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Commentary: If it is Corpus Christi (Fete Dieu), it is also the Book Fair Fiesta festival day in Haiti!
Published on June 15, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Jean Hervé Charles

For the past 23 years, Le Nouvelliste, the oldest Haitian newspaper, combined with Unibank has launched usually in June, on Corpus Christi (Fête Dieu) Thursday a book fair that has become one of the major cultural event not only of Haiti but of the entire Caribbean region.

This year some 145 authors will be presenting 2,369 book titles, while the honorees are Odette Fombrun, a 100-year-old civic legend, along with Makenzy Orcel a much younger author but already an internationally well known writer who will serve as the lead presenters.

I am pleased to share the news that my own book will hit the stand, housed in the Editions of the State University of Haiti with the historical namesake title: "For the country, for the nation: A vision of society that will render Haiti, rich, powerful and free". A full two weeks of events have been coordinated by the different publishing houses around the theme: "A book is an excellent companion".

I attended on Tuesday a luncheon hosted at the National Palace by President Jovenel Moise, coincidentally flanked by the general secretary of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), who was visiting with the president on the same day. He was invited to attend the luncheon. All around towns, workshops, book promotions and lectures are taking places. President Jovenel shared the dream of a Haiti building its own major library infrastructure filled with books of the dimension of the great libraries of the world, such as the New York Public Library system.

Haiti, for a country whose level of literacy hovers around 48.7 percent, has a robust number of writers, which is not commensurate with its dearth of capacity to absorb so many literary activities. The book fair is taking place in the beautiful gardens of MUPANAH, Haiti major national art museum right in the heart of the Champ de Mars, or Port au Prince's largest public park.

I have written what I dubbed the definitive roadmap for Haiti, in fact for any country in the world that aspires to attend the felicity of good governance. It has been my hobby to embrace the concept of what it will take to render a critical mass of people in any country of the world to attain the level of happiness one should expect from one’s government.

I am appalled by the level of dissatisfaction of the general public in my own country, and in the entire Caribbean of the type of leadership exhibited by those in power. It seems Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa are lagging in inspiring their people to root them in their own locations and not looking for Europe or the United States as the golden parachute for raising their children in a comfortable way.

The formula for a successful nation is the same for the United States, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, as well as Haiti. The sentiment of appurtenance is the key. People must feel they belong to and they can share in the national legacy. The government must build excellent infrastructure and sane institutions everywhere so as not to create a plethora of nomad citizens bound for the capital and later foreign lands.

Jean H Charles LLB, MSW, JD, is a regular contributor to the opinion section of Caribbean News Now.  He can be reached at
Civil society must agree with the government to push forward those who have been left behind. The nation must reconcile with its divine mission for the rest of the world and last, but not least, steps must be taken to ensure that the building of the nation is a continuous creation.

The owner of Le Nouvelliste, Max Chauvet, and his editor in chief Frantz Duval have taken all the steps to ensure the full success of the fiesta named: Livres en Folie arrives without a hitch. Housed previously in a private park dubbed Park Canne à Sucre located near the American Embassy in a suburb of Port au Prince named Tabarre, the facility was large but not convenient for those who just want to walk to the fair. This premiere might be a success too fragile to handle because of the quantity of the people seeking admission to the event.

Mr Orcel in his presentation alluded to the phenomenon of Haiti brushing with success. With such a young population it has an asset that very few countries have under their belt. If handled correctly, Haiti's future is not at stake. A country that reads cannot be a failed country. Mrs Fombrun, who is celebrating her centenary on the very day of the fiesta, as well as Mr Mackensy, epitomizes the story of Haiti and of the fiesta. An old country with two centuries since its birth, but filled with young people that will ensure its future growth only if books are part of the equation in the building of the nation.

In my book I have questioned the motivation of the past presidents and politicians who failed to make their mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa for letting so many Haitian people without the bread of education when they were young; 30 years later they could be only street vendors and shoeshine workers. I have that ambivalent feeling that the nation is too light to be taken seriously yet it is strong enough not to be discouraged either by the Haitians or by Haiti!
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