- Haiti and the Americas ed. by Carla Calargé, Raphael Dalleo, Luis Duno-Gottberg, and Clevis Headley
The transnational turn in Haitian studies and the hemispheric turn in American studies come together in this groundbreaking interdisciplinary collection, which situates Haiti as a “crossroads” of the Americas. While until recently the scholarly literature focusing on Haiti’s engagement with the world has centered primarily—with a few major exceptions—on the revolutionary era, this volume concentrates on hemispheric interconnections since then.
In an introduction synthesizing the book’s contributions, coeditor Raphael Dalleo discusses the wealth of recent studies that analyze the Haitian Revolution and its reverberations in a wider Atlantic world context. He also surveys the smaller but no less significant body of work focused on interactions between Haiti and the rest of the Americas from the early nineteenth century to the contemporary moment. Dalleo’s introduction and the collection as a whole bear out his contentions that “scholars have only begun to understand the full scope of [the] relationship” between Haiti and the United States, and that “the ongoing relationships between Haiti and [other] parts of the Americas … have scarcely been explored” (14).
I found Dalleo’s claim that the essays “complicate and contextualize our vision of Haiti” (16–17) to be consistently true across this volume, beginning with the first section on “Haiti and Hemispheric Independence.” Sibylle Fischer’s article “Bolívar in Haiti: Republicanism in the Revolutionary Atlantic” and Matthew Casey’s “Between Anti-Haitianism and Anti-imperialism: Haitian and Cuban Political Collaborations in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries” both complicate longtime assumptions about how Latin American and Caribbean Creoles viewed postrevolutionary Haiti. Fischer’s work problematizes an overemphasis on the international isolation of early republican Haiti by spotlighting the extent to which, in the 1810s, Haiti’s southern coast became “a gathering point for populations that were swept up in the insurgencies on the mainland” (26). If Haiti was a beacon and sometime refuge for enslaved and free people of African descent across the region, Fischer points to how it also became the safe haven for a wider population of refugees. Her article thus complicates the assumption that Haiti evoked only dread in the imagination of white Creoles. That Simon Bolívar himself took refuge in southern Haiti during [End Page 198] these years is well known, as is President Alexandre Pétion’s financial and military backing of the Latin American independence wars on the condition that slavery be abolished wherever Spanish rule was overthrown. What has not been recognized, Fischer argues, is the extent to which Bolívar’s political thought was shaped by his experiences in Haiti, and in particular by his admiration for what he considered Pétion’s success in preventing the republic from fracturing into microsovereignties.
The specter of the Haitian Revolution cast a long shadow over nineteenth-century colonial Cuba, with wealthy Creole slaveholders fearing—and, along with Spanish colonial officials, frequently invoking—the prospect that independence would lead to a “race war.” Yet Matthew Casey argues that those who sought to overthrow Spanish rule in Cuba saw Haiti in markedly different ways. He explores how Haiti was a safe haven and support for Cuban independence leaders and fighters during the Ten Years’ War (1868–1878), and then again after 1888. One of the methodological challenges of studying Haiti’s aid to nineteenth-century anti-imperial struggles, as both Fischer and Casey discuss, is that the Haitian government insisted that such assistance go unpublicized. In the second part of his article, Casey examines how Haitian migrants in eastern Cuba during the 1915–1934 US occupation of their homeland “invoke[ed] Haiti’s previously silenced contribution to Cuban independence” in founding and soliciting funds for a Cuban branch of the Union Patriotique, the foremost Haitian antioccupation organization (65). In spite of a resurgence of Cuban anti-Haitianism during these years, Casey argues that such ideologies “did not hold a monopoly” over Cuban perceptions of Haiti, nor prevent Cuban–Haitian solidarity...