Gardening History – Governor Christophe and the gourd

There is no doubt Gourds have a long history and many uses from utensils, instruments, and crating purposes. There are so many gourd varieties that it is harden to count them all. What makes this harder is that the same gourd had different names in different countries. But the gourd holds a unique history in Haiti

Henri Christophe, 1767-1820, was a freed black slave who helped Toussaint L’ouverture in the liberation of Haiti. He was considered to be a revolutionary leader and was know for having an energetic but rather tyrannical reign.

Christophe became Governor of northern Haiti in 1807 and later appointed himself Emperor. He came into office at a time when the country was bankrupt. But food grew wild though out the country and crops were plentiful

The people in that region made use of the gourd for bottles, bowls, spoons and utensils. The gourd was an important of the life of the Haitian peasants. It supplied them with their every day needs.

Christophe noticed the gourds importance to the communities and declared every green gourd in northern Haiti would be the property of the state. When the crop was ready to be harvested the gourds would be collected and brought to the city. The peasants were in no position to make objections so the collection began.

The governor’s soldiers went around to every village to collect the gourd crop. It is told that a great procession of laden burros and high-piled farm carts delivered them to the city. Over 227,000 green gourds and calabashes were deposited into “The Treasury,” that year.

Governor Christophe put a value of 20 pigs on each gourd. To this day the standard coin of Haiti is called the gourde.

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