Stories from a Divided Haiti



“Your visa, Mesye,” said the officer at the terminal.

I fumbled for it in my suit pocket, cursing myself for not having done so while I was waiting on line. Everything surprises you, my mother once said, even the things that shouldn’t, and I’d been so absorbed in the noises and smells of the ship terminal that it never occurred to me I might need my papers.

I found it at last, seconds before the officer gave voice to the annoyance that was spreading across his face, and handed it over. He took it in thick fingers and made a show of scanning its pages. “Issa el Saieh?” he asked.

“Yes, Mesye.”

“A citizen of the south?”

I sucked in my breath. Yes, it was all arranged, all legal. But it was only this year that the Kingdom of Haiti would even let southerners on its soil, and I was carrying a legacy of much bitterness. I was a citizen of a country that had fought three wars with this kingdom, and it was barely twenty years since the Black Prince had spread his destruction into the Artibonite. It was one thing for peasants to sneak across the border for trade or work, but for a southerner to present himself at the port of Cap-Haïtien and ask to be welcomed in as if he were an American or a German…

But when I said my second “yes, mesye” and looked into the officer’s eyes, they held no hatred. Maybe it was because I was an Arab, not really a southerner: a man whose family had lived in Bethlehem when the Republic and the Kingdom went their separate ways. Maybe he couldn’t guess that I had served in the Republic’s army in the last war six years past, and that I’d stood in line and fired when the King’s troops charged the trenches north of Saint-Marc.

Or maybe, like me, he truly wanted to see a new day.

“Welcome to Okap,” he said, and stamped my visa.

I accepted it back gratefully and made to pass through the checkpoint. “Not so fast, Mesye,” said the officer; he was not done with me yet. “What do you have in your trunk?”

“Musical instruments. And clothing.”

“No jewelry? Gold? Watches? Pornography? Perhaps you are a smuggler?”

“Of course not, Mesye.”

“Then you will not mind if I check…”

It cost a hundred gourdes for him to decide that my saxophone wasn’t contraband and that I was no threat to the Kingdom’s safety and morals. He let me through the checkpoint at last, and I was out on the plaza among the food-sellers and touts, the men promising to take me to the best hotel and the boys competing to show me the places where the Black Prince had made his human sacrifices. I passed them, and went to look for the men who would take the stage with me when I played.


“Issa!” shouted Oswald Durand, throwing his arms open. “I’d hoped that I’d live to see you come to Okap, and here you are!”

He looked older than I expected; I knew him from photographs ten and twenty years old, and the white in his hair was startling. But there was no way I could mistake him; no way anyone in my profession could. Oswald was poet, musician, teacher, a man of song even during the Black Prince’s darkest days, and now, since the revolution, a member of the chambre des deputes. He was the one who’d got me my permit to come here, the first southern musician to play in the north for almost sixty years.

I returned the embrace, and he led me to the taxi stand at the end of the plaza on the Boulevard Henri-Christophe. Somewhat to my surprise, I saw that the cabs here were motorcars; in Port-au-Prince, even in Bois Verna, they would still be horse-carriages. By the magic that taxi drivers have, one of them marked us out as passengers and opened the trunk of his car; I heaved my belongings in and took a place beside Oswald on the back seat.

“Welcome to Okap,” he said as the car pulled away from the terminal; unlike the customs officer, he demanded no bribes. He leaned against the door and turned his head to look at me. “You’re here, you’re really here. Will we play Choucoune together tonight?”

“Of course.” What other answer could I give? Choucoune was Oswald’s song, and I was the one who’d made it popular in the south. I’d played it in Petit-Goave when I was not yet twenty, and in Port-au-Prince after I’d been noticed; I’d played it for soldiers in the trenches of ’07 and for society matrons in Bois-Verna. It was the first thing the people asked for when I took the stage. There was Oswald’s Choucoune and my Choucoune; there were no others.

“Excellent, excellent! We’ll stop at your hotel and drop off your things, but then we’re going to meet the band. I’ve got the best men in the north for your show, and they’re all waiting to meet you. Henri Lafaille, René Mayard…”

I recognized those names. I’d heard their music, seen their faces on records and player-piano rolls. Music traveled from north to south even when people could not; so did letters and novels, photographs and numbered prints. In Port-au-Prince, we said that we knew the north by its artists and its bullets. No doubt they said something similar about us.

