July 1, 2022

Commentary: Haiti’s national carnival in Gonaives

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gonaives_carnival1By Jean H Charles from Caribbean News Now

Some ten years ago on September 18, 2004, the city of Gonaives was under siege after tropical storm Jeanne unleashed a deluge of biblical proportion depositing in the region enough water to cause some 150 deaths, 50,000 families being put on the street, while 13,000 homes were destroyed.

A decade later, the city has been revived so well through infrastructure building by both the Latortue and the Preval governments and now the Martelly/Lamothe administration that it is ready today to receive millions of local visitors and hundreds of tourists to revel in the debauchery of the three days carnival that precede the Lenten season.

Gonaives reminds me of the city of Phoenix, Arizona, located in the middle of a semi-desert area where cactus, sun and rock abound. Passing through Gonaives on my way to Cape Haitian, I have often reflected that, if I had official authority, I would fill the region with trees. Dates and olive trees would do well, providing an oasis for the citizens of the city as well as for the travellers.

President Michel Martelly is once again on the right track in setting the Carnival on a nomadic trail towards the main cities of the republic of Haiti. After Les Cayes and Cape Haitian, it is now the turn for Gonaives to show that hospitality is also queen in the city of independence.

gonaives_carnival2Gonaives is for Haiti what Philadelphia or Washington DC is for the United States. It is the city where the founding fathers gathered after the victorious battle of Vertieres against the French colonists on November 18, 1803, to seal the momentous moment on January 1, 1804, to declare that for now and forever, slavery of man upon man is abhorrent to God and to man; it should be fought by just war if necessary.

It is a proud city that precipitated the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship after two students were killed during an uprising against the regime.

Gonaives is also the Mecca of the voodoo spirit and culture. Close to the city, one can visit the Sucry temple where most voodoo worshippers pay homage to the loas at least once a year.

Haiti might be in the region the fourth global Carnival destination after Rio in Brazil occupying the first place and Port of Spain of Trinidad and Tobago holding firm in second place and New Orleans the third one. With the lifting of the de facto embargo against Haiti, its Carnival will become in the future a true international event; it is now mainly a national demonstration of culture, music and entertainment.

With the global climate change, and the Northeast of the United States as well as Northern Europe confronting unusual freezing temperature, finding solace in the Caribbean during winter season while Carnival is on the way brings double benefit for those who can avail themselves of this ritual that dates back to antiquity.

Carnival is associated with the old notion of communal fecundity that called for rain and let the field open for new vegetation. In fact, Haiti has suffered a lack of rain since November 1. It rained hard and strong this week in the country, signaling the concept that “the spirit” is always present, even in this modern time.

There has been discussion in the country whether poor Haiti should earmark so much money for the business of Carnival. It is an investment that is already showing signs of return. The permanent infrastructure in the South, the North and the Artibonite region of Haiti after the Carnival brings added value to commerce and to industry.

In addition, it takes big advertising lobbying to set oneself on the trail of global visibility in the Carnival market. Haiti, through its nomadic vagabond trail, offers a diversity of venues that should please the foreign tourist while being beneficial to the locals.

The artists and the artisans from Port au Prince have descended en masse on Gonaives to transform the city into a moving museum of art. The dancers will exhibit themselves with the least covering of the skin, giving into convulsions that shake all the senses.

The Haitian government is already investing in infrastructure in the northwest of Haiti. Is it an indication that the venue for Carnival 2015 will be in the city of Port de Paix?

It is a prerogative of the president of Haiti to choose where the mass debauchery will take place. He has so far succeeded in his bet to please beyond their own expectation the doubters more stringent than St Thomas!

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD is a syndicated columnist with Caribbean News Now. He can be reached at: [email protected] and followed for past essays at Caribbeannewsnow/Haiti

Photos: Daniel Morel

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Related story:

Haiti wraps up 2014 carnival parade

gonaives_carnival4By Fritznel Claude From Caribbean News Now

GONAIVES, Haiti (HCNN) — Tens of thousands of Haitians living in Haiti and many others who arrived from the Diaspora were enjoying the Caribbean country’s biggest cultural event which kicked off on Sunday in the northern town of Gonaives.

Haitian President Michel Martelly and other cabinet members have been attending the country’s three-day yearly carnival parade since its launch on Sunday.

“I came from Miami particularly to participate in the carnival this year and I am satisfied with the music, the Mardi Gras and the ambiance,” carnival-goer, Joceline Morancy, told HCNN on Tuesday, as she prepared to party on the final carnival day.

“I thought it would have been more difficult because this is my first time back to the country in 15 years,” Morancy said.

“But everything is going so well,” she said.

The event gather more than 15 musical bands on giant floats and various walking bands playing different instruments, while disguised paraders, wearing bright Mardi Gras outfits, put on their best shows.

“I live in Port-au-Prince (the capital in the west region), but I’ve been here in Gonaives with my family since Friday,” said Marc Andre Josapha.

“The carnival is one event we can never miss and we are enjoying it,” Josapha said.

However, some participants complained about the lack of public toilets on the carnival road where they spend hours and some other organizational problems.

“I think it would have been much better if we could find enough toilets to use when we feel the need to,” Marcelene Pierre told HCNN.

“Otherwise, we love it here,” she said.

The event cost close to US$3 million to the state treasury, but private business sector groups and other sponsors spend millions more to promote products and specific causes.

PHOTO: President Michel Martelly (centre), with his right hand in the air, in the middle of a crowd in the 2014 carnival parade in Gonaives

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