My father became a Marine, because of the Depression. He served from 1930 to 1934, most of that time in Haiti. I have always wondered what the Marines were doing there – and assumed it was to protect American business interests, but could find nothing to substantiate this.
I just bought Haiti: the Aftershock of History by Larent Dubois. I was mainly interested in the American occupation, which lasted for twenty years, from1915 to 1935. It’s main purpose was to support what we now call agrobusiness – but at the time it was just an extension of the plantation system, producing the same crop: sugar. This is almost a drug, and one the world can never get enough of – but also one with a huge supply, so prices are always low – exactly what consumers want.
My father told us what he was told say – that America was there to help Haiti. And this was partly true – roads were built which benefited everyone – but were intended mostly to help the large plantations that were acquired (by various means) from the natives.
My father was not a typical Marine – he took advantage of his time there to learn French – and to develop a romantic relationship with his French teacher’s daughter (much to the horror of his family back in Iowa). I was surprised to learn from the book that the majority of Haitians speak Kreyòl, and only a small minority could read or understand French.
No wonder the family Dad became involved with considered themselves superior – also because of their light skin, which they took care to shade from the sun. To my eternal distress, Dad abandoned his Haitian girlfriend, who loved him – and married my mother who do not. Dad lived under a lot of stress and didn’t even make it to sixty. After he died, we discovered that Dad and his Haitian girlfriend had carried on a passionate correspondence, in French – while Dad was married, and which only ended when I was born in 1936.
To Dad’s credit, he enjoyed living in an poor country – because it was more personal, I think. Which was strange, because he was not a social person. I am the same way – I retired in Costa Rica because its people were friendly – even though I am an not a social person either.
But I want to return to the effect of America on Haiti – which was not beneficial, obviously. The same was true of our effect on the Philippines. The President at the time actually got down on his knees and prayed about it. And received the assurance that America should bless the Filipinos with our presence. The effect there has been similar – they will probably never recover from being a colony of ours.
The same could be said of any colonial power – British, French, German, Holland (in Indonesia), even Belgium (in the Belgium Congo). The effect was always baleful – often horribly so.
I hardly need add America’s influence on Vietnam, Iraq, and now Afghanistan.