François Duvalier, May 1957, Haiti. Image Courtesy of: Haïti-Référence.
While Haiti surely never been a stranger to political instability, anarchy and tense elections, the last election of 1957, which brought François Duvalier to office, remains a catalyst. Although most presidential candidates proceed to detail some plans of reform for Haiti’s economy, Duvalier, who enjoyed much support in and out of Port-au-Prince and formal backing from most elements of the Haitian army, did not bother to expand lengthily on such considerations. Playing with themes both present in Catholicism and Haitian Vodou, Duvalier simply presented himself as a healer, eager to treat his nation with a black nationalist (Noirist) agenda. Many scholars, note that he often spoke of himself in the third person, as a true embodiment of the Haitian nation. To be against Duvalier, as his supporters had it, was to be against Haiti. In effect, before his “election” in September 1957, Duvalier had successfully created a cult of personality around himself. Any dissent voice from then on was not only a threat to Duvalierism, black nationalism and order, it was seen as a menace to Haiti’s very existence.
I find this image fascinating. The way Duvalier looks at the camera is mesmerizing and chilling.