Thursday, May 23, 2024

Memoriales antiguas historiales del Peru

Fernando Montesino's Memoriales antiguas historiales del Peru is a tricky source. The manuscript translated by Philip AInsworth Means includes a critical introduction by Clements R. Markham indicating that the chronicle was likely based on a lost text by the Jesuit mestizo, Blas Valera. However, Montesinos endeavored to force the long history of Peru into a Christian timeline based on the arrival of Noah's son, Ophir, in Peru and reckoning years by 1000 year periods since the Flood. It also appears that Montesinos frequently confused ancient, pre-Inca kings with those better known from other sources on the Inca period. Nonetheless, despite the clearly legendary character of many of the pre-Inca kings and the problems with the chronology suggested by Montesinos, his work is an invaluable source on how, filtered through his own bias, the amautas and quipucamayocs possibly conceived the ancient history of Peru. Furthermore, the idea of the Incas rendering time through cycles with new suns in which, after every 500 years or so, a Pachacuti reigned, is a fascinating one that could point to Mesoamerican influences. Alas, the more reliable work of Blas Valera is lost, forcing us to make sense of the Montesino's work with what has survived from various other Spanish chroniclers, Garcilaso de la Vega and Guaman Poma de Ayala. 

In some respects, the chronicle is mainly a long list of names with some receiving great detail on events during their reigns. This brings to mind sources like the Diwan of the Sayfawa in Kanem-Borno. Like this African dynasty, a number of critical questions has arisen with regard to the chronology used, the possibility of telescoping or confusion, the inclusion of early kings who are of a more legendary character, and the function of such long lists. Sadly, unlike Kanem-Borno, we lack written sources from the pre-conquest period that corroborate it. But, in accordance with the chronicle of Guaman Poma de Ayala, one can also see how a chronicle written as a long list would be likely based on oral traditions preserving history through songs and genealogies while also, perhaps, reflecting the use of quipus. Indeed, Montesinos himself states this, as he claims amautas and quipus were the sources of his chronicle. However, unlike any other source, this is the only one that delves deeply into the matter of pre-Inca kings, before the Inca state of Cuzco developed into a powerful empire that dominated Peru and surrounding areas. It even alludes to migrations and invasions from the Amazonian region and north that, if even remotely true, show how well-connected Peru was to other parts of South America. 

Were some of these pre-Inca kings, also said to have been based in Cuzco and having the same origin as the Incas in other creation myths recorded in the chronicles, actually references to Wari and Tiwanaku kings? Why were they then later remembered as kings based in Cuzco? Was this simply an example of Inca-period amautas transforming the past in a way that affirmed the ultimate Inca authority over Peru based on antiquity? Or was this a reflection of a cyclical view of the past, with similarly-named kings assuming to have ruled over various periods of greatness and decline for thousands of years? Undoubtedly, the chronology used here reminds one of that used by Guaman Poma de Ayala, who, instead of multiplying the number of kings, extended the reigns and life-spans of the Inca emperors and rulers back to about 2000 years ago. However, the traditions recorded by Montesinos allude to interesting events that, while perhaps mainly of an apocryphal character, include a loss system of ancient writing, wars and migrations with people from the East and North and across the sea (including "black" people in their ranks), and the earlier expansion of the Peruvian kings into Quito. Again, Montesinos confuses some of these earlier kings and their exploits with the better known (and significantly later) Inca period of imperial expansion, but perhaps these tales reflect earlier Tiwanaku, Wari, and Chimu states. 

