Magazine article The Nation

Requiem

Magazine article The Nation

Requiem

Article excerpt

The northwest province of Haiti is an unforgiving place. In 1987, in Jean-Rabel, the seat of the provincial government, some 300 members of a peasant association were massacred by paramilitary forces of the area's large landholders. Afterward, Jean-Rabel felt like an occupied town. Anyone connected with the peasant movement was dead or in hiding or had fled to Portau-Prince.

One peasant leader who was forced to flee was Jean-Marie Vincent. I met him later in Port-au-Prince. He had just escaped an assassination attempt against himself and three fellow priests, including Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Aristide was mostly in seclusion, but Vincent was in fine form, with a bandage over one eye and a patched-up arm. He regaled friends and the international press corps with dramatic accounts of the incident, featuring himself as one among a group of comic figures in the action. His sense of irony was refined, and one wishes he were around to tell the tale of his latest encounter with violence. But this time, they got him.

Ah, the people who killed Jean-Marie Vincent. They still brood about Jean-Rabel in 1987, and they never want to see those days repeated. They remember the silos the peasants built to protect themselves from scarcity; they remember the peasant credit unions, the squatters' battles and the gwoupman--small associations for consciousness-raising, labor organizing and political action.

Father Vincent was killed because of his past, but he was also killed because of his future. …

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