Monday, February 25, 2013

Parc Historique de la Canne a Sucre

After visiting the Embassy on Valentine's Day (and being approved for Arold's visa!) we drove around the corner and visited the Sugar Cane Historic Park. (please pardon the picture placement in this post. It looks good when I'm editing it, but the pictures move whenever I hit "post.")

We learned that the site was once a big sugar cane plantation and the Frenchman who owned it was named Chateaubland. He was very successful because he exported the sugar and sugar cane products (like rum) to France. The French apparently really liked the cane syrup and rum.

He would ring the bell in the morning to tell the slaves it was time to come to work. Later in the day the ringing of the bell signified when they could eat and when they could go "home" for the day.

Next we saw a big water wheel that was fed from an aqueduct, a very good use of resources for the time period.

Then we went under a little tunnel where the slaves would carry the cane to the "crusher." (the tour was in Creole and my husband translated for me, but since he doesn't like translating I didn't get the specifics.) The crusher was powered by cows harnessed to big poles connected to the metal things. The cows walked in a circle and made the metal things crush the cane. (Such a great description, I know.)

From there the sugar cane pulp was taken to these cauldrons and boiled and boiled and boiled some more. When it reached it's final sticky semi solid state it was transferred to big funnels sitting on top of clay pots. It took a month for the syrup to drain into the pot, while the crystalized sugar remained in the funnel.

Next we visited the distillery where we learned that rum can be made from the syrup in about 24 hours. But then it has to sit in barrels for years so that it ages and tastes better.

After the revolution and exit of the French plantation owner, Haiti wasn't exporting sugar cane products or rum to France anymore. (Something about the US still having slaves and being able to produce it for less money than the free Haitians wanted to be paid.) But with the industrial age, came a faster and less labor intensive process for refining the sugar cane. We saw a set up for how it's processed now and it included a steam powered crusher and steam powered boiler pots, and a very tidy looking set up.

Overall, we learned a lot about Haiti's history with sugar cane and the process for refining it. And we got a lot of pictures of a really old steam engine. I think my husband thought the train was the coolest part.

Canne a Sucre is now an historical site and also used for concerts and big events. I often see signs for concerts happening there, and after visiting I can see why it's such a great place for entertainment. (The events are generally above our price range, and Johane tells me that it's very difficult to find parking when you go there for an event.) All that to say, there's a big stage and a bunch of tent pavilions set up with tables and chairs for the events among all the old artifacts. So as we were walking from one sugar cane piece of history to the next, we would our way through the tables and chairs set up for fancy concerts. You can check out the website, but be warned it's in French.

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