Image of Haiti AFP

The lowest GDP per capita in the Western Hemisphere, constant political turmoil and even some of the region's worst natural disasters, a devastating 2010 earthquake where almost 300,000 people died. Haiti is infamously unable to achieve sustained economic, social and political progress, and its current state of affairs doesn't prelude a change in the trend: gangs control almost the entire capital, Port-au-Prince, amid a context of lawlessness and looming famine, as not even UN aid can fully go through the blockades.

Much has been written about the causes of Haiti's seemingly perennial state of crisis, but some have a theory that goes beyond sociopolitical explanations and delves into paranormal grounds: a pact with the devil made by XIX Century Haitians to gain independence from the French.

Even though this story has been around for many years, it resurfaces every time the country goes through a new existential crisis. And this a fitting moment.

A Washington Post article explains that the claim has been around for at least 30 years, "popular among evangelicals' intent on spreading their interpretation of Christianity in the Caribbean country."

However, it goes back centuries to what many historians believe was an actual event: during a 1791 assembly of Africans plotting against their European enslavers in the territory -back then the colony of Saint-Domingue- they sacrificed an animal to advance their goals. The ritual, historians say, could have been part of their Voudou traditions, a mix of West African and Catholic beliefs that were practiced in the country. Others say it was a plea to the Devil to rid them from the French.

Haiti-US Refugee Crisis Rep. Pic
Image of Haiti Julie Ricard/Unsplash.

The Haitian revolution started that year and ended in 1804 with the independence of the country, the first one to cut such ties in Latin America and the Caribbean and the first Black republic.

Those who believe in the theory say that the numerous crisis the country has gone through ever since are the Devil collecting payment, with social media playing a role in spreading these claims.

Predictably, the story has numerous plot holes and detractors, who criticize it as an absolution of global powers who destabilized the then-young nation. Frances demand that Haiti pays debt for its independence, crippling its ability to develop viable institutions for decades, and American occupation at the beginning of the XX Century being some examples of this.

There are no formal records of the 1791 meeting, but the Washington Post recalls "near-contemporary reports, from French settlers as well as Africans, asserting that some sort of meeting was convened on or around Aug. 14, 1791, outside the city now called Cap-Haïtien, at which the participants sought a blessing for an uprising."

13 years later, the slaves managed to expel their colonizers, but their challenges were only starting. They continue 200 years on, with the country's main social and political actors hoping that a transitional council is able to hold elections for the first time since 2016 and begin pulling the country out of its current crisis.

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