CAP-HAITIEN — The festivities in Arcahaie, the birthplace of Haiti’s flag, began last Friday with the customary children’s march. Dressed in white or red T-shirts and blue jeans, the children assembled in front of the city hall, waving the red-and-blue, and reciting.
‘Jean-Jacques Dessalines created the Haitian flag.’
‘Catherine Flon sewed the Haitian flag.’
Afterward, they marched in the streets alongside their instructors, to the sound of a marching band’s trumpets and drums. Later, a bigger parade followed with thousands of people, including men on horseback dressed as Heroes of the Haitian Revolution, women sporting folkloric dresses dancing and high school students in their uniforms.
“The soul of the May 18 Meeting is in Arcahaie,” said attorney Jean Amilcar, an Arcahaie native. “The vibration, the energy is in Arcahaie and they can’t move it.”
Arcahaie is living up to its name, despite the gang violence escalating just 25 miles south in Port-au-Prince and Croix-des-Bouquets. The town’s officials and residents have been holding commemorative festivities in the lead-up to Flag Day on May 18. With ongoing violence occurring across the Western Department, Arcahaie’s officials are also mindful of criminal activity spilling into their seaside town.
Mayor’s firing mars festivities for some
Last week, then-Mayor Gitanie Revange Guerrier said some residents who fled gun battles in Port-au-Prince had sought safe haven in Arcahaie. Out of caution, officials asked that the newcomers be identified to help ensure orderly festivities.
Then, in a surprise move Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Henry abruptly replaced Guerrier via decree and installed Jean Edner Gilles. Henry did not provide a reason, but the decision made so close to Flag Day troubled some residents.
“This isn’t kindergarten,” Amilcar said. “Those authorities can’t act like that. It’s not good. We’re in chaos. We’re in confusion.”
Flag festivities wrapped around Catherine Flon
Still, the festivities were well under way by then. The weekend prior, Guerrier had told The Haitian Times she planned to “highlight the work of Catherine Flon” throughout the week.
Flon was the goddaughter of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti’s first emperor. During a meeting on May 18, 1803 in Arcahaie, held six months after the last major revolutionary battle against the French army, The Battle of Vertieres, Dessalines removed the white portion of the French flag. Flon then sewed the red and the blue parts to form the first Haitian flag.
Regarded as a symbolic heroine of the Haitian independence movement, Flon has also become a figure of admiration among Haitian women. With that storied past in mind, the city hall, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Civic Action, and local groups launched a variety of events such as the children’s parade on May 13, the seventh edition of “Miss Catherine Flon” on May 15, the first edition of the Miss of the City of Arcahaie pageant and a conference on the 1803 Arcahaie Meeting on May 16.
Sportive and Cultural Association of Arcahaie (ASCA) plans to hold a parade and organize soccer games on May 18 at Field of the Flag. But the May 18 “Festival of the Flag” was canceled, organizer rapper Jean Léonard “Izolan” Tout-Puissant announced on Instagram.
“Till this year it’s one of the biggest holidays ingrained in us,” said Wilio Agenor, president of ASCA. “It’s a great legacy they created for us.”
This article was updated from the original version to say that the Festival of the Flag has been canceled.