In 1915, Haitian career military officer, guerrilla leader and nationalist Charlemagne Masséna Péralte led the Cacos against the Americans as they attempted to invade Haiti. He is hailed as a revered hero in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The Cacos were a group of Haitian men who assembled and controlled the mountainous areas of Haiti. Their name is derived from the bird because they “used to hide, like the bird of the same name, under the leaves so as to come unexpectedly upon and attack their enemy.”
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Péralte was born on October 10, 1885, in Hinche, the capital city in the central department of Haiti. His parents were said to have emigrated from the present-day Dominican Republic.
In July 1915, the U.S. Marine invaded Haiti. At the time, Péralte was the military chief of Léogane, Haiti. Not willing to be defeated, Péralte returned to his hometown to care for his family.
After a failed attempt to raid the Hinche gendarmerie payroll, Péralte was sentenced to five years of hard labor. He eventually escaped, organized a group of nationalist rebels and waged war against the U.S. troops.
The Cacos were such a powerful force that American troops were compelled to enlist the help of more soldiers and used airplanes to counter-attack the insurgent group.
On November 1, 1919, in what was designed as a gathering for a transitional government, Péralte was betrayed by one of his officers, Jean-Baptiste Conzé. Conzé led Marine Sergeant Herman H. Hanneken and Corporal William Button in disguises near the rebel camps located at Grand-Rivière Du Nord.
Péralte was shot in the heart and his body was immediately taken by Hanneken and his troops. Péralte’s body was then nailed to a door and the image was distributed throughout Haiti to discourage wannabe rebel fighters.
The image which showed Péralte in a position similar to that of Jesus Christ only solidified his status as a martyr.
In 1935, after the end of the American invasion in Haiti, Péralte’s remains were excavated and he was given a national funeral.
Throughout history, there have been other brave individuals who have risked their freedom and lives to protect their fellow countrymen and women.
One example is Solitude, a woman who joined in the fight against French troops in Guadeloupe in 1802.
She was said to be a fierce and fearless warrior who “pushed herself and her belly into the heart of the battles” at Dole, Trou-aux-chiens, Fond-Bananier, and Capesterre. Solitude has since been described as the symbol of Caribbean women who fought to protect the ideals of equality and freedom.
Another example is the members of the Stono Rebellion, involving slaves from the Kongo who revolted against their masters in America during the 1700s. Led by Jemmy, an elite slave who had gained some form of education, the slaves attacked many plantations killing slave owners and setting other slaves free. Many slaves started to make their way towards Spanish Florida while the group of rebels continued their killing. The total number of deaths was close to 30 whites and 60 rebels.