Ultimately, we are of the view that the long list of 93 kings or more of Peru likely does reflect earlier periods in which Wari and Tiwanaku were major powers in the region. The extended chronology and the possibility of collateral succession probably indicate that the extended chronology of Montesinos is far too long. Nonetheless, some of the details reported here are fascinating though difficult or impossible to prove. The idea of the ancient Peruvians having a system of writing using parchment and leaves is fascinating, especially since other traditions about Viracocha (sometimes confused with St. Thomas the Apostle) mention him carrying a book. Whether or not it was actually true that an oracle demanded they cease the use of this writing system seems more legendary, but it would suggest that the Incas developed quipus (including the phonetic ones) from an earlier system based on a writing script. Why Guaman Poma's sources did not include this extensive list of pre-Inca kings may have also reflected his different sources, not based in Ecuador, as well as the influence of Christianity on his conception of time. Perhaps thinking of the Biblical stories and Christian traditions of long-lived patriarchs and the way other traditions in Peru stretched out the chronology of Inca rulers, Guaman Poma instead followed the traditional list of Inca-period rulers based at Cuzco while attempting to preserve the longer time period with inexplicably long reigns. Guaman Poma then was freed from the long list of others who, to be even somewhat accurate for the pre-Inca period, must have been referring to Wari and Tiwanaku rulers whilst forcing that earlier period into a history of the Cuzco-based kings.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Golden Age of the Garamantes


This week's episode from the History of Africa Podcast is a fascinating one on the Golden Age of the Garamantes. And yes, it would be "cool" if the language of the Garamantes was a Nilo-Saharan one written with proto-tifinagh. The theory of a Garamantes connection with populations in the Tibetsi, Kawar, and later Kanem is certainly an intriguing one, as is the worship of Amun by the Garamantes possibly finding an echo in later customs of the Zaghawa and Kanem states.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Jacmel in 1845

Maurice Lubin's L'administration de Jacmel en 1845 is too brief to truly provide an idea of Jacmel in the 1840s, but it certainly helps. Relying on surviving government documents and reports on receiving and expenditures of the arrondissement's administration, Lubin's short publication does suggest something of Jacmel's importance in Haiti at the time. For instance, Jacmel's revenue stream included about the equivalent of 6 million in foreign currency that was sent to the central administration in Port-au-Prince. Jacmel was also frequently visited by foreign ships in 1845, including two from Venezuela. The city's military received about 52 percent of expenses, with only one single primary school funded by the government. This sorry state of affairs, including the existence of only military hospitals and no government spending on health and sanitation, demonstrates the negative impact of Haiti's overly militarized administration. Indeed, the state could not even pay respectable salaries to some of the citizens who served in the armed forces yet died in indigence and their families could not cover the costs of their funerals. So, while there was prosperity from Jacmel's coffee economy and, perhaps, the cost of living was not yet so high, the government was still spending perhaps excessively in the military. This was so even after the final recognition of Haitian independence by France, though the Western powers could still have invaded the island, necessitating a strong military.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Chronographia of Michael Psellos

Reading a certain science fiction novel partly inspired by the Byzantine Empire has motivated us to read more chronicles and histories by authors from that ancient civilization. This time, Michael Psellos, the pompous philosopher and intellectual, provided our reading material. Focusing on the reigns of 14 emperors of Byzantium during the 11th century, our arrogant intellectual provides interesting insights into the nature of Byzantine imperial politics during the pivotal century that witnessed the decline of the empire after its apogee under Basil II. According to Psellos, the successors to Basil II were, although not invariably, corrupting forces who squandered the riches of the imperial treasury through gifts, promotions and luxuries that were not put in good use to protect the Empire's borders and power. Though he occasionally found positive things to say about some emperors, such as Constantine IX, Michael (Zoe's boytoy), Isaac Comnenos, and even Michael VII, especially those who courted his favor or admired his philosophical and rhetorical accomplishment, the overall trend he portrays is one of decay. 

The failure of Basil II to sire a male heir and the problematic marriages and reign of Zoe and Theodora opened the door to more problems as the end of the Macedonian dynasty drew near. Instead of securing the eastern frontier from the Turks or protecting the west, emperors wasted time and resources on conflicts with their own generals, putting down rebellions, or promoting people to high positions who did not earn it on merit. Likewise, extravagant spending on churches, monasteries, lavish living, and the waste of the imperial treasury made the Empire weaker. The one emperor who seemed determine to eradicate the causes of the decadence of the Empire, Isaac Comnenos, was, according to Psellos, too eager and tried to cure or cauterize the Empire too quickly, sparking opposition and frustrating his aims. 

