Visions of a Modern Nation: Haiti at the World's Fairs

Publication Year:
2018
Usage 38
Abstract Views 38
Repository URL:
https://scholarlyrepository.miami.edu/oa_dissertations/2109; https://scholarlyrepository.miami.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3131&context=oa_dissertations
Author(s):
St. Hubert, Hadassah
Tags:
Haiti; Caribbean; Expositions; World's Fairs; Tourism; Haiti; Caribbean; Expositions; World's Fairs; Tourism
artifact description
This dissertation focuses on the motivations of successive Haitian governments from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s in participating in world’s fairs abroad and in mounting expositions in Haiti. In particular, it explores why and how world’s fairs became a primary path through which Haitian officials and elites sought to represent and defend the nation’s image internationally. World’s fairs were mostly held in countries of the global north as showcases of national progress, imperial reach and power. Having overthrown French colonial rule in 1804 and been denigrated by detractors abroad for decades thereafter, Haitian governments sought to demonstrate through participation in late nineteenth century expositions that they and people of African descent more broadly were capable of “civilization.” While colonized “others” were being displayed at human zoos at these international events, Haiti, the sole independent black nation participating, attempted to represent itself as a beacon of black progress through the nation’s pavilion architecture and displays. Haitian governments in the late nineteenth century also sought investment and new markets for Haitian goods and products through participation in and mounting of world’s fairs. The government of Sténio Vincent (1930-1941) participated particularly actively in international expositions, even while Haiti was still under U.S. occupation. Vincent used each event to declare Haiti's sovereignty, seek European trade and investment, and highlight Haitian history and culture to attract tourism. His administration created a precedent for how future Haitian governments represented the nation abroad in these contexts. Under the presidency of Dumarsais Estimé (1946-1950), Haiti launched its own Bicentennial International Exposition (1949-1950), which transformed a portion of the capital of Port-au-Prince into a visionary “modern” city that celebrated the culture and production of the Haitian masses in order to draw tourists. My study concludes with an examination of Haiti’s participation in expositions in the 1960s during the dictatorship of François Duvalier (1957-1971). The Duvalier regime continued Haiti’s long-standing tradition of participation in world’s fairs and expositions to counter negative international portrayals of the country. In this case, the bad press Duvalier sought to counter stemmed from his authoritarian abuses of power. The Duvalier regime, known for its black nationalist rhetoric asserting Haiti’s autonomy, participated in these international events to attract foreign investment, revealing a dependency on the very western nations from which it claimed its independence. My dissertation contributes to our understanding of how successive Haitian governments negotiated neocolonial relationships at these international events to uplift the nation’s image, open foreign markets for Haitian products, encourage foreign investment, and cultivate tourism.