The Development of Saut-D'Eau as Pilgrimage Center

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The Development of Saut-D'Eau as Pilgrimage Center

Post by Guysanto » Mon May 25, 2009 10:26 am

Paroisse Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel de Saut-D'Eau
Diocèse de Hinche
P.O. Box 1594, Port-au-Prince, Haiti


The Development of Saut-D'Eau as Pilgrimage Center

The development of Saut-D'Eau as a pilgrimage center -that is as an alternative shrine- was a reaction against the satellite or periphery status and the dependency character of Haitian pilgrims vis-à-vis the Nuestra Señora del Altagracia shrine in the Dominican Republic, where Haitians flocked annually. The history of the village is linked with the history of its shrine which attracts yearly thousands thousands of pilgrims from all over the country. Before the earthquake of May 7 1842 which devastated Cap-Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti, and provoked the formation of a majestic waterfall in Saut-D'Eau, Saut-D'Eau was simply a small district of the rural section of Canot River (Rouzer 18912:262).

It was only during the ___ of Faustin Soulouque, President and then Emperor of Haiti (1847-1859), that 'Saut-D'Eau began to become a pilgrimage place. The political as well as the economic situation of Haiti was deteriorating when Soulouque took office. Jean-Pierre Boyer, a former President For Life of Haiti (1818-1843), had succeeded in politically unifying the island, both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, during his regime. After Boyer's fall, "presidents de doublure" (puppet presidents) were elected and spent a few months in office. They were chosen by ambitious politicians and generals who took advantage of the office for promoting their own purposes. In 1847, Soulouque was named to serve his term as puppet president, but he did not allow himself to be dominated by his political advisers.

In the early years of his reign, Soulouque (Leger 1907:197) faced three major political problems:

First, the Dominican guerrillas established on the eastern border were a threat to Haiti and a barrier to the recuperation by Haiti of the eastern portion of the island. The Dominican Republic, having been separated politically from Haiti had already been proclaimed independent in 1844. The Haitians suddenly were cut off from the traditional pilgrimage center of the island at Nuestra Señora del Altagracia del Higuey. Up to that date, Haitian pilgrims were accustomed to crossing the border and making a journey to this shrine every year.

Second, the peasants of the south, namely the Piquets, were in revolt, because they did not have enough land and were not being taken care of by corrupt politicians.

Third, Soulouque, uneducated and known for his repressive policies, had to crack down and find ways of solving problems raised by the presence of black and mulatto political factions in his government. After the defeat of his military attempt to recover the Dominican portion of the island (March 6 to May 6, 1849), Soulouque decided to strengthen his authority at home. Searching for excuses to name himself Emperor, Soulouque found an opportunity when a rumor that the Holy Virgin had appeared on a palm tree on the property of one Debarine in the Champs-de-Mars began circulating in Port-au-Prince (Cabon 1933:45). Those who had seen the apparition vowed that the Holy Virgin was covered with a mantle and a crown. Soulouque interpreted the event as an approbation of God for his crowning. This occurred early in July, 1849.

Later, on July 16 of the same year, apparitions were announced in Saut-D'Eau. Soulouque interpreted the events for the Haitian masses as a sign from God that he should become emperor.

On Monday, November 23, 1849, with another rumor circulating that the Holy Virgin had appeared again in the Champs-de-Mars, the Emperor's wife went herself to see the event. Her visit to the place strengthened popular and national belief about the apparitions.

The question of apparitions preoccupied the government of Soulouque a great deal. Members of the Legislative Cabinet were appointed to study Saut-D'Eau's apparitions. Among the top [...] (War, Navy, and Foreign Relations), Jean Baptiste Francisque (Minister of Justice, Cults, and Public Education) and Lysius Felicite Salomon (Minister of Finances). Upon receiving the report of this committee, Soulouque ordered a chapel built in Saut-D'Eau in honor of the Holy Virgin. Since that time, Saut-D'Eau has become the national pilgrimage center of the Republic of Haiti (Jolibois, August 1 1970). The French missionary clergy was circumspect about the apparitions. Father Sapini, the pastor of Mirebalais, who was in charge of conducting an inquiry on Saut-D'Eau, showed some doubt about the veracity and the authenticity of the apparitions (Jolibois, July 30 1970). But other members of the French missionary clergy in Haiti accepted the apparitions as something which really happened. For example, Father Pisano, at that time Pastor of Petionville, proclaimed the authenticity of the apparions (Cabon 1933:407).