While one may certainly take issue with the way Psellos portrayed 11th century emperors and the role of his own bias as someone actively involved in the events he described, his history does suggest that the Macedonian dynasty's troubles with succession after Constantine VIII's daughters and corrupt habits did play a major role in weakening the Empire. Nonetheless, things were not quite as bad as they would later become after the loss of much of Anatolia. In fact, Byzantine power still made it a major power, particularly in relations with the Fatimids of Egypt and various Muslim and Christian powers. The Byzantines were able to defeat a Russian invasion in the Black Sea, too. Byzantine ships were also active in the Atlantic during the reign of Romanos III, if Psellos is reliable. Furthermore, the Empire was able to defeat a Bulgar rebellion while Empress Zoe was able to import spices from India and Egypt. Thus, despite the aforementioned problems faced by Byzantium, the Empire was still in a relatively strong position. Indeed, even Manzikert was not the doomsday it could have been, since the captured emperor was released by the Seljuq sultan. One just wishes the military, which arose to dominance under Isaac, had been able to consolidate the attempted reforms and fiscal changes ushered by Isaac to bolster the frontier defenses.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Haitian Creole and Education in the US: An Annotated Bibliography

 1. Joseph, C. M. “Haitians in the U.S.: Language, Politics and Education.” In A. Spears & C. Joseph (Eds,) The Haitian Creole Language: History, Structure, Use and Education (pp. 229-248). Lexington Books. 

Carole M. Berotte Joseph’s chapter provides an overview on the role of Haitian Creole in the context of Haitian immigration to the US. According to Joseph, Haitian Creole remains largely an oral language among Haitians in the US. French retains its prestige among immigrants, however. Historically, in the case of monolingual Haitian Creole speakers, it was a struggle for teachers to realize Haitians speak Creole, not French. Indeed, an ongoing stigma attached to Creole and the paucity of instructional materials and Creole-speaking instructors has led to Haitian bilingual programs often being of poor quality. Another obstacle faced by Haitian Creole-speaking students was their classification as simply African-American, which carried assumptions of English-speaking backgrounds. This, unfortunately, led to many Haitian students not receiving the language support they need. Furthermore, fewer bilingual programs in Creole are now available in New York City, Boston or Miami. Ultimately, Joseph’s chapter attests to the unequal status of Creole in both Haiti and the US, where many Creole-speaking students either did not or do not receive ESL services. Lamentably, this contributes to limitations on developing full fluency or literacy in Creole. 

2. Zéphir, F. (1997).  “Haitian Creole Language and Bilingual Education in the United States.” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development (Vol. 18, Issue 3), 223-237. 

Flore Zephir, “Haitian Creole Language and Bilingual Education in the United States”

Zephir’s article passionately argues in favor of first language instruction for Haitian students. Citing 1992 research, the author claims Haitian students were the third largest minority group in NYC public schools (Zephir, 1997). Moreover, the school system was guilty of a failure to recognize the linguistic and cultural diversity of Black populations in the US. Haitian students were seen as Blacks and not placed in programs that would have helped by using the Creole language. In fact, Haitians face triple discrimination as Blacks, for coming from the Global South, and for speaking Creole, which is often not seen as a legitimate language (Zephir, 1997). In order to address the issue, Zephir argues that schools must stop assuming Haitian students are African-Americans, Creole must be accepted as a fully legitimate language, and children should receive home language instruction. According to research, the use of the students’ L1 in instruction can lower the affective filter, so that learning can occur. More comprehensible input would be available for students by having teachers with knowledge of the culture and sociolinguistic reality of Creole-speaking students. Thus, according to this author, Haitian Creole speakers continue to face linguistic discrimination that partly mirrors the lower status of Creole in Haiti. Similarly, the loss of the students’ L1 is inferred due to the lack of home language instruction, implying most students probably never develop full literacy in Creole.

