In Haiti, the 18th of November is celebrated every year as Vertières Day. Also known as the Battle of Vertières Day, this holiday commemorates the victory that Haitians had over the French during the conflict in 1803.
This was the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution and it made Haiti the first nation in the entire world to ever gain its independence thanks to a slave revolt. Before the 1990s, November 18th was also observed as Armed Forces Day in Haiti, but the Haitian Army was disbanded by President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the early 1990s and that made this holiday irrelevant.
The History Of Vertières Day In Haiti
During the 17th century, France had established a colony on Hispaniola and had set up numerous coffee and sugar plantations. To maintain the operations of these plantations the French required a large number of African Slaves. Slaves had to work under horrible conditions and suffer some very cruel treatment in addition to them being deprived of their self-determination and freedom.
The slaves on Hispaniola eventually revolted during the late 18th century and this led to the Haitian Revolution. On November 18th, 1803, former slaves led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines came into conflict with Napoleon’s expeditionary forces serving under General Rochambeau. This would be the first major defeat of Napoleon’s army since he had come to power and resulted in France having to withdraw its remaining 7,000 soldiers from the island.
The French’s defeat proved disastrous to Napoleon and extremely costly. It caused Napoleon to give up his dream of a North American empire and the war effort was costly to France. Napoleon eventually had to sell “New France” to the U.S for $15 million in the Louisiana Purchase.
Observing Vertières Day In Haiti
This holiday is observed with special services, and with the public getting a much-needed day off. It’s also a day when government offices, schools, and businesses close for the day. Many people use the day to enjoy a meal with their loved ones. These meals can include dishes such as Poulet Aux Noix (Cashew Nut and Chicken), Griyo (Fried pork), and Lanbi an Sòs Lanbi Kreyol (Conch in creole sauce).