"Generation of the Ronde" by Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, Ph.D.

Bellegarde-Smith is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has written and edited numerous books, such as In the Shadow of Powers (1985), Haiti: The Breached Citadel (1990), and Invisible Powers (2006).

The publication La Ronde (1898-1902) gave its name to the historical period at the turn of the century known as the "generation de la Ronde." Literary movements had rallied around such newspapers, journals, and magazines, and most of them had been short-lived though their impact was lasting. These literary organs fulfilled several functions. They became a forum where ideas could be expressed and disseminated, giving them an ideological armature. These publications tended to reflect events in the political arena, either as a reaction against a dictatorship, or as a representation of liberalization.

In Haiti, politics and literature were interwoven, partly because the members of the intelligentsia were small overall, and the elites, undifferentiated. La Ronde, like other revues (reviews/magazines), served as a publishing outlet, pooling scant financial resources, allowing young authors to develop an audience. La Ronde occurred on the eve of the centenary of Haitian independence. Its stated goal was no less the rejuvenation of society through literature. Since it encompassed diverse literary traditions, it cannot be called a school, hence it was labeled a "movement." Though it was a continuation of earlier literary genres, it embraced a wider humanistic and universal agenda and approach. La Ronde was eclectic, allowing also for a more nationalistic tone. Nevertheless, it helped disseminate further the philosophical ideas of (European) Positivism then in vogue throughout Latin America.The secretary of La Ronde, a young Dantès Bellegarde (1877-1966), my grandfather, summarized beautifully the social positioning of the writers who had created the movement: "We were all, blacks and mulattoes, without personal wealth. We had been educated in the public schools that were maintained by the [Haitian] people's money. We loved that people from which we differed only by our education." (FromDessalines a parlé, 1948, pages 96 to 97). That pithy description reveals that these literati were then the members of a petite bourgeoisie—a rising middle-class—and former students of the public lycées, established by the government soon after Independence. They were not the scion of the haute bourgeoisie. In time, Haiti would develop the grandest literature among Caribbean societies, producing more books on a per capita basis than any other Latin American country—Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico included—until 1951.