Today marks not just the start of 2022, but Haiti's Independence Day. For the occasional, our board member Serge Hyacinthe explains the importance of January 1st in Haiti and the special meaning behind soup joumou, as well as how to make it at home.
As Haitians, we are no strangers to natural disasters and political challenges that have excruciating impacts on our nation and families, but 2021 has been an especially heart-wrenching year for most Haitians. Yet, even these endowed afflictions could not shield our inner souls against the pain and sheer humiliation of our treatment at the hands of U.S. Customs Agents, the brazen assassination of our sitting president, and the complete disregard of our sovereignty. The challenges of the year forced many of us to become superhuman with a suffocating sense of resilience.
For this reason, we will welcome January 1st, 2022 with moments of reflection and remembrance. It will be a day when many will bend a knee, say a prayer, call out to the ancestors and befallen loved ones, or attend a service. And some may ponder with sincerity: Has the Creator who has given us 1804, freedom from our enslavers, independence in a very hostile world, the Creator of all humanity, the all-merciful and beneficent forsaken us? But history would remind us, it is not the Creator who has forsaken us, but nations and men. Our history would also remind us that liberty comes with a high price. So with all our challenges and pain we will celebrate and honor the sacrifices of our ancestors.
January 1st is one of our most important holidays. On that day, we give thanks for the hard-fought victory of our ancestors against the institution of slavery and colonialism. We rejoice in the divine spirits that have maintained and accompanied us through personal and collective adversities and helped us retain our identity, humanity, and souls as proud and unabashed Haitians. We celebrate the support of friends of all nationalities and hues who have supported us in our treacherous and continuous struggles. We honor the work of organizations like the Quixote Center and others whose compassion and kindness have seen no bounds. For those reasons, our faith is unwavering. Despite overwhelming odds, over the centuries, we prevailed against social, economic, and racial injustice. We must prevail because Haiti’s fight for liberation across the globe is the symbol of freedom and liberty for humanity.
Haiti’s fight for independence lasted 13 years. It is the first and only successful slave revolt for independence in the world. It is the first revolution in modern history that modeled freedom for all regardless of gender, race, and religion. The Haitian liberators included men and women who extended their knowledge and resources to help others gain their own freedom. Our ancestors including, our second leader, Henry Christophe, assisted in the American Revolution and fought in the battle of Savannah. The Haitian President Alexandre Petion supported Simon Bolivar, the great liberator of South America in 1815 with soldiers and resources. With Haiti’s help, Bolivar obtained the independence of northwest Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guyana, and northern Peru. Bolivar kept his promise to Petition by abolishing slavery in all those territories upon victory. Haiti also supported Greece as she was fighting for her own independence from the Ottoman Empire and was the first to recognize the nation in 1822.
It is with the fervor of our ancestors for freedom, this year and beyond, Haitians will celebrate January 1st, Haitian Independence Day, by connecting with family, friends, and our communities. To honor our rich cultural heritage we will share our history, dance, music, and cuisine with our family on January 1st. We invite others to celebrate with their families too by eating our Soup Joumou, also known as freedom soup. The quest for freedom and liberty is a gift that we all honor. We pray that the soup connects us, energizes us, and inspires us to create brighter tomorrows.
Below is a recipe for the Haitian freedom soup, also known as Soup Joumou:
1 pound of beef, chicken, or turkey
½ cup fresh lime juice
5 tablespoons of Goya Adobo seasoning
2 pounds calabaza squash, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 medium Idaho or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
½ small head green cabbage, shredded (about 3 cups)
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large white onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 scallions, trimmed and sliced
3 fresh parsley sprigs
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper
¼ teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves
2 pints of vegetable or meat broths
2 teaspoons kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pasta
1. Pour oil in a large pot over medium heat for about 5 to seven minutes
2. Add tomato paste, onions, scallions, scotch bonnet pepper, and stir
3. Add choice of meat (beef, chicken, or turkey) and sauté till it browns
4. Add potatoes, carrots, onions, scallions, cabbage blended squash, and choice of broth.
5. Cook and simmer periodically for about 30 minutes.