Transforming a colonial legacy to bring hope
“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. — Isaiah 2:4 (KJV)
A colonial legacy
High in the mountains above the Artibonite river, at the very crest of the Matheux range, sit the ruins of the colonial plantation of Lakwa, meaning ‘crucifix’ or ‘crucified’ in Haitian Creole. This plantation, with panoramic views of the ocean to the west, and the Artibonite river valley to the east, was both a huge slave coffee farm and a military outpost.
You can still see the rifle slits in the thick stone walls overlooking the approach from the valley below. The walls of most of the buildings are still standing, built thick with durable rock hauled up by hand from the river valley below, testament to the backbreaking labor of generations of slaves. The site has been abandoned for hundreds of years, seen as cursed land and a bitter memory by the local people in the surrounding communities.
Memories of slavery, exploitation, racism and war hang heavy in Haiti. Within 150 years of Columbus’s arrival on Haiti’s northern shores in 1492, the island’s Indigenous population had been largely destroyed and the slave trade was booming. By its peak in the 1790s, the French colony of Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti) was importing more than 48,000 African slaves each year, most of whom would die within five years of landing.
These slaves built the colony of St-Domingue stone by stone, making it the most profitable colony in the New World, until they revolted, defeating French, British and Spanish forces, finally achieving independence in 1804. For Haitians, this brutal history is not just a story. It is a legacy remembered vividly and painfully in both words and the physical artifacts left over from that era.
Through partnership with MCC, this painful legacy of slavery and colonialism is now helping meet urgent needs for water and providing a symbol of dignity and solidarity.