Haiti & Coffee: A Tale of Colonialism, Liberation and U.S. Interventions

Introduction 

When we tell people we have a Haitian coffee on our menu, we are often met with reactions of surprise.

Yet, Haïti, or rather Saint-Domingue used to be the most profitable colony of the Caribbean, partly due to their coffee exports which provided 60 % of the world’s coffee with its production.

What is surprising is how in less than two centuries, Haiti went from being the most lucrative colony to being the poorest country of the Western Hemisphere.

This poverty trap was mainly caused by France’s excessive payment demanded from Haiti in 1825 paired with multiple United States interventions. The Independence debt was a way for France to keep economically exploiting its former colony while simultaneously punishing the self-liberated nation for overthrowing slavery and colonialism, thus depriving the metropole of millions of dollars in profits.

Being the leading exporter of coffee worldwide, Haiti used revenues generated by coffee exports to finance this Independence debt which unwillingly tied the nation’s freedom to its coffee exports.

The fluctuations of coffee prices paired with excessive interest rates from French banks and United States intervention can all explain how Haiti still suffers the consequences of a debt incurred two centuries ago and why only shops that actively support social justice are likely to carry Haitian coffee.

*all references here.

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Roxanne Cornellier

Roxanne completed her Bachelor of Arts at McGill University in December 2020 with a double major in Art History and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. She was a part of the team of student researchers led by Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson to uncover and document McGill’s connections to slavery. Her academic interests include Canada’s involvement in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its enduring consequences and legacies as well as topics such as social justice, anti-capitalism and decolonization.               IG: @why.so.corny

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