When Saut-D'Eau started to attract pilgrims, Faustin Soulouque changed the region status from that of a rural section of the river Canot to a military post. On September 3, 1885, President Lysisus Salomon made Saut-D'Eau a quartier. A courtroom judge and a county officer to record births, marriages and deaths were appointed there. Before this change, the people depended on the county officer of Mirebalais. In 1904, on the order of President Nord Alexis (1902-190?), Saut-D'Eau became a Parish and Julien Conan, then Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, appointed a priest there on a permanent basis. On January 28, 1991, President Antoine Simon changed the status of Saut-D'Eau again and made it a Commune.

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Post by Guysanto » Mon May 25, 2009 4:46 pm

The story continues...

[Editor's Disclaimer: I am merely retyping this, for your edification or commentary from the copy of a paper document I received with the header: Paroissse Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel de Saut-d'Eau, Diocèse de Hinche, P.O. Box 1594, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I am not making any claim whatsoever to its veracity, or to the good luck it might bring you if you make the pilgrimage to Saut-d'Eau with me this summer and bathe in its world-famous waterfall, or the bad luck it might bring you if you don't believe in what I am typing here or do not make a contribution to Windows on Haiti... Guy S. Antoine]

Miraculous Apparitions

Saudolese tell with emotion the miraculous apparitions of the Holy Virgin and remember from oral traditions the major dates in the history of the pilgrimage. The narrative reported below was collected from an eighty-three-year-old Saudolese villager. The same story was told to me again and again by others with some minor modifications.

During the regime of Faustin Soulouque, in 1849, a young man, F. Morose, looked one morning for his horse which had left [his?] garden] the night before. In search of this animal, he penetrated a bush area, not too far from the place where the village of Saut-d'Eau is now located. Once he pushed his way in, a strange noise made by the rubbing of leaves attracted his attention. Great was his surprise to see the bust of a young lady inviting him to look at her. Despite the solicitations of this beautiful young lady, Morose was taken by fear and went to report the event to the nearest police station.

Upon receiving the announcement, a policeman was delegated to accompany Morose to see the event. Unhappily, the unknown lady did not show up when they arrived or they did not see her. A little bit later, they were still looking for her everywhere when the policeman turned his look toward a palm tree. Surprise! He saw a great and beautiful animated picture on a palm leaf. He invited Morose to look at the picture. Morose identified it as the picture of the lady he had seen previously. Immediately they went out and announced the news to anyone that they could meet in the region.

From this time on, the people of the surrounding area came from time to time to see if the picture was still there and waited patiently until the leaf fell to observe more closely the picture. After about a month, the leaf would fall and the picture would no longer be on it. But the same picture would be reproduced on another leaf.

The news of the apparitions of the Holy Virgin in Saut-d'Eau raced throughout the country. The place where the palm tree on which the Holy Virgin appeared is known as Nan Palm. It has become since then a holy place and every July 16, pilgrims make a trip to Saut-d'Eau.


(I will continue retyping this document in a day or so... or perhaps miraculously, in a few hours.)

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Post by Guysanto » Mon May 25, 2009 6:36 pm

The story continues...

[Editor's Disclaimer: I am merely retyping this, for your edification or commentary from the copy of a paper document I received with the header: Paroissse Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel de Saut-d'Eau, Diocèse de Hinche, P.O. Box 1594, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I am not making any claim whatsoever to its veracity, or to the good luck it might bring you if you make the pilgrimage to Saut-d'Eau with me this summer and bathe in its world-famous waterfall, or the bad luck it might bring you if you don't believe in what I am typing here or do not make a contribution to Windows on Haiti... Guy S. Antoine]


Enter Mrs. Dorvilus Etienne

In the proximity of the well-known palm tree, a spring still flows. This source has miraculous power. For example, a young blind lady, Mrs. Dorvilus Etienne, had heard about the apparitions. She asked somebody to drive her from Jacmel to Saut-d'Eau. In Saut-d'Eau, she washed her eyes with water taken from this source and after repeating this for three days, she began to see again. To accomplish her vows to the Holy Virgin, she brought all of her children to Saut-d'Eau, bought a house and lived there until her death. The family house is still in Saut-d'Eau and every July 16, her grandsons and granddaughters come in pilgrimage to Notre Dame du Mont Carmel shrine.