3. Cenat, M.L (2011). “Myths and Realities: A History of Haitian Creole Language Programs in New York City.” Journal of Haitian Studies, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 73-91

Cenat’s research interprets the history of Haitian Creole programs in New York City. Beginning with the controversial Bernard Reform of 1979 in Haiti and the struggles of Haitian Creole to gain full inclusion, Cenat then summarizes the debate on Creole genesis (Cenat, 2011). Due to the debate on the relexification hypothesis and the “exceptional” status of Creole languages, some view the tongue as incapable of being a significant instructional tool. This background is relevant for understanding the early struggles of Haitian students in New York. Initially, schools used French with Haitians in their language policies. Later, in the 1980s and 1990s, Haitian Creole increasingly won support through the organizing efforts of activists, teachers, organizations, and academics, like linguist Yves Dejean (Cenat 2011). This led, in 1981, to the Haitian Parent-Teacher Training Project, which worked with Limited English Proficient Haitian students by preparing Haitian educators and engaging in outreach to Haitian parents. Later, in 1993, the Haitian Bilingual Educational Technical Assistance Center (HABETAC) was founded at the City College of New York. Unlike the Haitian Parent-Teacher Training Project, HABETAC supported schools serving Limited English Proficient Haitian students, often targeting Haitian teachers. A number of public schools in the city even offered bilingual programs, although many Haitians believed Haitian students were still not receiving enough programs to accommodate them. This led to a class action lawsuit in 1996, filed against the Board of Education and the New York State Education Department. While the lawsuit was eventually stalled, many Haitian Creole bilingual programs began to disappear by the end of the 1990s. According to Cenat, today only 3 NYC public schools have bilingual Haitian Creole programs. This decline in the number of bilingual programs is accompanied by a restructuring of high schools that has led to several lacking enough Haitian students for a bilingual program. Then, the closure of HABETAC further contributed to the decline of bilingual education for Haitians. Haitian families were now left without a center. Meanwhile, the support for the language rights of Haitian students was revitalized by grassroots groups like Flanbwayan, Kongo and Gran Chimen Sant Kiltirel. The article’s history of Haitian Creole programs illustrates how Haitian Creole continues to face exclusion, discrimination and marginalization in education. The Haitian language occupies a position vis-a-vis English that, once again, mirrors its position with regard to French. Language loss, on the other hand, or at least the failure to develop full literacy, is likely to occur since there is not adequate support for instruction in Creole. 

4.Buxton, C.A., Lee, O., Mahotiere, M. (2008). “The Role of Language in Academic and Social Transition of Haitian Children and Their Parents to Urban U.S. Schools.” Bilingual Research Journal, 31: 47-74.