Maybe I would find out.

My hotel was just off the Place d’Armes in the old city, surrounded by two and three-story houses with long balconies and wooden shutters over the doors. Not far away, construction crews were knocking down such houses, making room for stores and offices as other neighborhoods had once been cleared to make room for factories. The houses needed a coat of paint, as they might in Port-au-Prince, but here, the streets in front of them were clean.

“Look there,” Oswald said, pointing at one of the houses. The line of bullet-holes had been covered over very cleverly, and I had to look carefully to see them. The marks of fire were only slightly clearer.

“The revolution?” I asked.

“That, or the Black Prince, or maybe even before. Some of these houses were built when this was still Cap-Français. They’ve seen everything, even the things we don’t talk about.”

“Was it bad, in the Black Prince’s time? I was only a child then, but we heard…”

“It was worse.” He looked toward the house again; he’d known someone there, or maybe it had even been his. “It was a look into another place, a glimpse of what the dark spirits are like when they show themselves. But I didn’t realize until then, how much of our song comes from that place. Choucoune is really a southern song, you know, for all I wrote it in Kreyol. It’s too light for the north.”

“The south is hardly carefree.”

“No, it isn’t. But you’ve put away the loa, kept them in a place where no one can see them. You’re priest-ridden, but in this they may have the right idea.”

I looked at him, surprised. “Most northerners would say that we’ve stopped listening to the land. That we’ve let the mulattoes make Frenchmen of us, given up what makes us Haitian. The noiristes at home say that too.” I stopped suddenly, realizing I’d said we. I was an outsider in the battle between the noiristes and the pétionistes… but I was born in Petit-Goave, and there was something in this land that called to me too.

“I’d have said the same thing, before the Black Prince. Now… I don’t know.” He hefted my trunk, waving off my protests, and carried it into the hotel. “The land is power, the loa are power. If you get too close to it…”

“Music,” I said. “That is power too. In the south, when we live to play, to tell our stories… we’re like moths to a flame.”

“A flame, yes.” Oswald’s expression told of being singed by the same fire. “Our songs will burn you.”



The bar where we met the other musicians was called the Vastey, and had a mural of the old reprobate splashed across one wall. “Baron Vastey,” I almost said, before I remembered that “baron” was a bad-luck word in the Kingdom. How else could it be, when they’d been ruled by a prince who was Baron Samedi in the flesh? And in the flickering light, shadows played across Vastey’s portrait.

We exchanged greetings, all of us; Oswald and I, Henri and René, the others who had come from across the north to join me in song. We all laughed about how little we looked like our pictures, and how different our voices sounded in person. We ordered rum and drank it; we ordered more and drank that too; we lowered our voices and told scurrilous jokes about the King; we raised them and told even more salacious ones about the politicians in the south.

Henri was the first one to take out an instrument, a guitar. He strummed a chord and looked a question at the others; they all recognized it and nodded. René drummed on the table and Oswald began singing, and I listened to learn the words.

“What is this? I’ve never heard it before.”

Henri left off playing. “It’s something I wrote to one of Vastey’s old poems. La fille africaine.

“About the girls, and in French? Another southern song?”

“Southern?” René asked. “Not much more northern than Vastey. What have you been telling him, Oswald?

“The same he’s been saying to everyone,” another man answered – Hervé, I thought his name was, but I wasn’t certain. “He sees the darkness in the land, but he doesn’t see the love. Love is power. It comes from deep under us too.”

“Sex?” asked Henri. He laughed, more than a little drunk.

“That, even more. Vastey sang of it before we were ever born. Even the loa sing of it.”

I listened, half-drunk myself. It was the kind of discussion that I might have had in a coffee-house in Port-au-Prince, but here, it was set to music and fueled by rum. These were the intellectuals of the Kingdom; it could be dangerous to speak here, even after the revolution, so they sang.

“Play Choucoune now,” I said to Oswald. “Play it in the northern way, with all the power in its soul. And I will follow.”


The stage was outdoors, on a field where one of the Black Prince’s houses had stood, and the people who filled it were welcoming. When the applause died down, I gave the beat and Oswald played. He played Choucoune, the song of north and south, and he played it as the prince might have, with no limits, as if the world were burning around him.

