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Voices of Haiti

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Welcome to Caribe's interview series with Haiti's youth. Amidst challenges, they offer hope, dreams, and love for their homeland. Join us to hear their voices, celebrate resilience, and gain insights into Haiti's present and future.

 

 

1) Which of your parents are Haitians, and how did they meet?

Agatha: My mom is Haitian she was born in Port-au-Prince. She left the country when she was 14 and was raised in Miami, Florida.

Rachel: Both of my parents are Haitians that met in Sint Maarten.

Stryder Marius:  Both of my parents are Haitians and got together in their early 20’s. Their hometowns are pretty close together and they most likely met through some friends

 

 

2) What Caribbean cultural aspects are specific to Haiti, in your opinion? (Language, food, dancing, etc)

Agatha: The food, the music, our art, our cultural diversity… But what stands out to me because it’s what I’ve been investigating and is yet another layer to the unique narrative of Haiti.

Haiti is a sacred land, known to be the land of the gods in pre-colonial times. It is the first Black independent country in the world achieving independence in 1804 through the only successful slave-led revolution. Enslaved Africans, originally from warrior tribes in Togo, Benin and the Congo brought with them the Vodou religion, which merged with Taino believes on the island. This religion played a fundamental role in securing our freedom. The belief in this polytheistic faith proved unbreakable even against European attempts to impose Catholicism. In response, people ingeniously found a way to continue their worship  by integrating Catholic Saints images, a practice known as syncretism, where one meaning is hidden behind another. This  syncretism has evolved into the Haitian Vodou we know today. It is a survival tool made to bring community among the people, like hair braiding, serving as a means to maintain a connection to their motherlands. It's fascinating to learn about the significance of the land, the roots of our people, and the development of Vodou as a key aspect of our identity and struggle for freedom.

Rachel: The food is DELICIOUS. A holy grail. Cooking for Haitians is specific. Haitians make sure to wash their meat with lime, vinegar and salt and season their meat properly. There are some great dishes that are native to the country like Dili Djon Djon, or Sweet Eye which is like a drier crushed plantain. For music, the most well known genre would have to be Konpa, but other genres like Twouba Dou, Rabo Day, which is like Afrobeats and Pop mixed together, Raga, which has its own dance, and Bolero, which is similar to DR Bolero but the words are creole. People also use natural remedies from the earth. I grew up drinking a lot of bitter tea, which is a staple in Haitian households. Mugwort is also just really good for headaches, preventing stomach parasites and it also regulates your menstrual cycle. But the most often used medicine in Haiti is definitely Castor Oil. It’s great for your hair, skin, purging, just about anything you can think of.

 

Stryder Marius: I’m not biased I swear, but Haitian food is the best food you will ever have. Lalo dish is very very good, but there are so much more, like Legume, Griyo and much more.

 

 

 

 

3) Were/Are there any aspects of Haitian food/ music in your childhood or adulthood?

Agatha: Haitians use a variety of natural herbs and plants for their food and medicine. My mom used to make me lots of tea, and she’d make it with a variety of plants. One thing my grand mother has passed down to me is her passion for aloe vera. It is a big thing! You can use it on your face, body and hair. And you can ingest it in the morning on an empty stomach, it’s super bitter but it’s basically good for everything.

Rachel: Well, I grew up listening to Raga, Bookman experiences and Emeline Michel. Emeline Michel did A.K.I.K.O, which is a song about peace in the world, and I gravitated naturally to that. My mom practices voodoo. Voodoo is the about worshipping your ancestors, as well as the God you can find in nature. We know that God is nature and in nature and every God has their own symbol, and colored flag. This religion really brings an element of community. It originates from Benin, Africa, which is where a lot of enslaved Haitians were brought from. It was a really powerful tool that brought communities together and it is abominable that Voodoo is often portrayed as inherently bad. The West saw Haiti as the first Black Republic and decided to punish them by villainizing Voodoo (among other things). Resilience is very big in Haiti, and the Western world continued to isolate Haiti economically and socially. Haiti has always been the catalyst for change and has even helped other groups when their down.
 

Stryder Marius: I try to cook Haitian food and eat at Haitian restaurants here in the States. I also listen to Konpa and Haitian musicians, like Wanito and Annick. Haitian music is what your energy is and how you feel.

 

 

 

4) Why do you think there are so many Haitians that are immigrating out of Haiti?

Agatha: Mainly due to the country’s instability and the ongoing increased gang violence provoked by foreign countries ever since the President was murdered. I don’t have much family left living in Haiti, fortunately they come and go. But I empathise with those who do not have a choice and cannot leave the country, it is our common struggle.