Buxton, Lee and Mahotiere use interviews with Haitian educators, parents, and students to comprehend the role of language in the academic and social transition of Haitians to urban schools in the US. Relying on the theoretical constructs of linguistic identity and actor networks, the authors find 3 themes: an affinity for multiple languages, a wish to be multicultural, and a responsibility to help others in their community (Buxton, Lee & Mahotiere, 2008). Drawing on the earlier scholarship and the sociocultural roles of language, the authors claim Haitians understand how language can be used to represent power or the lack thereof. In addition, the low status of Creole in Haiti has shaped how some Haitian parents perceive Creole in their children’s US schooling. Since, in Haiti, these parents likely attended schools in which instruction was entirely in French, they may not seek Creole language support for their children. The authors argue that linguistic identity is central to knowing how individuals balance their integration in US cultural and linguistic forms with the maintenance of their home languages and cultural practices. Significantly, the authors found that all 3 groups (Haitian parents, educators and students) expressed a desire to maintain Haitian Creole and to improve fluency and literacy. The teachers, too, support the L1 of their students. Nonetheless, the majority of the parents and teachers plus many of the interviewed students also claimed to regularly use French and wished to maintain the French language. This suggests French retains its prestige status among Haitians in the US, with one parent expressing that French is important for their child to be able to communicate with relatives in France. One parent, however, saw French as a barrier to education in Haitian schools while Haitian children now contend with the challenge of English in their US schools. Moreover, Haitian parents, teachers and students all expressed a strong belief in the maintenance of Haitian culture, traditions, behaviors and languages whilst simultaneously embracing the multicultural world of South Florida. Creole is even used by the teachers when not necessary in the classroom to strengthen bonds between teacher and students. Last, the sense of responsibility to aid other Haitians entails the maintenance of bilingualism. Consequently, according to this article, Haitian students, parents, and teachers are dedicated to the maintenance of Creole for supporting their community, identity, and participating in a multicultural society. The legacy of French as a prestige language associated with power, has also shaped the linguistic identity of Haitians, since the majority believe it is important to maintain and develop it.

5. Barrière, I., Monreau-Merry, M.M (2012).  “Trilingualism of the Haitian Diaspora in NYC: Current and future challenges.” In O. Garcia, Z. Zakharia & b. Otcu (2012) Bilingual Community Education for American Children: Beyond Heritage Languages in a Global City (pp. 247-258). Multilingual Matters.

Analyzing the trilingualism of the Haitian Diaspora in NYC, the authors describe how English, French and Creole coexist in an unequal manner. Drawing on the history of Haitian Creole and the role of French as the prestige language, the authors contrast its favor with that of Creole. Indeed, Creole, which lacked an official orthography until the 1980s, was not recognized as an official language until 1987 (Barrière & Monreau-Merry, 2012). Haitian immigrant students in the US also continue to suffer from misperceptions of their language. According to the authors, Haitians are still assumed to be Francophones. Due to additional problems such as the lack of Haitian school records and the few Haitian Creole-speaking staff in schools, many students are still placed in the wrong classes. Furthermore, the children of Haitian migrants who reside in poor neighborhoods have become multilingual and multidialectal, acquiring African American Vernacular English as well as West Indian English. This linguistic and dialectal diversity has shaped second-generation Haitian immigrants, who either identify as Black American, Haitian or as immigrants. Another development is the prominence of Haitian students in the French programs in NYC launched since the French Embassy’s 2007 ‘French Goes Public’ initiative. According to the researchers, Haitian students comprise 29% of the study body in these French programs (Barrière & Monreau-Merry, 2012). Learning Creole, on the other hand, is less successful. Indeed, the initiatives taken after the 2010 earthquake and the centers or universities offering classes may not be enough to ensure second and third generation Haitians retain the language. Nonetheless, French appears to receive more support than Haitian Creole in both Haiti and New York, thereby demonstrating another example of the ways in which Creole’s lower prestige in both Haiti and the US continues to shape language policies of schools and districts. The absence of first language instruction may even threaten the language’s persistence for subsequent generations.


In conclusion, the aforementioned sources indicate that Haitian Creole instruction and bilingual programs in the US still experience the effects of the colonial French legacy and unequal status and stigma in the US. While there have been some notable attempts to create bilingual programs and support Haitian students with home-language instruction and ESL services, many are not receiving the services they need. In addition, the stigma attached to Creole in Haiti and the US has meant that some Haitian students will not develop full literacy in their L1. Haitian grassroots organizations and academics, based in the US and Haiti, however, have been pushing for more instruction in Creole since teaching in the first language is demonstrated by research to be most effective. Haitian Creole maintenance, in other ways, seems partly guaranteed by the Haitian population in areas like South Florida defining their culture as partly based in Creole. The global Haitian diaspora may also be suggestive of another reason for the maintenance of Creole due to the need for Haitian families dispersed across multiple countries to communicate. This may be relevant for the analysis of language maintenance across generations for other nationalities or ethnic groups with widespread diasporic communities.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Les anciennes sucreries coloniales et le marché haïtien (sous Boyer)

