The history of Haiti is one of mercurial changes and staggering violence. It was the richest colony in the New World in the 18th Century, built upon the backs of slaves who were flogged and even buried alive for minor offenses. It was ruled by one tyrant after another throughout the 19th Century, until the last of them, Vilbrun Guillaume Sam, was murdered and dismembered in 1915. The 20th Century saw U.S. occupation, then the dictatorship of François "Papa Doc" Duvalier, who terrorized the country with his volunteer enforcers, the Tontons Macoutes (which means "uncle bogeymen" in Creole). By the time his son, Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier took the reins in 1971, Haiti had become the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
But through all of this upheaval, the Haitian populace has somehow managed to hang on to its distinctive culture. Haiti is like no other place on Earth, a fact celebrated at the Museum of Contemporary Artthis Saturday at 2 p.m. Lucrece Louisdhon, a children's librarian, arts administrator, and professional dancer, performs Cric Crac, a multicultural storytelling event. She attempts to inspire audience members to better understand their own as well as other cultures through her tales, told in English, French, and Creole.
The Haitian cultural celebration continues next Saturday, August 18, at the same time with "Haitian Culture Through Dance," choreographed and performed by Louines Louinis, artistic director of the Louines Louinis Haitian Dance Theater. Haitian dance, like much of Haitian culture, is a unique blend of African and European influences. Both events are free with museum admission and both promise to give audiences a new perspective on South Florida's neighbor to the south.