The coastal Haitian city of Petit-Goâve is throwing a party, and it’s the kind that comes around once every 350 years.
“Our 350th anniversary is a pride for the people,” Mayor Sandra Jules said, “and we are asking everyone to come and support the city.”
For three days, starting Friday, the city will hold various cultural events to showcase its history and contributions to Haitian society, Jules said.
One such contribution is Dany Laferrière, the Haitian-Canadian author and one-time Miami resident, who earlier this month was lauded with French language’s highest honor. Laferrière was elected to the French Academy, making him one of 40 authorities worldwide on the French language for the rest of his life.
Days after the announcement, Laferrière paid a surprise visit to his rural hometown. There, he hobnobbed with locals, and talked about its influence on his dozens of essays and novels, which include the controversial novel that was adapted into a film by the same name, How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired. Upon its release in 1990, the film was boycotted by the NAACP and several U.S. newspapers refused to run ads for it.
But Laferrière’s honor isn’t the only thing Petit-Goâve is happy about.
“Peace has returned to Ti-Goâve,” said Jules, referring to months of unrest by gangs. For months, bandits held the town hostage, using police as target practice and robbing unsuspecting motorists along National Road 2, a major highway running through the town that connects Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince with the southern region.
Determined to put the bandits out of business, Haiti’s National Police regional police director for the West department, with backing from the U.N. peacekeeping mission, deployed dozens of anti-riot police officers. Last month, their efforts paid off: a highly sought after gang leader known as TiSam, along with four others, turned in their weapons and asked for forgiveness.
On Saturday, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe visited the town with members of his cabinet and police brass. For eight hours, during a town hall, they listened to residents while promoting ongoing initiatives to assist Petit-Goâve, which is also one of the cities struck by the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake four years ago next month.
“Petit-Goâve is safe and secured, the police have done a great job,” said Lamothe, who added the city is beautiful and he invites others to see for themselves.
Added Jules, the mayor: “The police are continuing to do their work, and the town is accessible to tourists.”