Les anciennes sucreries coloniales et le marché haïtien (sous Boyer) by Hénock Trouillot is a short read on an interesting moment that consolidated Haiti's banana republic path. As the title indicates, Trouillot's work explores the decline of Haitian sugar production during the presidency of President Boyuer. Trouillot elucidates this process through a combination of archival sources, foreign reports and accounts and newspapers to demonstrate how the lack of capital, absence of labor and poor economic policies led to Haiti's poverty and underdevelopment. 

First, the decline of the sugar industry. Despite attempts to revive Haiti's sugar production and commercial exports and promote the national industry, through initiatives like the Code Rural and immigration of African Africans, Boyer's Haiti failed on all fronts. A lack of capital plagued Haitian sucreries and the Haitian elite generally, meaning that they did not possess the capital to modernize or improve production or hire skilled workers. This favored the guildives and distilleries instead of sugar, since owners of sucreries were able to turn to producing tafia and rum for the Haitian market. According to Trouillot, this ultimately did not do much for the economy or Haitian social elevation since it favored a disproportionate consumption of alcohol. Boyer's government also helped ruin the sugar industry through tax policies that favored imported liquors and imported sugar. So, despite the Boyer government's purported interest in promoting sugar production, the government ultimately contributed to its demise. The lack of credit or limited amount of credit available to Haitians was an additional burden. 

The remainder of Trouillot's short study focuses on market, fiscal and economic policies of the Boyer years. Plans for a national bank under President Boyer did not succeed while foreigners began to overwhelmingly dominate the national economy. Although, at least on paper, prevented from owning land and, legally, limited to consignment, many of these foreigners (French, Germans, British and Americans) violated Haitian laws and regulations repeatedly. The seeds of frequent foreign involvement in Haitian coups and revolutions can already be seen in the example of Robert Sutherland, who sold arms to both Christophe and Petion during their conflicts. In other ways, the access of foreigners to capital and credit from their home countries and their ability to flout Haitian laws or find willing Haitian allies facilitated their dominance of the economy. In short, most imported goods were under their control and many were able to force or undercut Haitian competitors. Able to set prices that were ultimately passed on to the consumer, these foreigners contributed little to Haiti. Their economic importance for the state, however, could be seen in the data for years available in which recettes from imports paid by foreign consignment merchants, although contraband, speculation and overcharging ensured them a sizable profit in Haiti. Members of the Haitian government and the Haitian elite accommodated themselves to this pattern, using the state and their position or ownership of some land to benefit themselves to whatever extent possible. While some lamented the weakness of national commerce and the lack of economic power for the Haitian elite, they engaged in truly anti-national business or political actions. 

Surprisingly, Trouillot attributes the demise of the Boyer years to opposition from the very same corrupt Haitian elite that was responsible for favoring the stranglehold of foreigners on Haiti's commerce. Some of these familiar names appeared in L'Union in the 1830s and included landowning elite families, such as the Nau. These groups, joined by those in the South by 1843, succeeded in overthrowing Boyer in a movement that received popular support. For Trouillot, these anti-Boyer elites were ravenous and wanted to take advantage of the state for their own economic benefit rather than truly aim for liberal reforms of the economy or policies more favorable to the development of a national bourgeoisie. While this aspect of Trouillot's argument probably requires more evidence, it is interesting to see the way he highlighted the frequent fires that broke out in Port-au-Prince that targeted commercial houses, perhaps an indication of popular discontent and resentment of the foreign-dominated economy and the state that established this. Of course, the 1825 agreement to indemnify France for recognition and the formation of the "double debt" contributed to this downward path for Haiti, which became even more fully enmeshed in the economic imperialism of the Western powers.