"Estime’s Exile" by Katherine Dunham (1909-2006)

An excerpt from Dunham’s Island Possessed (1969). by Dunham was an anthropologist who incorporated Haitian culture into her own dance. She was close friends with President Estimé’s and was upset when she learned that he was overthrown.

Until now, knowing nothing of the new President, Paul Magloire, I chose to think of him as a usurper. The forced exile of Estimé was the rude and bitter beginning of my disillusionment as far as state and political ideology are concerned. On the plane from Kingston, when I wasn’t weeping on Ann’s shoulder, I was trying to adjust my thinking about Haiti and see a country in terms of its historical realities. In the case of Haiti it was constant revolution, constant suspicion between color groups, traumatic feats of invasion, and slavery, and a governing class which claimed far more than it merited as far as intellectual, social, and political development are concerned. What was happening in Haiti then was what had always happened. I simply was not ready for it.

In fulfilling my own needs, in living with the people, the peasants, who, I will always feel, are the true people of Haiti, I had overlooked much that might have prepared me for what I was to know of the country in later years. In the end I decided that my uneasiness was unfounded, was due more to the fact that I had barely recovered from my appendectomy than to the shock of my last meetings with Estimé and the political upheaval which had exiled him.