December 28, 2015, marked the 200th anniversary (December 28, 1815) of the visit by Simon Bolivar to Les Cayes, Haiti, seeking assistance from Alexander Petion, president of Haiti, in his quest to liberate Latin America from Spain colonial rule and its world order of slavery. He had been all over the world, especially in England, seeking assistance, but to no avail.
Only Haiti came forward with arms, munitions, fresh troops and advice to continue the battle and win the independence for the entire Latin America (4,000 guns, 15,000 pounds of powder, a press machine, three boats, food and soldiers). In return, Petion asked nothing from Bolivar only that he should free the slaves in the lands that he liberates. He did so and, at the end, Bolivar said, “Let later future generations know that Alexander Petion is the true liberator of my country.”
Born into wealth on July 24, 1783, in Caracas, Venezuela, of a Creole family whose fortune was made in plantation and copper mine, Bolivar was sent to study in Spain where he became a scholar erudite in the teaching of the philosophers like Montesquieu, Hobbs, Spinoza, Montesquieu and Rousseau.
Around that time, Napoleon Bonaparte was pursuing his goals of a global empire, by sequestering the King of Spain and naming his brother Joseph Napoleon king of Spain, hastening the disintegration of the Spanish colonies in Latin America. On Bolivar’s return from Europe, he found a fertile land for revolt and enrolled in the resistance movement against Spanish rule and soon took command of the movement. Bolivar, in his first defeats by the Spanish troops that were now returned to the Royal hands with the defeat of Napoleon in France and Spain, sought exile in Jamaica. It was from there that he traveled to Haiti for help.
The assistance from Haiti contributed to defeat the Spanish forces and create the nation of Venezuela, and from there he went on to liberate the nations of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, incorporated in the Gran Colombia of which he became president in 1821.
The idea of a nation was novel. There were only two exceptions, the United States that became a nation in 1776 and Haiti that became the first black nation in 1804. Bolivar encountered difficulties in maintaining all these different countries in one nation like the United States. Intrigues and the need for some countries like Venezuela to maintain its slave system circumvented the bold idea of the Gran Colombia.
Bolivar’s speeches and exhortation, as the one of February 15, 1819, has resonance in today’s world: “Slavery is the daughter of darkness; there are those who
take license for liberty, treachery for patriotism and vengeance for justice.”
Bolivar died on December 17, 1830, of tuberculosis leaving a work in progress. Like Toussaint Louverture, he was a liberator who left a legacy of nation builder. His name should remain a precursor for the Abraham Lincolns, the Nelson Mandelas and the Nehrus of later years.
This essay is an attempt to build a memory lane for the solidarity gesture of the people of Les Cayes in particular and the Haitian people in general towards the people of Latin America. Haiti, after 212 years of independence is in distress. Its children are jumping ship to find a hospitable land in the Dominican Republic, where they are being driven back minus their belongings. They are now trying the long trek towards Brazil.
My wish this year is to see one of the countries of Latin America, Colombia perhaps, taking the lead in helping the southern part of Haiti in the city of Les Cayes to have a university campus similar to the one given by the Dominican Republic to the northeast of Haiti through funding from the European Community. The future Simon Bolivar University of Haiti would represent a friendly gesture from Latin America that would go a long way in cementing the tradition of helping started by one of Haiti’s founding fathers, Alexander Petion.
A small step but a giant image that hopefully will be framed on December 28, 2016, a year after the Jubilee 200; the Dominican Republic was on target one year after the earthquake that destroyed 300,000 people. Simon Bolivar and Alexander Petion would applaud that magnificent portrait with both hands from their grave!
By Jean H Charles
Source: Caribbean News Now