And that question begs another: what made them follow one rule, and what made them disregard another? You already know the law is a code/cord that the upper class (or


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 21 classes) put in place to tie up the lower classes. But we also know that the more Lamsis bean pot heats up, the more smoke rises. In the same way, the more inherent contradictions in the society are advancing down the road of struggle, the more the lower classes begin to ignore the law. At that moment, the first move of the exploitative class was to have the lower class beaten. Everyone knows that if Ti Pi doesnt follow the law, he goes to jail. Thats one thing. But they cant put an entire class in prison. Thus, even if in spite of that, the lower class continues to revolt, the upper class has two things it can do: 1) It can tighten the cord even more in or der to deprive the lower class of a chance to breathe, like they did in Chile for example. 2) It can lengthen the cord to deceive the lower class, to make the lower class think it has the right to go where it wants to. But its not true, the cord is never unt ied, its merely lengthened, like they do in New York for example. In Saint Domingue, from 1700 to 1791, the upper classes (the powerful colonists) tried to play with the cord like a little child who gets tangled with a kite in a whirlwind. They let it go, they pulled it, they pouted. Nothing worked. They pulled harder on the cord. They came up with articles that were still stricter than the Black Code. But, the contradictions were still simmering, and a class they are exploiting, is not just any kite! I ts a kite with razor blades on its tail! In 1791, what happened? The kite broke the cord.


The English Translation of a Major Haitian Creole T ext by Michel Rolph Trouillot Mariana Past and Benjamin Hebb lethwaite 22 Do you want to know how that happened? Do you want me to tell you, my friend, what kind of hurricane Hazel11 came through Saint Domingue? Well, sit, listen Lamsi, give me another drop of cotton tea. These words require refreshment... 11 Hurricane Hazel struck Haiti in 1954 and left more than 1,000 dead in its wake. Here it is a metaphor for the destructive force of revolution and war.