And on the second measure, I joined him.

-- 1913​
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Deleted member 67076

Jonathan this is such a fascinating work. :D

Please continue.
Not that I'm knocking Male Rising, which continues to astound (can't wait to see what the 1900s and 1910s look like), but it's great to have this back. Bravo. Will we be seeing more of the Black Prince in the future?

I wonder, have you made any rough demographic calculations as to what the populations of the two Haitis will be by 2012/2013? With 9,000 dollars per capita GDP, North Haiti may have entered demographic transition a while ago (I note even OTL Haiti is down to below 3 children per woman).

Thanks, everyone.

Will we be seeing more of the Black Prince in the future?

Yes, we'll eventually see TTL's Duvalier-figure up close and personal - I'd originally planned him as a background character, but a number of people have asked to see more of him.

The next story, as currently planned, will be called "The Queen of Gonâve" and will be set in the late 1950s or early 60s; the one after that will take place during the nineteenth century, and after that, the Prince will have his day.

I wonder, have you made any rough demographic calculations as to what the populations of the two Haitis will be by 2012/2013? With 9,000 dollars per capita GDP, North Haiti may have entered demographic transition a while ago (I note even OTL Haiti is down to below 3 children per woman).

It did, but its population was also increased by migrants from the south (you really can't stop people from crossing the mountains, especially if they're desperate). In TTL it might have even drawn Dominican guest workers.

The OTL population of North Haiti is about 3 million, extrapolating from the most recent statistics for department populations and estimating the Kingdom's share of partial departments. In TTL it might be about 2.2 to 2.5 million, of which 500,000 are migrants. It would be more urbanized and Cap-Haïtien would be a larger city than OTL despite the overall smaller population - maybe 300,000 or even 400,000 rather than 190,000.

The southern population might be about six million, with the difference from OTL due to the existence of a comparatively easy emigration route.

And now I want to listen to Choucoune...

You can - played by Issa el Saieh! TTL's Issa is of course a different person, born in the early 1880s instead of 1919, but he's from the same family. The song, in both OTL and TTL, is about a woman who Oswald Durand had an affair with while living in Cap-Haïtien; in TTL, where Durand had a musical career, he wrote the music as well as the words.
You can - played by Issa el Saieh! TTL's Issa is of course a different person, born in the early 1880s instead of 1919, but he's from the same family. The song, in both OTL and TTL, is about a woman who Oswald Durand had an affair with while living in Cap-Haïtien; in TTL, where Durand had a musical career, he wrote the music as well as the words.
Thanks for that! Nice music, but I must say not what I expected - after your scene, I had expected someting more "raunchy / tortured".
It did, but its population was also increased by migrants from the south (you really can't stop people from crossing the mountains, especially if they're desperate). In TTL it might have even drawn Dominican guest workers.
How about North Haiti receiving immigrants (or guest workers) from French-speaking African countries? (Correct me if I'm wrong)
How about North Haiti receiving immigrants (or guest workers) from French-speaking African countries? (Correct me if I'm wrong)

There could be some of this - for instance, if retired Dahomey Guard members settle in North Haiti with their families and bring others from their villages. There probably wouldn't be too much immigration from those countries, though, given that (a) the primary language of daily communication and business in the Kingdom of Haiti is Kreyol, not French, and (b) that France itself is a larger and richer land of opportunity for francophone Africans than North Haiti would be. So the West African immigrant community would most likely consist of a few thousand Beninois.

BTW, this article will give some background for the next story (ignore the 1920s Great White Anthropologist attitude). By the time of the story, the Congo Societies will have evolved into self-defense/underworld organizations similar to the early Sicilian Mafia.
Thanks for that! Nice music, but I must say not what I expected - after your scene, I had expected someting more "raunchy / tortured".

Sorry I missed your comment before. At any rate the lyrics (about an unfaithful woman) are why Durand called it a "southern" song, and it's probably set to different music given that, in TTL, Durand wrote the music himself.

Oooohhh, this is very interesting, especially its influence on North Haitian pop culture.

It will have more of an influence on pop culture in the south, because La Gonâve is part of the Republic in TTL. Still, there will be some influence on the north, especially once some of the societies get transplanted to the mainland.

