Sunday morning at the Musée du Panthéon National Haïtien (MUPANAH) here in the Haitian capital, Port au Prince and all is bright and beautiful. As are those in attendance, Haiti’s ‘A’ listers – President Michel Martelly and his wife Sophia, Prime Minister Lamonthe, Tourism Minister Stephanie Villedrouin, Communications Minister Regine Godefroy, the US Ambassador, French charge d’ affairs, prominent artists, musicians. In short, the great and the good of this small country.
It’s the 210th anniversary of François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture’s death, so the official spirit is solemn and the occasion laden with symbolism.
He was the man who led the Haitian revolution, set his people free and enabled them to dream of an alternative reality, with the result that Haiti declared itself independent of France in 1804. With that, it became the world’s first black republic and only the second country (after the USA) to throw off the yoke of colonialism.
So to today’s event at the MUPANAH, commemorating 30 years of the museum’s life, on an enormously significant day in Haiti’s national memory. One could not but notice the extreme generosity of the French charge – he delivered a key speech at the invitation of the Haitian government. Toussaint Louverture is hardly likely to be a hero in France – in fact, he died there a year after being deported and was reportedly buried no one knows where. After all, this was the slave who dared to take on the might of Napoleon – and won – forcing France to leave its richest colony, the Pearl of the Antilles.
And yet, on Sunday, Mr Dominique Delpuech delivered a gracious speech, praising Toussaint Louverture.
As they say, Diplomacy is best defined as follows: n. Lying in state, or the patriotic art of grand gestures.