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Martha Jean Claude

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In 1952, I was imprisoned for publishing a play, "Avrinette," which the regime of President Paul Magloire found subversive. I fled to Cuba on December 20, 1952. 

I left Haiti after spending several months in prison while pregnant, I gave birth two days after getting out. One month after leaving prison—my husband was in Cuba—I left to join him. I had married Cuban journalist Victor Mirabal, whom I met after one of my shows. A few months later, we got married in Venezuela. 

In Cuba, I quickly became a star on the stage, radio, and television, playing with different orchestras and in many clubs, including the famous "Tropicana." In 1957, I spent a year working in Mexico, where my "Afro Cabaret" was very popular on television. 

When I returned to Cuba in 1958, the country was in upheaval and I sided with the revolutionaries. After the Batista dictatorship fell in 1959, I became something of an ambassador for the Cuban Revolution, Haitian culture, and the anti-Duvalierist struggle, bringing my concerts to many socialist countries as well as playing at schools, Army bases, and official receptions in Cuba.I even travelled with the Cuban Army to Angola in the 1970s. I also toured Paris, Montreal, New York, Panama, Mexico, and Spain. 

After 34 years in exile, I returned to Haiti in 1986, after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier, and held a triumphant concert. I performed again in Port-au-Prince in 1991 with Mackandal, a musical group I formed in 1978 with my children Richard and Sandra. 

Several of my grandchildren accompanied me to a concert in my honor with Despradines and Cuban singer Celia Cruz at the Sylvio Cator stadium in Port-au-Prince in July 1996. 

I appeareds at a reception in the Palace of the Revolution in Havana on July 17 on the occasion of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s state visit to Cuba. Although in a wheel-chair,I bantered cheerfully with Fidel Castro and Aristide. 

The same year, President René Préval honored me with Haiti’s highest medal of honor. With my children born in Cuba, I created my foundation, with the goal of perfecting the artistic formation of youth and to allow better cultural relations between Haiti and Cuba." 

I am Martha Jean Claude...