Did I mention that most of the Congo Societies (in OTL and TTL) are run by women, and that the overall leader is a "queen?"
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The Queen of Gonâve


They met me at the dock, the other three officers of the government on Gonâve, and drove me to the office.

The road wound up steeply from the ferry terminal into the hills behind, and after a few minutes, to the town. Anse-à-Galets, it was called – little more than a village, set along a dry stream, full of idle men smoking cigarettes and women selling fried plantains. The government offices fit the town: a low stone building with a single open room, where a ceiling fan turned endlessly and battered desks and file cabinets kept company.

“This one will be yours,” said Enguerrand. He was the mayor, a creature of Port-au-Prince who had never set foot on Gonâve before taking office and who would retire to Pétionville as soon as he’d stolen enough. The chief of police and the collector of revenue stood behind him, silent as they’d been all the way from the dock, and watched as I walked past the secretary to claim my kingdom.

They hated me already, that was plain. I would do the same in their place. They were all Roumain’s men, and now that he was out as interior minister, their days were numbered. I was sent by Pierre-Louis, the new minister, and I was here to replace them.

There were no files on my desk – had they been hidden from me? “Madelin’s papers,” I said. “Where are they?”

“Madelin was always very secretive about where he kept his records.”

“Surely you saw him working with them. You’re all in this room together.”

The mayor shook his head. “No, we didn’t, most of the time. He kept things in his head. He didn’t write much down, and when he did, he put it in odd places.”

I sensed that he was laughing at me inside, and that the other two were laughing with him. “Then where is Madelin now?” I asked. “I’ll call him at his new post and ask him where his files are. Or maybe I’ll have Pierre-Louis call him.” I doubted that Pierre-Louis would give me much more than the time of day, but it would do no harm to remind these time-servers of whose man I was.

Now Enguerrand laughed openly. “I don’t think Pierre-Louis can help you with Madelin, unless he’s a houngan. Madelin was killed.”

“Killed? Here?”

The police chief nodded. “Two weeks ago, up by Nan Mangot.” It seemed he also didn’t have much need of his files.

“And you made no report? No arrests?”

“Arrests, no.” There was laughter in his voice again, barely suppressed. “The cacos will take care of things for us.” Hired thugs, he meant – mountain men who would kill for anyone who paid them. We had them on the mainland too.

“We don’t do things that way any more. We have a new government, and we follow the law. There should be arrests and a trial.”

“This isn’t Port-au-Prince, Faustin,” Enguerrand answered. “Governments come and go - you’ll find that out soon enough – but when you go into the bush here, you go back two hundred years. Arrests, trials – these are noirs from the jungle.”

Without thinking, I touched my fingers to my own cheek – not quite noir, but not the café au lait of the other three either. “You won’t arrest them?”

“These are noirs from the jungle,” the police chief repeated.

“Then I’ll do it.”

Laughter, again, with the scent of death behind it. “It happened by Nan Mangot.”



The Société Bois Caïman was drawn up outside my house in three lines: men and women with their tools, the guard at attention with their weapons, the reine de le drapeau with the banner. I was dressed in white, as I must always be when I am seen, and I knocked twice on the inside of the door.

“Ti Memenne! Ti Memenne!” called the division de société, and the drummers ruffled four times. I opened the door and stepped out into the early-morning sun.

“We are assembled, Ti Memenne,” the division said.

“So you are.” I nodded to the first line of people. “You will work on Georges’ field today, and you,” the second line, “Sylvain’s?”

“No, Ti Memenne,” Sylvain said. “I’ve sold today’s work to Antenor.

“Has the price been paid?”

“Yes,” said the division. “It has been witnessed.”

“Then you will clear Antenor’s new field.” And to the guard: “You will patrol and collect in the north. The sergent d’armes will give you the list of those who haven’t paid.”

“We hear, Ti Memmene!” they chorused, and the two lines marched off to the fields and the guardsmen to their patrol, leaving only my personal guard and the two conseils. A chair was brought out of the house with an umbrella fixed to the top, and I took my place for the day.

The conseils had the usual business. Cacos were harassing peasants to the south; we would have to send the guard to defend them. The price of cigarettes had risen; the new government was cracking down, and the smugglers on the mainland were charging more. Dieudonné in the bottomlands, who grew plantains, was building a barn without hiring us to help; he would have to be spoken to, and if he didn’t see reason, visited.

