Saturday, July 25, 2015

Poetry, Geography, and Writing: Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico

Geography Skills:

What is a colony? What is a territory? What is a commonwealth? What is an ally?

Click the link at left for a zoomable version of this.
Check out this map of the world in 1910, showing all the empires and their colonies.

The USA has the following "Unincorporated Organized Territories":

American Samoa
Northern Mariana Islands
Puerto Rico
U.S. Virgin Islands
Wake Island

Baker Island
Howland Island
Jarvis Island
Johnston Atoll
Kingman Reef
Midway Atoll (administered as a National Wildlife Refuge)
Navassa Island (disputed with Haiti)

It used to have the following:

Panama Canal Zone — jointly controlled with Panama 1979–1999; exclusively in Panama from December 31, 1999.
Philippines — independent since 1946
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
Marshall Islands — independent since 1986
Federated States of Micronesia — independent since 1986
Palau — independent since 1994

Why don't we make Puerto Rico a state? For a discussion of the 51st state, go here.

Six Things to Know About Puerto Rico:

1. First occupied by Taino Indians, then by Spanish.

2. The US won possession after Spanish American War (1898). This was decided in the Treaty of Paris (not the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War).

3. Puerto Ricans are US citizens, after the Jones Act of 1917, signed by Woodrow Wilson. Benefits of US takeover: Freedom of assembly, speech, press, and religion were decreed and an eight-hour day for government employees was established. A public school system was begun and the U.S. Postal service was extended to the island. The highway system was enlarged, and bridges over the more important rivers were constructed. The government lottery was abolished, cockfighting was forbidden, and a centralized public health service established.

4. Puerto Rico has mountains, lowlands, and rain forests. No lakes or large wild mammals.

5. Puerto Rico is the easternmost island in the Greater Antilles. Everything east of Puerto Rico is Lesser Antilles.

6. The Puerto Rico Trench is about 75 miles north of Puerto Rico, parallel to its shoreline. It contains the Milwaukee Trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Six Things to Know About Haiti

1. Haiti was the Hispaniola where Columbus first made a settlement. The Spanish got rid of their settlement there due to uprisings of settlers. French pirates established a colony on Tortuga, and France claimed western Hispaniola.

2. Slaves working on sugar plantations were treated inhumanely. One slave's account: "Have they not hung up men with heads downward, drowned them in sacks, crucified them on planks, buried them alive, crushed them in mortars? Have they not forced them to eat excretement? And, having flayed them with the lash, have they not cast them alive to be devoured by worms, or onto anthills, or lashed them to stakes in the swamp to be devoured by mosquitoes? Have they not thrown them into boiling cauldrons of cane syrup? Have they not put men and women inside barrels studded with spikes and rolled them down mountainsides into the abyss? Have they not consigned these miserable blacks to man-eating dogs until the latter, sated by human flesh, left the mangled victims to be finished off with bayonet and poniard?"

3. 1770 Port Au Prince earthquake and tsunami, 200,000 people dead

4. French revolution, emancipation of slaves, slave rebellion. The slaves got control of their country but did not claim full independence from France. Napoleon invaded, tried to reestablish slavery, take away rights from people of color. Dreamed of reestablishing French empire in the new world. Louisiana purchase happened in 1803. In 1804 Haitian army defeated French, declared independence.

5. Haiti was the first black republic. Constitution:

1. Freedom of religion (Under Toussaint, Catholicism had been declared the official state religion);
2. All citizens of Haiti, regardless of skin color, to be known as "Black." (before that there was a racial hierarchy based on darkness of skin color, and this was an attempt to eliminate that prejudice)
3. White men were forbidden from possessing property or domain on Haitian soil.
4. Should the French return to reimpose slavery, Article 5 of the constitution declared: "At the first shot of the warning gun, the towns shall be destroyed and the nation will rise in arms."
Earthquakes, political upheavals

6. US Occupation in 1915. In 1915 Haiti had 3 miles of usable roads. By 1918 it had more than 470. This was due to peasants being forced to labor on the roads or pay a "road tax."

Haiti and Dominican Republic from the Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

Six Things to Know About the Dominican Republic:

1. Taino / Columbus / Spanish rule

2. French took over, then Spanish took over again, then the Haitians took over after getting their independence.

3. Independent state in 1844: Santo Domingo, then reconverted to Spanish Colony in 1861. Second independence after American Civil War.

4. USA bailed them out of debt with foreign creditors when there were warships in their harbors demanding payment, so that USA was their only creditor. Two US occupations in the 20th century.

5. The Dominican Republic has 27 different climate zones in its mountains, highlands, jungles, lowlands, deserts. It still has a lot of productive agricultural land and forests, unlike Haiti. Check out this image of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, showing deforestation in Haiti.

6. Capital city is Santo Domingo.


Creole Poetry from Haiti (We read II and III. Talk about Creole language origins and relate back to last week's discussion of language and identity.)

Activity: Geography Game

Develop a geography game to be played by younger students. Use part one of the Game Workshop planning sheet today. The next page will be done next week. Work alone or in pairs, teams.

US Air Force dropping supplies on Haiti after earthquake. Photo Credit: US Air Force


Watch this video about poetry and Haiti's recovery from the earthquake of 2010.

Time: 20 Minutes
Length: 1 page

Imagine you have $100 to give to relief efforts in Haiti. One organization you might donate to provides nourishing food. Another is raising money for a library. Where will you put your money? Think about our class discussion and decide: books or bread? Explain your answer in a one page essay. You can use whatever logic you like -- this is a personal decision. Don't feel that you have to persuade your reader with rhetorical devices. Just explain your own thoughts and feelings as clearly and effectively as you can in this personal essay.

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