Friday, January 10, 2014

Should it be Little Haiti or Lemon City?

HCover_leadaitian Creole is a mixture of French and various West African languages. It’s the most widely spoken language in Haiti, yet French remains the official language of government and legal documents. But at least it’s legal now to speak Creole on the radio in Haiti.

Back in the 1960s, it wasn’t. Jean-Marie Denis, also known as Jan Mapou, was well aware of that. He used to host a radio show in Port-au-Prince that featured folk stories read on the air, in Creole. The subject matter wasn’t controversial. But this was the time of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, one of Haiti’s most brutal dictators. Even reciting fairy tales in Creole on the airwaves could get you in trouble.

“The regime was concerned that by talking to the people in Creole, we would start opening their eyes and they’ll understand what’s going on,” Mapou says today.

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