Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Who got to Haiti first?


Port-au-Prince, Haiti
--Who got there first? The Cubans, many-of-whom were already there in their usual form: as doctors. Why were they already there? Because the developed world is on their neck in Haiti and the place has been mismanaged before the earthquake and since the time of Columbus when the island of Hispaniola was first conquered and settled, primarily for exploitation. Cuba is part of this same legacy of colonialism and understands its effects, say what you will about the regime there. Hispaniola has been a hellhole for centuries, ever since the first white men planted their flags on its shores. The abuse is ongoing.

That's the part that never changes in poor Haiti, that first black republic, something they've been punished for ever since. Don't let anyone fool you on this central point: Haiti was a disaster before the earthquakes, a prototypical example of where the rest of us might be headed, including the centuries of ecological devastation spurred-on by the desire to exploit, to profit, from the misery of enslaved others. What the world should be doing is pledging to rebuild Haiti and its economy and to leave the place alone. We know that's not going to happen anytime soon.

But make no mistake: The Cubans made it to the Haitian-side of Hispaniola first, and not simply thanks to proximity. Will we have a rerun of Katrina? We already have, and under a black president. It took American forces three days to reach Haiti in significant numbers, just more abuse and negligence, the depriving of people of basic human rights.