By Kristi Ries
Unlike the country it represents, the official flag of Haiti is young, having been adopted in 1987. A tiny island country in the Western Caribbean, Haiti has existed for hundreds of years. Indigenous tribes who were later ‘discovered’ by the great Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus were the island’s first inhabitants. Following this, both Spain and France colonized what is now modern-day Haiti. Eventually, however, the island’s emerging multicultural population fought and won its independence in 1804. A new nation was born.
On the afternoon of January 12, 2010, the small nation’s history and life of its citizens was turned upside down. Haiti was struck by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake, the country’s most severe earthquake in more than two centuries. The epicenter of the quake was just off the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. Entire communities have been leveled and countless lives have ended prematurely.
What this nation’s flag symbolizes and the feelings it evokes are what makes it so singularly powerful. It recognizes the country’s European heritage through its vibrant blue and red colors. This new design was based on a torn French Tricolore flag and features Haiti’s Coat of Arms centered in a white square.
For all who see and recognize it today, however, the flag of Haiti serves as a reminder that help is urgently needed and that a major humanitarian crisis is occurring as we go about our daily lives.
Once Americans are away from their television sets, laptops and radios, it is somehow easier to forget the overwhelming devastation to this impoverished Caribbean nation. Yet people all over the world are showing a unified front by displaying the flag of Haiti in office windows, on their cars or outside their homes. Numerous skyscrapers in major cities have been lit in the Haitian colors of blue and red to pay respect to the multitude of lives lost in the recent tragedy.
As the unbelievable destruction and rising death toll become more apparent, many organizations and individuals have come to Haiti’s aid. Displaying the Flag of Haiti is a quiet call to action; one that clearly declares ‘you are not forgotten or forsaken’ to those bereft of their homes, family, or worst of all—hope.
Visit the American Red Cross for information on donating money to Haiti.