A Letter to Haiti


To the Motherland

By Ilio Durandis
CJ Contributor

I am not sure where to begin, but I have this impulse inside of me that will not go away. My thoughts have been holding me hostage every time I think about your situation and the living conditions of the many who still call you home.

It is now a cliché to say that I hope change will eventually come, but as time passes change seems to become less of a possibility.

Once, the most fertile land of all the French colonies and probably also its most beautiful; today, to the world, you are the poorest and likely the dirtiest in the region.

Yet, your sons and daughters continue to endure. We have become resilient to our adversities and resistant to misery, corruption and abject substandard living conditions.

I am not writing you because I lost any of my pride or that I feel less a part of you, but rather because I have never been surer that the path you are on today cannot be the final destination.

I believe that you exist for a reason. To the scholars, you are a fascinating subject. To the philanthropists, you gave reason for others to be generous. To the adventurous, you are a challenge to overcome. But to me, you are the motherland; the place where it all begins. You are a part of me as much as I belong to you.

For many of us Haitians, the politics of the past few generations have left very little to be desired. We have few Haitian politicians that we would want our children to emulate. The politics is like an eclipse that prevents us from showcasing your true beauty and exploiting all your potential. This cannot be the way forward.

You are too great to be mattered so little. Indeed, you are too rich to be so poor. It is up to us, to find the courage and strength from within to change your course, for this path you are on is certain to make you poorer and less respected by other nations.

I get discouraged at times, thinking about how hard life has become for so many; to see so many people my age or younger who want and are capable to work, not able to find a job.

It is heart-breaking to see a child, who looks like me when I was their age, instead of being in school, forced to walk long distance, barefoot, to seek clean water. There is nothing cool about being afraid to be in your own homeland. I feel powerless, when, in 2015, we still have people risking their lives at sea in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

There comes a point, when enough is enough. Inside of me, there’s a firing scene of a revolution that plays every day. I imagine myself as part of a group willing to give it all to make a difference. The few who would sacrifice the self for the good of the collective, but would that even be enough?

In my head, there’s this fantasy that you will not only change for the better, but become one of the most prosperous nations in the whole world.

Even if today, millions of your children are still oppressed and not free. The ideal that you should have been the place for freedom, the land where oppression came to die, is still very possible.

It is too easy to get bogged down with what is not working, seeking who is to blame, and pointing the fingers at each other. I, myself, fell in that trap too often.

What I hope is that each of us would look deep inside and across the mirror to figure out what is our role in changing your path for good.

You can be all that our ancestors dreamt about, where people live free rather than serving any kind of master, where opportunities are plentiful, everyone is somebody and more importantly that in unity there is strength.

We have been so close and yet still very far.

You might have been free since 1804, but your children still have not tasted freedom. In 1986, the storm of democracy put an end to dictatorship, but we have yet to elect a true democrat to lead you. It does seem like the more we move forward, the more we regress. This is the ultimate Haitian paradox.

I, alone, do not have any real solution for you. But I believe as part of a core group with a sense of belonging to you, I might be able to contribute. This is very likely the feeling of many other Haitians of my generation.

From the short time that I have known you, I can tell you that if I were to be born again, I would not ask for a better motherland. You have everything that I need to feel like a full citizen of the world. From your history to your beauty, from your landscape to your geographical location, from your natural resources to the ingenuity of my fellow compatriots, you are and will remain my only motherland.

To be Haitian is to be a survivor. We will survive, we will overcome. Long live freedom, long live prosperity.

With much love and passion,


Ilio Durandis, a Caribbean Journal contributor, is the founder of Haiti 2015, a social movement for a just and prosperous Haiti. He is also a former columnist with The Haitian Times.


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