Haiti Then and Now, Interview by Dr. Celucien L. Joseph, April 29, 2020
HT: Tell us about yourself, your background, education, upbringing, connection to Haiti, etc. Who is Dr. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith?
PBS: What a complicated question! How can I do justice to a life which, in some respects, has followed “une ligne droite,” the title of Dantes Bellegarde’s autobiography that was never written. I was raised by a Haitian feminist family in central Port-au-Prince, a middle-, lower-middle class neighborhood, in Lalue at the crossroads of Post-Marchand and ruelle Piquant. I also lived in Saint-Marc, Petion-Ville (at many addresses), Bourdon, and as a child, spent my summers throughout the republic. I attended school at Saint-Martial, then was transferred to the school of Ulrick Duvivier, fils, essentially for private lessons as it were. I was cognizant of Haitian geography, having memorized hundreds of cours d’eau, and my best field was Haitian history learned at the knee of my grandfather, Dantes Bellegarde. His aunt, Argentine Bellegarde, was an early feminist. Two of his daughters, Marie and Fernande Bellegarde, graduate of the Ecole Normale, were founding mothers of the Ligue Feminine d’Actions Sociales (1934). My great-grandmother, Marie Boisson, (1855-1952) helped raised me. I was surrounding by my grandfather’s library which could have had perhaps 10,000 books in my child’s mind. I read voraciously, constantly, everything. My meager stipend went to La Pleiade, (Madame Boncy) La Caravelle, (Madeleine Sylvain), and all the other bookstores in Port-au-Prince. I still have in my possession all the Livres de Poche purchased in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I was a rebellious child, distressed by my observations of the social milieu, angry, refusing to conform. I also hated to wear shoes, and did not like the corn flakes given me, but craved akasan, mayi moulin. My family was concerned that, as an adolescent, I had hour-long conversations with the “domestics.” I enjoyed their conversations, and they were my teachers about life itself.
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