Haiti, Cherie

Special to Informer | 2/27/2013, 12:10 p.m.

Celebrating the Haiti Few Acknowledge

Growing up in Haiti as a little girl, I never wished to be anywhere else. I can say that I was among the privileged children who had a peep into the outside of Haiti world -- my dad would take us to the movies, we had a black and white (then) TV and we would be introduced to foreigners coming to see my dad's painting work. We also went to very good schools, where we learned to be proud Haitians. Haiti had it all: lots of flowers, especially on the Champ-de-Mars, in front of houses, nice green grass, toy and jewelry stores from which Santa Claus would come to our house, and lots of fruit trees blooming and riping colorfully. At one time we lived close enough to the beach that when we all had to go out, some would rush to the sea and bathe rather than taking turns at home. It was simply a beautiful paradise.

Haiti is like a sibling for whom one has a love-hate relationship. And that is how I explain the difficulty others have in capturing the beauty and vibrancy of Haiti and its people. They refuse to accept that Haiti, as a Black country, is second only to the United States in gaining independence. There is a refusal to accept that Haiti can be so much more beautiful, have so much more of a diversified culture that does not know the word "boring." There is a refusal to accept that Haitians can be so proud, so confident, and above all, so resilient.

One simple example of others' refusal to accept Haiti for what it is can be found in the way cruisers view their trip to Labadie, an overly beautiful and Western-developed part of Haiti. They would not say they "visited Labadie in Haiti"; they would simply say that "Labadee" was part of the cruise, even changing the spelling to make it sound as a different place other than Haiti.

Although Haiti's culture does not currently seem to have much influence on the outside, it has impacted greatly on other countries, especially the West Indian and Caribbean islands. Haiti has been a model for most countries to fight to gain their independence. Haiti's products were much sought after by tourists who would not have enough arms to carry the treasures, especially art pieces, they purchased before going back to their countries. I remember how Haitian cotton was so appreciated and exclusive!

Haitians are Haitians because there are things that are embedded in us that can only be haitian. It's not just the language in itself, but what the language expresses, and how the language expresses what is being said. There are things we Haitians can only say in Creole, the Haitian Creole. So many people from different countries eat rice, but only Haitians can introduce you to "diri djon djon" -- which is rice with the one and only Haitian mushroom. So many people from different countries eat pork, but only Haitians can introduce you to "griyo (or griot) a unique way of preparing pork meat. I could go on and on.