Queen Anacaona, Leogane, Haiti
Statue of Queen Anacaona, the famed Cacique ruler, in her native Leogane, Haiti. Via museoanacaona.com

By Bobb RousseauDiaspora Matters Columnist

The Island of St-Domingue was the theater of the misfortunes of a race of men that the New World’s discovery by the selfish and racist Spaniards decimated. Sadly, the government keeps the name of this barbarian on all official documents as a constant reminder of the hell suffered by the ones who lived on this land before us.

Statue of Queen Anacaona in Leogane, Haiti. Via museoanacaona.com

On December 5, 1492, explorers led by the Genoese Christopher Columbus debarked on the coasts of the Island of Haiti while they thought they were sailing towards India. Their discovery was to change considerably the destiny of this corner of the earth, through which the Spaniards, later, would launch their conquests. Among the victims of this event was a woman, Anacaona, whose name alone is the pride of a whole people.

We all remember that with Haiti’s discovery, red-skinned peoples called, out of ignorance, Indians inhabited the island’s territory in the highlands. These men and women’s way of life has amazed explorers who considered them to be of an inferior culture.

“They gave us all their wealth because they worshipped as gods from unknown lands,” Christopher Columbus wrote.

From this was born the dehumanizing intention to reduce them to slavery.

As if by a blessing, the explorers would discover the Zemes carved in pure gold. Ironically, these native inhabitants would be exterminated. Their gods would be removed and taken to Spain. In public, they were presented as animals, a further testament to the Spaniards’ barbarism and ignorance. The Spaniards’ many voyages exterminated those who lived in peace on the land that the English and the French would colonize later. 

Haiti, high land, Kiskeya or Bohio had its structure. Five Caciquats ran the daily life of the indigenous population. Providence had decided that among these five Caciquats, there was a woman.

Wife of a great cacique, Caonabo, and sister of another great chief, Bohechio, Anacaona, known by this name, would be the first and the only woman to lead two Caciquats. She was born in the kingdom of Xaragua, from which she inherited the throne.

Léogâne, which was called Yaguana, was a province of Maguana and ruled by Caonabo. Anacaona ruled the Maguana after her husband’s death and the Xaragua. After her, no other chief has directed two Caciquats.

The people of Léogâne are very proud of Queen Anacaona. She is said to have been born in the communal section of Ti-Boucan, a suburb of Léogâne. There is no hard evidence to confirm that this hole in the hills was the Queen’s bed. Nevertheless, commonly referred to as “the Anacaona Cave,” this cavity is today one of Haiti’s most visited historical and mystical places.

The husband of Queen Poetess, Caonabo, was the smartest and bravest King Cacique in the land of the Indians who became Hispaniola. The other Caciques, like Guacanagaríc and the Spaniards, Queen Isabella servants, were very jealous of his personality. Caonabo incited the people to revolt.

Christopher Columbus was furious and ordered that he be arrested to be executed. Then Alphonse Ogeda, a cunning, intrepid young Spanish officer, animated the treason against the great Caonabo.

Alphonse Ogeda had arrived in Hispaniola accompanied by an escort of nine equestrians who claimed to bring gifts to Caonabo. Ogeda presented him with handcuffs, telling him that they were celestial adornments that the great lords wear around their arms at lavish ceremonies. Obediently, he held out his hands to Alphonse Ogeda, who arrested him with the order to ship him to Spain. History tells us that “La Politesse,” the boat that transported it, had disappeared at sea. It was the end of the Grand Cacique.

Queen Anacaona’s husband was betrayed. She too would be arrested during a performance given in honor of an enemy, Nicolas Ovando. She was shackled, then taken to Santo Domingo, and then hanged in the public square. Guacanagaríc was not spared from this equally unjust fate either.

In all, the Spaniards sacrificed more than 200,000 natives of Hispaniola in less than 30 years.

Nowhere in Haiti is there a photo of Anacaona. The last known picture of her was painted in her honor at the Lycée de Léogâne, but is no longer available since the earthquake of January 12, 2010.

There is only one statue in the public square of the town of Léogâne. However, there are thousands of images of Christopher Columbus everywhere. Haitians hung the image of the head of the kidnappers on their walls, printed them in their storybooks, framed them in their museums, and exhibited them in their public places.

Every December 5th must be for Haitians a day of meditation on the fate of all these native inhabitants, condemned by the Spaniards’ barbarian adventure in the New World. This is how we can thank the actual owners of the land liberated by the brave soldiers of 1803.

Bobb Rousseau holds a Ph.D. in Administration and Public Policy with specializations in Public Law and Managing Local Government. Dr. Rousseau firmly believes that the Haitian diaspora in the United States is at a prime stage to build an attractive political force that can shift U.S. immigration, diplomacy, and humanitarian aid to Haiti and to advance the Haitian agenda around the world.

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