Marie-Louise (Amélia Célestine Blézine) Pierrot Alexis (ca 1826 Cap-Haïtien – October 11, 1908 Port-au-Prince [died while her husband was still in office]) fulfilled this hyphenated, complimentary role by adding much-needed legitimacy, moral support, and symbolic power to her husband’s presidency and to the North of Haiti. As the daughter of Jean-Louis Pierrot and niece of revolutionary and self-proclaimed King Henri Christophe, she was the darling of the North. Add to that social clout, her father’s baptism of Cap–Haïtien as the new capital, perceived dislike of Ouesterners and Sudistes, and noble title under the Christophe realm, and one arrives at a definitively Nord family entering the National Palace in 1902. Furthermore, if one climbs up her family tree, her Grand mulâtre du Nord (Pierrot) and Grand Noir du Nord (Coidavid) heritage garnish her crown as the Lady of the North. The symbolic significance of her parentage reached its zenith on January 1, 1904 in Gonaïves as the Republic celebrated 100 years of independence. Whereas Madiou eulogizes the era of heroes with “Alors commence à s’éteindre la race vigoureuse de nos géants révolutionnaires, de ces hommes de fer, à fortes convictions, qui ont fait de grandes chosesparce qu’ils étaient mus par de grandes et nobles idées”, First Lady Alexis stands as a direct link to the revolutionary period. Just as her ancestors fought for freedom, so too did her husband and his northern armies capture the presidency, and–they hoped–the nation.
Appearing legitimate before this North was important because of the influential role of the cacos—disenfranchised, landless, frustrated peasants who wanted to change the authoritarian, centralizing political structure but offered their labor to generals (both foreign and local) in return for a pittance. They often proclaimed the next president through military expeditions into the capital. Pierre Nord-Alexis’ status as general from the North, assured his rise to power, but the social legitimacy and symbolic clout he and fundamentally his wife carried prevented any agitation from that area; they became le choix du peuple. Fittingly, it would be the South and Nord-Alexis’ overly firm hand that would be his undoing.
Long before her husband’s eventual demise, CéCé provided influential moral support to her octogenarian husband. CéCé channeled her “occult” popularity (Desquiron) to buttress her husband’s standing. The spontaneous meringues singing her praises, reflected well on her husband. That songs celebrating her husbands defeat by Antoine Simon continue to mention her name only underlines her influence-or infamy- in the early 20th century. Through popular music she served as the hyphen between the stern Tonton Nord–a friendly, elderly relation, but by no means your father– and the people, specifically, rueful non-Northerners. In turn ‘Mère Alexis’, becomes the cherished nurturer of the Republic; the extended, well-pedigreed hand bringing the nation into another century of independence. Thus her status as ‘Mère Alexis’ or simply ‘CéCé’ served as a fair counterpoint to soften her husband’s image and symbolically cemented his position as leader of the nation.
This was a travail de longue haleine! I’m very disappointed that there are so few resources available concerning Haitian First Ladies before the 1950′s. The sexism of their contemporaries is no excuse to not dig deeper and assess the weight they carried in the popular imagination and traceable documents. CéCé doesn’t even have her own Wikipedia page. Nor does her mother…
Merci à Marlène Racine-Toussaint d’avoir œuvré dans un jardin peu étudié et très important. Que tes travailles continuent à porter fruits!
courtesy : https://haitianhistory.tumblr.com/page/16