Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Haitian Dyaspora

When I read ''Krik ?Krak !'', I thought about the Haitian dyaspora, all those Haitians who have fled their country because of political or economical reasons. I met a few of them and though they were ‘‘disconnected from the physical landscape’’ of Haiti (Joanne Hyppolite,‘‘Dyaspora’’), their heart was still connected to it. I met several young Haitians who studied abroad and interestingly, they manifested the desire to go back to Haiti to use their skills and improve the situation of their country. I remember last year in Montpellier, I met this seventeen years old boy who did not know Haiti because he had been adopted by a French couple when he was a baby, but still, he had the desire to go back to Haiti and change things. I also met this young Haitian girl who studied tourism in Guadeloupe. She was on the beach with her brother who came to visit her and lived in New York. She told me that her ultimate goal was to go back to Haiti to help develop tourism. This optimism showed by young people radically contrasts with the situation of other Haitians who left their homeland to make a living in other parts of the world. Almost every morning, when I went to High School, the police would stop the bus to check if there were Haitians. Those Haitians were going to work and sometimes could not reach their destination because their papers were not in order. The most important thing for those Haitians was not to go back to Haiti where they lived in dire straits.

The author herself is part of this Haitian Dyaspora. She left Haiti when she was twelve during a dictatorship. Interestingly, in the introduction of the ‘‘Butterfly’s Way,’’she mentions those people who critize the Haitians who left their country. She writes that when she talks to her family in Haiti about political matters they tell her : ‘‘What do you know ? You’re a dyaspora.’’But once, the Haitian journalist Jean Dominique defined theDyaspora to her : ‘‘They are people with their feet planted in both worlds.’’ He meant that all Haitians whether they live inside or outside the motherland are sons and daugthers of Haiti. This reminded me what I read in Hau’ofa’s ‘' Our Sea of Islands.’’He defends the fact that the world of Oceania is larger and richer than what people tend to think, because it also includes the Oceanic dyaspora, those Pacific Islanders who come in and out the Pacific borders. However there is a difference regarding the motives of travelling between Haitians and Pacific Islanders. Hau’ofa says that ‘‘Pacific Islanders have broken out of their confinement (…) not so much because their countries are poor but because they were unnaturally confined and severed from many of their traditional sources of wealth and because it is in their blood to be mobile.’’

Mobility motivated by a desire or a necessity is a leitmotiv in Danticat’s short stories. In ‘‘Children of the Sea’’, the narrator escapes political persecution, in ''Nineteen Thirty-Seven'', Défilée is thought to have wings and did escape the night when Trujillo ordered the massacre of Hatians or in ‘‘A Wall of Fire Rising,’’ Guy coverts his boss’ balloon. He wants to fly in order to escape the harsh reality offered by Haiti. It seems that if one wants to survive, one has to travel physically, mentally or through storytelling.

Storytelling associated with travelling was a key point in all the readings we have done so far. For instance, In ‘‘Invisible Cities’’ storytelling allowed Khan and Marco Polo to establish a human contact. In ‘‘They Who Do Not Grieve’’, the grandmothers tell their granddaughters past stories that help them to know who they are. In the same line, travelling and storytelling allow the narrator of ''Children of the Sea'' to identify himself with his African ancestors who crossed the Middle Passage. Danticat underlines the healing power of storytelling. For example, some of the women tell stories to each other to appease the vomiting in the boat.The realities told by the narrator who travels to Miami such as the crimes and numerous rapes commited by the Tonton macoutes are unbereable but still, we can read them. Storytelling provides a kind of distance that allow us to face harsh realities and maybe to heal from past wounds.

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