Haiti Needs A Cultural Revolution


As Haiti elected a new leader, Michel Martelly, the issue now is whether he can lead the Caribbean island-nation out of poverty? With nine million people, Haiti has about the same population as a typical U.S. state, but it differs in nearly every other respect.

Haiti is a relatively isolated island-state. Unlike the 50 U.S. states, where commerce flows across borders with ease, Haiti has only one neighbor by land, the Dominican Republic, which is over a mountain range, on the east side of the island. Cuba is by sea to the west, but they are of no help to Haiti. The U.S. is of course to the north, by water, but the U.S. Coast Guard stands in the way.

With natural barriers to trade, Haiti is largely on their own. They grow coffee, bananas, corn, beans and mangoes, but the export market is competitive, and these industries can only hire so many, and pay so much. Haiti has problems developing skilled jobs via the internet, or by any other means, since 47% of the people remain illiterate. Unemployment has at times hit 50%. To make things worse, a major earthquake struck the island in 2010. So, they rely on aid, as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Why is Haiti not more prosperous, like the nearby Puerto Rico, or at least Jamaica, on another island? The answer is they have had different colonial backgrounds, economic alliances and languages.

Haiti was ruled by France for 157 years (1647-1804), which explains why they speak French-Creole. When the black slaves revolted and Haiti became independent (1804), France ignored their economy. Haiti has been on their own for the past 207 years.

Puerto Rico was governed by Spain for 405 years (1493-1898), which is why they speak Spanish. After the Spanish-American War (1898), they became a U.S. territory, raised their literacy rate to 94%, and added English as an official language. Their success is due to their linkage to the U.S. economy for the past 113 years.

Jamaica was a British colony for 307 years (1655-1962). They were a part of the British Empire and enjoyed the benefits of the Commonwealth of Nations. English was taught in their schools and literacy climbed to 88%. Since independence 49 years ago, they have used the English language to develop U.S. tourism.

Haiti needs to change their culture, so it is not so much of an orphan in the Americas. It is the only independent state in this Hemisphere that uses French-Creole as a primary tongue. The principle language in the other 34 sovereign states is English, Spanish or Portuguese. Haiti needs to be able to communicate with ease with the English-speaking U.S.A.

The new Haitian president should conduct a Cultural Revolution to make all of their children primarily fluent in English, and secondarily in Spanish. While Haiti cannot expect the kind of aid the U.S. has given to the Puerto Rican territory, and will probably not gain their standard of living any time soon, if all Haitians would primarily learn and practice English, they could do more business with the U.S., and improve their economy, at least to the level of Jamaica’s. If Haiti would increase their literacy rates and emphasize English, they would do much better with economic development in this English-Spanish speaking Hemisphere.

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2 Comments to “Haiti Needs A Cultural Revolution”

  1. Perhaps you reasses your comment “Cuba is by sea to the west, but they are of no help to Haiti,” as they sent more doctors than Doctors Without Borders.

    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/15-9

  2. I agree that Cuba sends doctors. I did not mean to be critical of the Cubans. The point of my post was regarding international trade in goods and services, and that Cuba is not in a position to assist Haiti in their economic development, since their economy also needs economic development.

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