 

Rachel: Political unrest and harsh environmental conditions are growing now more than ever. Gangs have now left the capital and are now situated in Leogang. I have a niece that goes to a Catholic Nun school, and one day they found an envelope that read ‘I dare you to open the school’ with bullet holes through them. After that, my niece never went back to school. It is really frustrating to see that they are even preventing the youth from going to school. My niece said that police officers are constantly fighting them, but some have lost their lives in the fight. Our President was also killed live, and he was the only one that wanted to create a better change. I know that American intervention was the cause. The guns are all imported and it wouldn’t be the first time that outside influences have tried to undermine Haiti, especially from the US.
 

Stryder Marius: I think some people immigrate due to the insecurity of being Haitian. But a lot of people are immigrating to have a better life.

 

5) What do you think are people’s perceptions of Haitians?

Agatha: I hear stories of how older generations of Haitian-American would be teased for their nationality growing up in the U.S.. The Western media has done a good job at portraying us and our culture as the villains throughout time.  Haiti is such a rich and resourceful country, other countries want a piece of what we have, and try to destabilise our self sufficiency, especially America. We, as Haitians, know who we are and will continue to be resilient.

 

Rachel: People would tease me for being Haitian. America really made it look like Haitians are animals. There was a period in time where people thought Haitians had HIV and Trump even said Haiti was a ‘shit-hole’. Another president, Bill Clinton, made things really corrupt in Haiti. The country itself has so many resources. There is rare gold found on the island, iridium, which is extremely rare and valuable, rice, coffee, sugar. Haiti was known as the Pearl of the Antilles and the West has stopped Haiti from creating and exporting their own goods, in order to diminish the economy. The indigenous Taino and Arawaks were also kept separate from African enslaved people during slavery times. This led to a lot of isolation and a lot of them who still exist today have European backgrounds.
 

Stryder Marius:  It really depends on the person. I know some people understand and appreciate it, but there are groups of people who don’t know anything about Haiti, and therefore get manipulated on the version of Haiti that others see. Not everyone is happy and well fed in Haiti, but sometimes the media over- exaggerates. There are some Instagram Pages that so show how beautiful and vibrant Haiti is. HaitianAmerican is the page, I believe.

 

6) Are there any aspects of being Haitian that you would like to pass down to future generations?

Agatha: Everything! first of all our vibrancy, the food, the music, knowledge about plants and our landscapes, values, storytelling, and our strong spirit. I would also like to highlight and pass down women’s contributions to our rich History of the country. However, it’s crucial to exclude generational sexism, it’s important to teach future generations in equality.    

 

Rachel: DEFINITELY! I would love to pass down story-telling, knowledge about culture, food, and music. Even though it seems like Haiti doesn’t have unity, WE DO. Haitians are able to find each other in different countries and link up to create such a vibe. I would not pass down the ‘slavery mindset’ that some Haitian men have. A lot of men tend to still be sexist in Haiti.
 

Stryder Marius: Language is the most important aspect for me to pass down. I really like speaking Creole with my friends and family. I also think it’s important for me to pass down the food and music of Haiti.

 

7) Are any of you doing anything specific for BHM this year?

Agatha: I’m an artist and investigator, hence, BHM is a year round thing for me. I actively support and attend every Black and Caribbean-related event whenever possible. I recommend visiting a very interesting exhibition called ‘Whose Land Is It Anyway?’ in MaMA’s showroom space in Rotterdam, which explores the ABC-SSS islands, addressing themes of decolonialism, tourism, sustainability and self-sufficiency. In Madrid, a friend of mine has recently opened his art studio to the public. His art practice is centred around the Haitian Vodou culture, commemorating our history of self-determination, with an emphasis on women’s contributions to History. 

Rachel: Every month for me is BHM. Knowledge is an ongoing thing, and I will not follow an American-made ‘holiday’ for something that everyone should learn about. Every first of January, I do Sojomu, and my friends and I celebrate Flag Day on May 18th. It’s really fun, there’s lots of singing and dancing.
 

Stryder Marius: I am going to an African museum for the upcoming month to extend my knowledge.

 

8) What is something that you would like people to know about Haiti or Haitians or even the current climate?

Agatha: I hope that someday we will be able to go back and rebuild with a sense of security. The influence of Imperialism remains a persistent challenge, and it is crucial for the West to cease interference and let us chart our own course. The consequences of colonialism persist, and the West continues to remind us. I hope that, one day, we can transcend internal divisions rooted in classism and colourism to really unify and push for real freedom for everyone.

 

Rachel: Some Caribbean islands are definitely jealous. I’ve heard things like ‘Look at the state of the country’, but not everyone is like that of course. I want other Caribbean islands to be more considerate though, and acknowledge that all the things that have happened to Haiti, it’s because of slavery. Haiti is resilient and Haitians are super loving people, but will fight if you push them to. I wish the world would stop intervening and allow Haiti to work and push towards a more equal society.
 

Stryder Marius: Haitians are resilient. One day the sun will shine on Haiti again. Oh and HAITIAN FOOD IS THE BEST FOOD.

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