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  • The slave trade with the New World was started not long after the Discovery of America.

  • For more than three centuries, slave-ships continued with their sinister voyages loaded with their dreadful human cargo.

  • Millions of people were captured in Africa and sold in America.

  • By the end of the 18th Century, in Haiti alone, there was a population of more than 2,900,000 African slaves.

  • After becoming a French possession in 1697,

  • Haiti soon became America's biggest producer of sugar

  • and also one of the places with the highest number of slaves in the world.

  • Now, some of the old sugar plantations have been converted into museums

  • with enormous stills for distilling the rum, presses where the juice of the sugar cane was extracted

  • and raised tanks where the fruits of slave labour were kept.

  • Slave labour carried out under the constant cracking of the whip.

  • The living conditions of the Africans confined in these yards were atrocious.

  • After suffering the hardships of a voyage, where normally 20% of the slaves died,

  • they arrived at the auctions exhausted and ill.

  • Families were separated and the individual members were sold to different settlers.

  • Parents and children would never meet again.

  • The overseers meted out severe punishments to those who did not work flat out

  • and the hunters of fugitive slaves subjected their prisoners to exemplary treatment which often resulted in death.

  • Many succumbed to the wounds caused by heavy shackles,

  • or dehydrated in the sun whilst chained to these sinister crosses.

  • Cape Haitien was the point where the slavers would unload their ebony merchandise,

  • as they called their foul-smelling load of dying slaves that survived the voyage

  • Today it is one of the most beautiful colonial cities of Haiti.

  • Its houses speak loudly of the opulent past of the French settlers who managed the sugar plantations.

  • By the end of the 18th Century the black population had reached about 3 million

  • and there were ever-increasing problems controlling them.

  • The blacks that escaped, known as "browns", hid in the mountains and organised themselves in very large rebel groups.

  • The rumours about the French Revolution gave new strength to the rebels.

  • Boukman, the leader of the browns, organised a great secret ceremony in BOIS CAIMAN

  • That night on 14th August 1791, a black pig was sacrificed and all those present drank its blood.

  • The revolution of the slaves had begun.

  • The message was very clear: cut off heads, burn houses and destroy plantations.

  • In a few days more than a thousand whites were killed.

  • The terrified white settlers started the legend that the blacks had made a pact with the devil that night in BOIS CAIMAN.

  • Many slaves were captured and executed.

  • The "brown" Makandal was burnt alive, so becoming a legendary martyr

  • who is still called on in voodoo ceremonies today.

  • Toussaint Louverture became the leader of the blacks and started up a rebellion that lasted for 10 years,

  • until on the 1st January 1804, Haiti proclaimed its independence,

  • so becoming the first black republic in the New World.

  • Two years later, General Henry Christophe proclaimed himself King and constructed the Citadell in the North,

  • while a mulatto, Petion, took control of the South.

  • The construction of this enormous fortress built to defend them from the French, who never came back, took 14 years.

  • Each stone had to be transported by hand up to a site that was 980 metres above sea level.

  • 20,000 people died during its construction.

  • The story goes that Christophe ordered that those who refused to work should be impaled against the enormous walls of the citadel.

  • It could house up to 10,000 people and its geographical situation made it virtually impregnable.

  • King Christophe built up an arsenal of more than 250,000 cannon balls

  • for the various types of cannons that he had installed in hundreds of embrasures.

  • The Citadell, the largest fortress in the Caribbean,

  • was left anchored in the mountains as a testimony to the struggle of the Haitian people for their independence.

  • The landscape of the North contrasts with the idea that one may have of Haiti as an arid land.

  • In this region where King Christophe seems still to reign, the forests are luxuriant and leafy and full of life.

  • Christophe ordered the Palace of Sans Souci to be built near the Citadell, in the style of Frederick II of Prussia.

  • In 1820, at the foot of the Palace stairs, near the church,

  • the eccentric king ended his own life by shooting himself with a golden bullet fired from his silver revolver.

  • He had repressed his subjects to such a degree, that they rose up against him and forced him to commit suicide.

  • A simple monument brings him together with the other Fathers of the Nation at the top of a hill near Cape Haitien.

  • The voodoo phenomenon was born during this period of struggle

  • in spite of the colonial authorities and the repression of the Church.

  • The African Gods that travelled in the slaves´ minds had intermingled with the Catholic doctrine of the settlers.

  • A new religion had been born.

  • With the flags that represented the different tribes of their ancestors,

  • the lakús or voodoo monasteries are spread over all the country.

  • They are normally located in places where the slaves that had run away from the plantations

  • hid to pray.

  • Voodoo is a religion that is very closely linked with nature

  • and many of its deities dwell in rivers, valleys and mountains.

  • There are many natural settings which are real sanctuaries.

  • The faithful retreat to these places to meditate and meet their luas, or family spirits,

  • and the principle forces of the Universe.

  • These are spiritual observatories that enable them to communicate with the Great Beyond.

  • Voodoo determines and presides over Haitian society,

  • it is always present in a world where everything that happens,

  • be it good or bad, is attributed to the direct intervention of the spirits.

  • Limonat beach is a place of pilgrimage.

  • Preachers from the most distant parts of the country come here to perform Guiné ceremonies

  • and beseech the favour of Erzuli,

  • mother Earth, the Goddess of Love, who is identified in syncretism with the Virgin Mary.

