"Haiti’s Boom-Time Culture" by Lyonel Paquin

An excerpt from Paquin’s The Haitians: Class and Color Politics (1983). Paquin was a diplomat, businessman, and historian. Below, he explains how Magloire presided over a lavish, exclusive culture enjoyed by political elites during the economic boom of the 1950s.

Magloire was a swinger. So the Republic of Port-au-Prince was swinging to his tune. Under his reign the most exclusive, influential and hermetic club was Le Club des amis du Président Magloire. Its headquarters was on the road to Carrefour, at Mahotieres. It was a large rather ordinary, umbraged estate with a pool, an undistinguished barn and a bar. It was there that "les amis" would get together every Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

A typical Saturday afternoon was a mixture of heavy drinking, eating gourmet foods and small talk, It was de rigueur that everybody should appear relaxed and jolly because the President came here to relax and to be jolly. The supreme sign of membership was being associated with the President on a first-name basis. He could be called "Paul" only at Mahotieres. Everybody was well trained about the kind of jokes he liked. He liked to tease people about gossips concerning women. Magloire was not a naughty guy. He never liked to hurt anyone. He hated deep conversation or poisonous insinuations. He was such a nice man that one wondered how he ever made it among the pack of vipers.

But beware, his geniality was only on the surface. The President, between jokes, punctuated by his entourages’ exaggerated laughter would wink at someone to signal a short tete-a-tete. This was the highest honor he could bestow to a mortal. Anything good could come out of it—an embassy position, concessions, state secrets, name it. The crowd continued to appear unconcerned, but while the lips continued to articulated disorganized thoughts, the ears and eyes tried to spy on the meaning of this "aparte."