From: Bob Corbett <>
To: Bob Corbett <>
Subject: Mme Aristide (NYT) 1
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Date: 20 Jan 96 20:51:48 EST
From: Greg Chamberlain

New Yorker is marrying Aristide, briefly becoming the first lady of Haiti

By Garry Pierre-Pierre, New York Times, 29 January 1996

At City College in the early 1980s, Mildred Trouillot was a reserved, winsome bookworm, one of a coterie of American-born students whose Haitian roots had been transplanted to New York City.

Saturday night, Ms. Trouillot, the youngest child of a steelworker and a hospital laboratory technician, was to become the first lady of Haiti as the wife of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The couple's romance and marriage trouble many Haitians who remember when Aristide was a Roman Catholic priest and still consider him a saint-like figure who was somehow above such things.

Many still know him not only as a political figure but as Titid, the little priest who promised to end years of suffering and oppression under a string of brutal dictatorships.

Aristide's choice of a light-skinned wife has also aroused concerns among some followers. For much of Haiti's nearly 200-year history as a republic, a rigid social and economic caste system has been based largely on the lightness of one's skin. To some, the marriage of the dark-skinned Aristide to the light-skinned Ms. Trouillot comes as a disappointment, almost a betrayal.

Aristide was already married to the Haitian people, said Olrich Charles, a sports instructor in Port-au-Prince, the capital. This is like a divorce, only three times: first from his supporters, then from his class and finally from the church.

He's not a priest anymore, so he has every right to get married, said Pe Mack, 30, a musician. I think he's also made a good choice for a wife. She's smart, she's a lawyer. I mean there's already been a compromise with the United States, so why not have a first lady with ties from there?

Aristide, 42, won a landslide victory during the presidential elections in December 1990. In September 1991, he was overthrown by Haiti's generals and sent into exile. He returned to power in October 1994, after an American-led invasion, but is to leave office on Feb. 7, when his successor and close friend, Rene Preval, is inaugurated.

The timing of the wedding was closely tied to Aristide's departure from office because it was feared that the union could take attention away from Preval, a Haitian government official said.

Although Ms. Trouillot, who is affectionately known as Minouche, comes from an old and rich Haitian heritage, counting several judges and lawyers, her family was not among the country's economic elite.

Her father, Emile Trouillot, left Haiti in 1958 and two years later his wife , Carmelle Trouillot, followed. They settled in New York where Trouillot worked grueling hours in a steel factory and his wife labored as a lab technician at a hospital.

They drove Chevys, Dominique Trouillot, the oldest of three children, told The Miami Herald in a recent interview, not Cadillacs.

Ms. Trouillot, 33, grew up in the Bronx, where she attended St. Barnabas High School for girls. After graduating from City College, she attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School and became an associate at the Manhattan law firm of Robinson, Silverman, Pearce, Aronsohn & Berman.

She met Aristide in 1992 at a lecture he gave at City College. Two years later, Ms. Trouillot was recruited to work as a legal adviser to Aristide's government in exile, which he headed from Washington.

After he returned to power, Aristide officially asked the Vatican to release him from his vows. The Vatican, which had a stormy relationship with Aristide, largely because of his political activities, has never said whether it granted the request.

Ms. Trouillot's tenure as first lady will end on the same date that Haiti's last first lady, Michele Bennett Duvalier, fled the country with her husband at the time, Jean-Claude Duvalier.

In a country where dates have more than the usual meaning, that coincidence has led some to compare the low-key Ms. Trouillot to her flamboyant predecessor.

Ms. Trouillot has said that she will dedicate her efforts to working with Haiti's homeless and street children housed at an orphanage founded by Aristide.

The couple were expected to marry at Aristide's modest home—he has refused to live in the presidential palace—in a ceremony attended by about 500 family members, friends and foreign dignitaries.