Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 7: The Citadel

On Day 7, PE members traveled to Cap Haitien to participate in a Tourism Focus Group. After touring the Citadel, the largest fortress in the Americas, and San-Souci Palace, PE gave suggestions on how Haiti officials can capitalize on these national treasures and draw tourists to visit. As Ambassador Joseph shared with the team, Haiti is set apart from all the other Caribbean islands: "We all have sand and sea but Haiti has history and culture." Sites like the Citadel and San-Souci Palace will resonate with descendents of Black slaves in America, and even all over the world, because they are standing symbol of the indomitable fight for freedom by a people who would not be denied.

Henri Christophe, a key leader during the Haitian slave rebellion against France, built the Citadel after Haiti gained independence in 1804. PE members were awed by the imposing structure which was built by nearly 20,000 workers between 1805 and 1820. The Citadel is the largest of a number of forts built to keep the newly-independent nation safe from French attacks.

The builders filled the Citadel with hundreds of cannons, many of which still stand within and around the fortress today.

While the feared French attack never came, the Citadel has withstood numerous earthquakes, including the most recent in January 2010.

The Sans-Souci Palace, which sits at the base of the Citadel, was the royal residence of Henri Christophe (also known as King Henri I), Queen Marie-Louise and their two daughters. He built nine palaces but this was the most significant. Construction ran started in 1810 to 1813. The San-Souci Palace is now a ruin, visitors can see hints of the luxury therein: immense gardens, artificial springs, a pool, and a system of waterworks. \

Sans-Souci's construction is a testament to what Henri Christophe wanted the world to know: that Black people - free Black people - have the ability to construct buildings to rival any found anywhere else (in Europe or other parts of the Americas).