Later, the guards brought in two men; they looked scared, as I might be in their place, but they straightened up when they saw me. “Robert, why have you not paid?” I asked. “We protect you and help to clear your field; it is only right that you pay.”

“There has been sickness in my house, Ti Memenne,” he pleaded. “My wife and daughter are ill and could not work, and I had to care for them…”

“Is this true?”

“It seems to be,” the guard admitted. “The house smelled of mint tea and bitterwood.”

“It is,” added the senior conseil. “I live near them; I’ve heard of it.”

“You are excused for this month then,” I ruled. “See that they have food. And you, Laurent? What brings you before me?”

“We saw him planting in his fallow field,” said a guard.

I fixed my eyes on his. “Why would you do that, Laurent? Don’t you know that we must rotate the crops and let the land rest? There are more of us now; we can’t waste the land as we did in our grandmothers’ time.” I motioned to the door, where a shelf of books was visible; Laurent couldn’t read them, but like everyone, he knew what they were. “It has been the law of all the Congo Societies for twenty years.”

“I’m sorry, Ti Memenne!” he cried. “But I need money. My child needs to go to the hospital in Port-au-Prince, and two fields won’t bring in enough. I need to plant sugar I can sell…”

I held up my hand. “Why didn’t you come to us? You pay us to protect you; didn’t you think we would protect you from disease?”

“I… don’t know.”

“You are fined one pig,” I said. To the guards: “Beat him, and dig up that field. But bring his child to Anse-à-Galets and put him on the ferry. Give him money and tell him who to see in Port-au-Prince. They’ll make sure he is treated at the hospital.”

They took Laurent away, looking thankful and frightened at the same time. And as he did, another man approached, without ceremony or warning – a man in a suit, with two gendarmes in police uniform. “You are under arrest,” he said. “For murder.”



The trip into the mountains took most of the day. The road ended less than halfway, near a cluster of houses and a tangle of thorn-forest, and the route onward was no more than a track. It followed steep slopes, amid stifling heat and biting insects, through lands where there wasn’t even a village; there were peasants’ houses standing next to their holdings, sometimes two or three at a time, but nothing that could be called a settlement.

At three o’clock we passed a valley farm where a flag had been planted and a gang of people was working to the beat of drums; they were singing lewd songs and had obviously had their fill of taffia rum. One of the gendarmes beside me smiled, and said “Congo Society.” I tried to remember what that was – on the mainland, we neither knew nor cared what happened in Gonâve – and could only recall something about cooperative labor clubs who helped each other clear new land and saw to the members’ funerals. But it seemed, from the twist in the gendarme’s smile, that there was something more.

Just past four, sweating like a pig, I saw our destination: a chair on which sat a woman of middle years, dressed in a white robe and head-scarf, weighing close to three hundred pounds. She could have been my aunt on my mother’s side – the northern side. She didn’t look like a murderer.

Still, I told her she was under arrest.

She seemed startled for a moment, but then she looked at me and laughed. “You’ve come to arrest a queen?” she asked. “Are you a king then?”

“This isn’t the north. There are no kings here. I’m the auditor, appointed by the president and the government. Did you kill Mesye Madelin, the old auditor?”

“I had him killed, yes.” She said it as if she were saying “I went shopping” or “I did the laundry,” without a trace of concern.

“Then you are under arrest, and you will be taken to Port-au-Prince.”

“Taken by who?” she asked. “By your corpse?”

I looked around suddenly, and realized that she was not alone – there were six guards to either side, with weapons pointed at me and the gendarmes. The policemen didn’t look frightened, though – in fact, they were nodding their heads, and they and the guards seemed to know each other. I was the one who the guns were aimed at – I was the one who might now be buried in this soil.

“Do you really think you can get away with that?” I said, hoping I sounded brave. “I am well-known in Port-au-Prince. If I go missing, many soldiers will come here and they will crush you.”

“I don’t think so, Mesye. We know these hills better than any soldiers, and we know all the places to hide. And who will report you missing – the same people who didn’t report Mesye Madelin?”

