DOM-TOM stands for Département d'outre-mer - Territoire d'outre-mer, and is a commonly used acronym used to refer to Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Polynesia (ah, Tahiti dreaming in January), Saint Barth, and other French territories. Think sun, sand, a little pink umbrella in your drink.
Then there's Haiti. After being pillaged by the Spanish for slaves and gold, the French and Spanish settled their differences and split up the island, with the French quickly setting up plantations. By 1790, over 30,000 French had emigrated there seeking their fortune in sugar and coffee--on the backs of thousands of local and imported slaves. Shortly thereafter, however, inspired in part by the French Revolution, freed and enslaved blacks began to insurrect. To appease them, the French abolished slavery, hoping to develop longer lasting alliances. This position shifted with a change in government however, and Napoleon Bonaparte sent in soldiers to retake the highly profitable island. His attempt failed and in the process he would ultimately lose 50,000 soldiers. The French owners emigrated en masse, and the French government demanded that the newly independent country make very significant reparations, all but bankrupting the country before it even started. Nonetheless, Haiti was the first former colony in the world to emerge wholly independent after the abolition of slavery.
Western powers, including the United States (which occupied it from 1915 to 1934), continued to intervene in Haiti through the decades, usually to the overall detriment of the country. It has been structurally weakened over time by corruption from within and without, much to the misfortune of the average Haitian. This weakness is painfully evident in how completely the inadequately prepared Port-au-Prince collapsed after the devastating January 12 earthquake. The photos and news of profound suffering are very difficult to ignore.
But we can help right now.
If you can spare the price of a modest restaurant meal or two, please consider making a donation to a worthy organization. Partners in Health is one such organization, with a well-regarded 20 year track record in Haiti and a staff that is primarily locally-based nationals. Please take a quick moment to visit their site. And spread the word.
In 2010, Haitians are certainly ready for some acts of mercy.