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Friday, August 3, 2012

Is Toussaint L'Overture Packing Heat? Again?

Anyone who has studied the history of Haiti will know the name François-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture, sometimes known as the Black Napoleon. L'ouverture led the only successful slave revolt in the western world, back in 1791. Rather than go into the long and complex history of Haiti here, I suggest you visit the Toussaint Louverture Historical Society, and these other links, for a much fuller explanation of his life and the times he lived in than I can give here.

The City of Miami has seen fit to honour L'Ouverture with a stature in a rough little parkette at the corner of NW 62nd Street and N. Miami Avenue. The park is not very big, occupying an irregular wedge of land that would have been difficult to develop. However, the stature of Toussaint L'Ouverture is impressive. His pose is similar to the painting at left, showing L'Ouverture dressed in western refinery after the revolt. It wouldn't surprise me at all to find out that sculptor James Mastin used the painting as a source for his larger-than-life sculpture. There are only so many images of L'Ouverture.

However, if one views the statue from one particular angle it looks as if L'Ouverture is holding a handgun, ready to go into battle all over again:

Optical illusion of Toussaint L'Ouverture packing heat.

While presumably accidental, it seems entirely appropriate that L'Ouverture appears to be holding a weapon. When news of the revolution in Haiti reached the shores of 'Merka it had slave owners quaking in their boots. The news was kept from slaves, lest they get the idea that they could throw off the yoke of slavery and free themselves.

And, while L'Ouverture may have won the war, Haiti lost the battle. Eventually, the island was split in two, with Haiti occupying the western half and the Dominican Republic the eastern half. Forced reparations, international isolation, and years of 'Merkin occupation explain why the western half of Hispaniola has languished to this very day.