  • In the shade of the sacred trees, families take turns to perform their ceremonies.

  • They mainly offer food and rum and wait for Erzuli to appear, for her to take possession of someone's body.

  • In this case, the woman with the red scarf.

  • Erzuli likes to flirt, and seduces people without distinguishing between sexes.

  • She may enter the body of a man or of a woman,

  • but everybody will immediately recognise her because of her suggestive movements.

  • Each preacher recognises different beings in this possession.

  • Its syncretic translation would be the Virgin of High Grace,

  • the Black Virgin or the Virgin of Monte Carmelo and sometimes St Philomena,

  • identified in voodoo with a siren who comes out of the sea or of fresh water.

  • Other participants also go into deep trances.

  • People help them and respect them, as in these moments their souls are outside their bodies.

  • The luas or spirits have taken over their bodies in order to express their wishes.

  • During these possessions, there are frequent displays of the protection conferred on them by the influence of the deity that dwells inside them.

  • Each lua has different colours, so different coloured scarves are used to call them.

  • White kaolin powder is also used to attract certain deities and to identify them.

  • Erzuli has just recognised one of her followers by the rings that adorn his hands.

  • These are wedding rings that show that the man has married her.

  • Each person may marry his protective lua.

  • They gather their relations and witnesses together and go to the OUNFO or voodoo temple,

  • where a mystic wedding is held.

  • From this moment on, the earthly spouse will have to abstain from sexual intercourse on certain days specified by his lua.

  • For example, Erzuli prescribes Tuesdays and Thursdays,

  • and on these days she may come before her servants in her dreams.

  • Here in Limonat voodoo lives alongside the Church.

  • The devotees alternate their religious customs without any problems.

  • From the olden days, when the settlers prohibited their African religious services,

  • the slaves were forced to praise their Gods whilst kneeling before a Catholic icon.

  • In this way syncretism arose and the majority of the lua have their corresponding Christian deity or saint.

  • Flags announce that this is a sacred place, a room where spirits dwell.

  • This is Josephine's house.

  • Her lua friend revealed to her in a dream,

  • how she should paint her yard in order to favour an encounter with the spirits that live in these trees.

  • Voodoo philosophy is very closely linked to nature, and therefore has an ecological bent.

  • Nobody dares to cut down trees as these are normally inhabited by spirits,

  • and especially LOKO, the protector of the woods.

  • Lakús, small villages that have arisen around a temple, can be found throughout the country.

  • A great sacred mapú, as they call the ceibas, presides over the lakú of the KONGO.

  • The power of the ceibas comes from the belief that they can talk to the Gods.

  • Unfortunately, most of them were cut down by the French during their struggle against the slaves' revolt.

  • The lakús are self-sufficient population cells.

  • Work is communal as is the product obtained from this work.

  • Each lakú is run by a HOUNGAN, or voodoo priest, who is called MAMBO,

  • in the case of a woman, and he or she is assisted by a Council of Elders.

  • Its inhabitants normally have the same African roots: Congo, Dahomey, Mandingo, Ewé etc..

  • There is a peristyle inside the temple which is dominated by the POTO MITAN,

  • the pillar by which the forces that have been invoked may descend.

  • The altar reflects once again the syncretism of this religion,

  • which was born in times of war, but now keeps its machetes buried as a sign of peace.

  • The HOUNGAN carries out a cleansing operation that also serves as a protection against spells,

  • and he shows us the house of SHANGO, the lua of thunder and catastrophes, equivalent to St. Barbara.

  • This other lakú is Dahomey. Its architecture takes us to another African region

  • from which the Yoruba deities, the OREXAS, departed.

  • The voodoo religion acts as a bonding force for the people.

  • It joins and fits together the range of different customs of the different ethnic groups

  • from which the slaves that populated Haiti came.

  • It helps to prop up a society that owes its existence to this religion.

  • Other sacred places include the lagoons where the spirits that clean, heal and bring luck to believers live.

  • In Plaine-du-Nord, the people submerge themselves in the mud and make their offerings of rum.

  • Wearing the large straw hat that characterises the lua SAKA,

  • Filo Pascal, a well-known journalist and veteran of the struggle for freedom of his people against the previous regime,

  • acts as a guide for us.

  • Thanks to him, we were able to discover the real voodoo

  • and avoid the countless obstacles placed in our way by the Mafia that limits and sells access to this religion to foreigners.

  • A great deal of ceremonies are performed in cemeteries among the dead.

  • The people are not afraid of these places, and it is commonplace,

  • and considered to be a great honour for someone to sleep on his father's grave.

  • The tomb of Baron Sammedi, the King of the Dead, can be found in all cemeteries,

  • although in some it can only be identified by the people from the village,

  • to stop outsiders using the cemetery for their own voodoo acts.

  • Normally, it can be recognised by its large cross

  • and where the first burial was made.

  • Tonight, we are witnesses to an "expedition" made by a HOUNGAN from Artibonito,

  • the region of Haiti with the strongest magic.

  • At the foot of the cross, the HOUNGAN smokes a piece of paper over some candles

  • so that the lua Great Way allows the passage to reach Baron Sammedi.

  • Later KAFU, who controls the cross-roads between the earthly world and the great beyond,

  • will have to give his permission

  • A fire is prepared with pine sticks and pieces of paper with someone's name written on it,

  • to prevent somebody leave in another person

  • They also use special powders made by the HOUNGAN.