The time has come for us to revisit the charming life of the Haitian elite and middle class.
Let us continue, pupils.
While Port-au-Prince was considered the center of Haiti, the country’s other major cities like Cap Haitian, Jacmel, Jeremie had their own elites, movers and shakers. Historian Jean-Guy Elie contends that in Jacmel, the Vavals, Casteras, the Fraenkels, the Madsens, were among the most prominent families. In Petit-Goave, the Acras, the Assoulis, were the leaders of that town’s elite, according to property records.
In Jeremie, the Drouins and the Villedrouins, Hudicourts, the Wadestrandt; In Cap Haitian, the Jihas, the Lespinasses, the Poitevins, the Laroches, and other assorted families were considered le crème de la crème of Haitian society according to the historian Bernadin.
President Louis Borno and the distinguished members of Haiti’s Congress in the summer of 1922. Borno was a lawyer before becoming head of state.
The Haitian elite were in a world of their own, even in seemingly trivial matters. Of 1930s Haiti, African American anthropologist and student of Haitian dance Katherine Dunham would write:
“Haitians of the middle and upper class operated at that time on hospitality codes more French than American. At home, wives and daughters were seldom in evidence to visitors, remaining inside, from where they peeked through wooden shutters at husbands and sons entertaining on the veranda.
Haiti’s then-president Dumarsais Estimé and his wife Lucienne Heurtelou at an official ceremony in Jacmel in the early 1950s. Estimé was practically a success story in Haitian elite society. Born in astonishing poverty, he moved to Port-au-Prince from the small town of Verettes, and thanks to the financial help of an uncle on his father’s side of the family, he attended law school, and even married into one of Haiti’s most highly-esteemed families the Heurtelous.
Photos: Various Sources; Corbis/Bettman