…of the Haitian exodus
Your Eyewitness continues to examine the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse, not because of any morbid fascination with death, but at the oddity of it in this day and age. Folks don’t just go around assassinating Heads of State any longer! It’s just so…. well…CRUDE! The latest titbit of information coming this way was that a Haitian-origin Miami doctor might be the mastermind (or at least one of them) behind the mercenary hit. Two of the other Haitians captured with the Colombian hired guns – supposedly to act as interpreters – were also from the Miami area.
And this brings your Eyewitness to examining the role of “expatriate Haitians” and their “home” to maybe glean some lessons for us Guyanese – who also have a massive expatriate community. With Haiti being so close to America and that country practically running their raped and immiserised country between 1915 and 1937, the Haitian exodus into the US began. And hasn’t stopped since…to create wide-flung communities in New York, Miami and New Jersey, etc, that amount to over two million persons of Haitian descent! That’s a lot of people. There is also a large community in friendly French-speaking Montreal that started in the 1960s.
Now while the common perception of Haitians is that of the “boat people” scrambling ashore on Florida beaches, many of the community are from the solidly middle and upper classes who have established themselves in very respectable communities. Many Guyanese who’ve visited their relatives in Queens would know the Haitians in working-class Rosedale as well as middle-class Queens Village. Those who visited their relatives in Brooklyn would know they live cheek and jowl in Flatbush and Canarsie, etc. The Haitians consider their cohorts in Queens and (finally) Long Island to be more “upscale”!! All ethnic groups seem to recapitulate the same history of working hard and “moving up” into the suburbs!!
Down in Florida, Guyanese who have fled New York for the Sunshine State would have also met up with the Haitians there. Interestingly, many Haitians have also moved from up north for the climate!! But most Haitians who have recently arrived as “boat people” have pretty much stuck to Little Haiti in Miami and its environs. It has sadly become another inner-city ghetto.
With all the Haitians passing through Guyana to get to Brazil and Suriname, it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that there are large Haitian communities in Brazil and French Guiana. As in Little Haiti in Miami, these more recent arrivals who have fled Haiti are packed in slums and are quite exploited – starting with the coyotes who fleece them!
And Haiti continues to bleed.
…and their “navel strings”
It’s a cliche to point out that the US is a “nation of immigrants”. With their racial pre-1965 immigration criteria, most of those immigrants came from Europe – first from Northern Europe, especially Germany and Ireland (because of famine, worse than the Haitians!) – and then the South with the Italians and Greeks. More recent arrivals like the Haitians and us – can learn a lot of what’s ahead by reading novels describing how those earlier immigrants fared.
One constant is the longing by the first generation for “the old country”. However, only a handful will ever return – and those who do rarely can fit in. So when we hear all the entreaties for our Diaspora to “return” and invest – some may invest but remain in the new homes they would’ve recreated in their “Little Guyana” and “Little Haiti”. Much like the “Little Italy” that preceded them in lower Manhattan. As Tom Wolfe reminded us, “You can’t go home again”.
Just as you can’t step into the same river twice!