I felt a chill as I realized he was right. The three men in Anse-à-Galets would never report my death. In fact, they had surely sent me here to die – why else would they not have told me what I was truly facing? If I were killed, that would only be a convenience to them, and I would simply be another fool who wandered into the hills and never came out.

“… And even if you got to Port-au-Prince,” she was saying, “do you think you would be safe? Men from the Congo Societies go to the city to work when the planting season is done, and the societies have taken root there. And I am not only queen of Bois Caïman but of all Gonâve, so all the societies would avenge me. Why do you think I was chosen to execute Madelin?”

The Societies may have been labor clubs once, but they were clearly more than that now, and I’d wandered unsuspecting into their country.

“Why did you kill him, then?” I asked. I realized that the tables had somehow been turned, and that rather than coming to make an arrest, I was pleading my case.

“He was a thief. He stole land and food, and he sent the cacos to maim and kill, like all the auditors and mayors have done.”

“Then why didn’t you file a complaint in the courts?”

“The courts? Bought and paid for by the same people who put men like Madelin over us?”

“We don’t do things that way any more.” Those were the same words I’d said to the police chief the day before, and I felt, as I did then, that I was speaking a language Gonâve didn’t understand. “There’s a new government and there are reforms. There will be elected mayors now instead of thieves appointed by other thieves. There will be a courthouse here on the island, honest justice…”

“There have been new governments before. There have been reforms before. Laleau started as a reformer and finished as a murderer.”

“It’s different this time. There’s a broad coalition” – I stopped short, wondering if she knew what that meant, but clearly she did – “and it’s a government of the peasants and the working people, not the pétionistes in Port-au-Prince….” I trailed off, wondering just why I was explaining the Republic’s politics to a “queen” who I’d come to arrest for murder.

“Is it ever different?” The queen’s eyes looked strangely sad. “The Congo Societies were here before your republic, before Henri-Christophe, even before Toussaint. The toubab didn’t want this island, so we made our own life here. And one thing we know is that they all are thieves, and that we must protect each other.”

“And I’m sure that your societies never steal from your people, and never kill, and that you’re second only to God’s angels in heaven.” I regretted the words as soon as I said them, but not enough to take them back; after all, my life was already in her hands, was it not?

I waited for her to give the order, but she laughed again. And then there was drumming and drunken song as the members of the Bois Caïman fellowship returned from work.

“I will not kill you now, Mesye,” said the queen. “Stay and eat with us.”

“Stay? Why?”

“If you’ve come to arrest me,” she said, “then we must have a trial.”



It should have been Georges and Antenor who provided supper, because the Society had worked on their land today, but I called for a lamb to be slaughtered and for potatoes and plaintains to be brought from my house. I called for some raje – ganja, the weed – to be thrown on the fire. “We must have a trial!” I cried. “We must have a ceremony! We will call Loko!”

The conseils left and returned in striped robes and hats of red and white, Loko’s colors. The chef, my deputy, took up his elaborate crown of boxes and portraits, that the loa could recognize him. I remained in my white dress. The loa knew who I was.

The taffia was passed around. The people drank, the gendarmes drank, and at last, the auditor drank. We inhaled deeply from the flames and the world swam. Plantains and potatoes were roasted as the sun set, and delivered to a communal bowl that the folk of the Bois Caïman would share. The smell of lamb gave richness to the air, competing with the raje and the rum.

“We will have a trial!” I said again. “Call your witness.”

“Sylvain!” said the conseil. “What did Madelin do to you?”

The man Sylvain pulled up the sleeve of his robe to show a deep scar. “When I cleared some land, Madelin wanted it for himself, so he threw my family out and his cacos gave me this when I fought.”

“Laurent!” the other conseil commanded. “Tell us of Madelin.”

“He came with the tax collector and took three times what the law demanded. They split it between themselves, and the mayor also took his share.”

“Jean-Robert! Tell what happened to you.”

“The chief of police sent men to my house. They told me to go to Ti Memenne, and tell her that nothing would happen if she killed Madelin. The chief had learned that the auditor was stealing from him too, and also Enguerrand the mayor. Enguerrand was to be next.”

At that, I finally saw the auditor betray surprise. He hadn’t realized that we had our deals with the officials, that we did their bidding sometimes so that our people would be unmolested? He hadn’t realized that we paid for protection just as we took fees for it?

