The Cigarette of 1958

Not just another cigarettePapa Doc

I am really enjoying the car rides with Hans Garoute! He is like an oral history book of Haiti telling us tales since Columbus sailed up to its shores. His stories of history create an image of Haiti’s changes over time. Today my imagination was recreating the image of a vibrant denim industry that existed in the 60s.

He described the commoner as wearing jeans and jean shirts with four pockets (I smiled as this is the ”Canadian tuxido” ). The garment industry was one of the main sources of employment and a source of affordable style for Haitians. The denim demanded the growth of cotton and fields were plentiful in Haiti. Where buildings stand now there were forests and fields.

Tourists in the 60s would sale into the ports on ships and be picked up by guides at the port and driven in to experience the tropical oasis of lush vegetation, music, food, art, and dance. It was a popular destination for its friendly and safe environment.

I have oversimplified the socio-economic and environmental condition of Haiti, which during the 60s faced large challenges. However I wanted to describe some beautiful truths  about Haiti that Hans illustrated enthusiastically for us. In addition to beautiful images Hans did tell us the story of a near coup d’etat that would have entirely changed the course of Haitian history.

Mine will be a rough recount of an incredible story. I wish you could witness the story telling of Hans, he has experienced so much and gives such a lively account! Here is a story-cap for you!

Eight men made up of Americans and past Haitian military men, sailed from Miami in 1958 toHaiti with the intention to overthrow Duvalier.

Around 3am, dressed in military attire, these men had no difficulty being saluted through the entrance by the Haitian guard and had access to the military quarters behind the palace of Duvalier. The Miami group took the military guards hostage and had the palace under siege.

They let Duvalier know his life was in danger.  He was demanded to flee immediately. Duvalier was lead to believe he was under siege by a large armed opposition and prepared to escape with his life.

Papa Doc

There was one request that changed the course of the planned coup d’etat.

One member of the Miami group requested that a hostage go and get him a cigarette.  That hostage chose to inform Duvalier that there were only eight men that threatened him.

It left me wide eyed to imagine how the history of Haiti could have been completely different had it not been for the man from Miami’s request for a single cigarette.

With the guard’s information Duvalier summoned his men and the small opposition was wiped out, left as dead men. He did not stop there, and sent his men on to kill the families of his opponents.

From this point the violence of Duvalier increased as he closed Haitian ports and recruited the Ton Tons Macoutes, another terrifying story…


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