Q: How do you ‘reverse’ the loss of Haiti’s cultural heritage? A: You can’t

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL September 5, 2014
Ruins of Fort Liberte

Ruins of Fort Liberte

Haiti’s culture minister is well placed to steer some of the international community’s ambitious new plans to protect the country’s historical monuments and archaeological sites. But surely there’s a limit to the magic to be expected from even so wise, resourceful and academically accomplished a person as Madame la ministere, Monique Rocourt. 

Consider this:

A recent AP report on UNESCO’s efforts, quoted Dan Rogers, an archaeology curator with the Smithsonian Institution, who travelled to Fort Liberte and lamented the loss of Haiti’s cultural heritage such as the canon stolen from the 18th-century seaside fort.

Perhaps the news story was misleading but it said that “Haitian authorities and international experts hope to reverse the loss of such cultural heritage from the ruins of Fort Liberte and elsewhere…”

Easy to understand restoration and/or rehabilitation. But how do you “reverse the loss of cultural heritage”? Reproductions? That’s not restoration, just theme park prop-placement.

Mr Rogers is further quoted to say, “They are very significant sites. It tells a very deep history not only of Haiti but the entire Caribbean”.

He’s right and right again about another point: “One of the things that strikes me is that for a very long time there has been very little archaeological work in Haiti. There’s room for expanding the strength of the laws that protect cultural heritage, especially antiquities.”

Of course.

But the reason Haiti is Haiti is rule of law means little.

In every sector. Across the board.

See what I mean about limited expectations from the fabulous new Culture Minister?

Jack Kerouac

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life”
– Jack Kerouac