(to be continued... with the sad story of two foolish priests)

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Post by Guysanto » Mon May 25, 2009 10:51 pm

The story continues...

[Editor's Disclaimer: I am merely retyping this, for your edification or commentary from the copy of a paper document I received with the header: Paroissse Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel de Saut-d'Eau, Diocèse de Hinche, P.O. Box 1594, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I am not making any claim whatsoever to its veracity, or to the good luck it might bring you if you make the pilgrimage to Saut-d'Eau with me this summer and bathe in its world-famous waterfall, or the bad luck it might bring you if you don't believe in what I am typing here or do not make a contribution to Windows on Haiti... Guy S. Antoine]

Don't mess with Mary
or The sad story of priests who really should have known better: in Haiti, cutting trees brings bad luck.

The Saudolese have fresh in their memory the sad history of two priests who cut down the trees where the Holy Virgin had appeared. In 1891, under the administration of President Florvil Hyppolite, a French missionary named Father Lenouvel considered the tree of the first apparition the locus for superstitious practices and cut it down. After having done so, he went to the church, lost consciousness, and died the same day. The faithful believe that he was punished for his sacrilegious act (Haiti Litteraire, 1905). The pilgrims continued and venerated another palm tree in the vicinity of the original one.

Pushed by his missionary zeal to get rid of vaudouists in Saut-d'Eau, another priest named Father Cessens cut down this second palm tree. Strangely enough, this priest suffered a paralytic stroke and died a few monhts later. This occurrence strengthened the faith that the pilgrims had in the apparitions and was interpreted as the revenge of the Holy Virgin as well as of the Vaudou spirits. Various Haitian governments' blessing of Saut-d'Eau as the national pilgrimage center and the faith of the Saudolese and the pilgrims have forced, to some extent, the Catholic clergy to accept the situation as a fact of life.

(to be continued...)

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Post by Guysanto » Mon May 25, 2009 11:06 pm

Finally, the conclusion...

The miracles which seem to occur yearly in Saut-d'Eau , the need for a national shrine [of our own] after the independence of the Dominican Republic, the waterfall [the residence of Vaudou spirits] and the crowds who continue to come to Saut-d'Eau every year [are] some of the elements which account for the development of Saut-d'Eau as the national pilgrimage center.

[We have reached the end of the document in question, but will continue to post related items and commentary].

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Post by Guysanto » Tue May 26, 2009 6:50 am

Here's a reaction to the story I received yesterday from a Facebook friend:

[quote]Il y a quelque mois de cela une dame originaire de Saut-d'Eau m'a raconté l'histoire suivante: Le responsable de l'église du Mont Carmel à cette époque, était un prêtre (le nom m'échappe) qui avait pour loisir preferé, la chasse aux oiseaux. Un jour qu'il partait pour la chasse accompagné de ses amis, aux environs d'un palmier non loin de l'église, ils aperçurent une image de la Vierge flottant dans l'air en direction de l'arbre. Pensant qu'il était victime d'un maléfice perpetré par des adversaires, il tira sur l'image et la balle rebondit sur lui et le tua d'un coup.[/quote]

My translation: [quote]A few months ago, a lady from Saut-d'Eau (the residents of which are referred in the story as "saudolese") related to me the following story: The administrator of the Mont Carmel Church at that time was a priest (the name escapes me) whose favorite hobby was bird hunting. One day, as he went hunting, accompanied by his friends, in the vicinity of a palm tree not far from the church, they saw an image of the Holy Virgin floating in the air in the tree's direction. Thinking that he was being played by some adversaries, he shot at the image. The bullet ricocheted and killed him instantly.[/quote]

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