“You didn’t realize,” I asked, “that your government is only our societies writ large?”

“No,” he said, through a haze of ganja. “I didn’t know. But we don’t do things that way any more.”

“You don’t? Then prove it.”

I rose from my chair and motioned to him. He no longer had any resistance, and he followed me into the house while the drums beat. He offered no protest when I undressed him, and then when I took off my own clothes and lay on the bed. He laid himself down next to me, and I took him in my arms.

“Will you take oath to me, and deal fairly with us as a many of your government?”

“Your government too.”

“Will you take oath to me?”

He stopped arguing. “As a member of your Society?”

“As our king. The King of Gonâve. If the government has set you over us, we will crown you, and you will rule under our law and theirs. If we and they are one, then there will be no more of this rule of thieves.”

“Until the next man comes,” he said. “Or will you do the same to him?”

“We will take care of that when it happens. Will you take the oath?”

He nodded. There are few more powerful combinations than drink, raje and revelation.

“What is your name?” I asked.


“You are not Faustin tonight. You are Loko, and I am Madame Erzulie. We will give birth to a new world.”

I lifted him from where he lay – he was a feather, compared to my size – and took him inside me. It seemed that all the world was within, and I cried out, and so did he.


In the morning they put a crown on my head – Faustin I, King of Gonâve, consort of the queen Ti Memenne. It was all against the law, but if the only way to administer the law fairly was to break it…

I feared that I had accepted far too much of her law already. I feared that it would not be nearly enough.

The drums beat, and they sent me on my way down the path to Anse-à-Galets. I was king, and I was auditor, and there were three men in the town who needed to be replaced.

-- 1951​
What year does the Durand update take place in?

Sorry, it's 1913. I've edited the post to reflect that.

Interesting update.


By way of background, Gonâve is an island in the gulf between the two "arms" of Haiti. It was maroon country from the beginning. It's marginal land - landings are few, water scarce, the terrain difficult and the decent agricultural land a good way inland - so the French never did more than set up outposts while escaped slaves (and possibly Caribbean native refugees) colonized the interior. The resulting culture held onto a good deal more of its African roots than that in the rest of Haiti, although there was some French influence via the Haitian government during the nineteenth century.

The Congo Societies existed in OTL and are similar to West African cooperative societies. They originally formed for self-defense against cacos and pirates, protection of migrant workers' property, and sharing of tools and labor for work that requires more than one family. In OTL, they faded away during the American occupation after new administrative and farming techniques came in. In TTL, there was no occupation, so the agricultural reforms were adopted more organically and enforced by the societies. Also, under the pressure of a predatory government, the societies evolved into something like the early Mafia; they charge for protection, establish monopolies, are involved in minor rackets and act as a court of first resort in the absence of any real government presence. They aren't good guys, but they're less bad than most of the readily-available alternatives.

BTW, I'm planning for this timeline to include 16 to 20 stories, with the last one set in the present day. The next one, as currently planned, will be in the 1860s-70s, and then back to the 1890s and the Black Prince.
Thanks for the update.
By the way, who'll succeed the "queen" when she died?
If someone messed with the (Congo) Societies, what will be the consequence?
By the way, who'll succeed the "queen" when she died?

If someone messed with the (Congo) Societies, what will be the consequence?

The succession in the Congo Societies wasn't hereditary; generally, when a queen or emperor died, the members of the society would choose a new one from their senior officers.

And if you mess with one, nothing good happens - think Sicilian Mafia wars. However, as both Ti Memenne and Faustin half-realize, crowning a civil officer as king and building links between the official and unofficial governments will erode some of their Mafia-like aspects (although it will also reinforce the Mafia-like aspects of the civil authority).
Was his name Faustin on purpose ( like OTL American Faustin Wirkus)

Yes it was, although since Faustin Soulouque never became emperor in TTL, the name carries no particular magic.

Ti Memenne (which Wikipedia wrongly spells as a single word; "Ti" is a title) was also chosen deliberately, although she's a different person who happens to have the same regnal name.

I'd be grateful for another comment so that the next story, when it comes, won't be on the bottom of the page.


I'm still only on the second page, but I must say:

Jonathan, this is marvelous. A toast to you and yours, good sir.