Wednesday, October 31, 2012

[HoI Course] Top Hats, Skeletons, and Zombies (Haiti Today 5/6)



    You can find the outline for the course here, a brief history of Haiti here, an introduction to Vodou here,  a discussion of daily life here, and an overview of NGOs and foreign intervention here. Please post all comments, requests, and questions in the Reddit post here rather than the blog. That way we can continue our discussion within the History of Ideas subreddit. I've also posted an album to accompany the post here so you can see how the dead and zombies are represented in Haiti. 

Top Hats, Skeletons, and Zombies
A Haiti Today Halloween Special 

    My original plan for this post was to talk about the future of Haiti. But I realized that since today is Halloween it would be much more fun and topical to talk about the spirits of the dead and zombies. We'll save the future of Haiti discussion next week. First, I will discuss the spirits of the dead, who have become part of New Orleans and even Hollywood popular culture as the skeleton wearing a top hat. Even James Bond got in on the theme with the film Live and Let Die. Then, I'll talk a little about the concept of souls in Vodou since All Saints Day and a big Vodou ceremony is coming up. And lastly, I'll tackle zombies in Haitian Vodou since they were the original source for all the zombies we see running around trick or treating today. So when your friends show up tonight in zombie outfits or share pictures on Facebook you can impress them all with your knowledge. I've also included a photo album of related pictures that you can browse here

Spirits of Death and the Dead

    We've talked a little already about the spirits of the ancestors and the lwa in my section introducing Vodou. But a brief recap might be useful. Ancestors are important actors in everyday life who deserve honor and feeding. They look after their family for generations or until they are reincarnated. The lwa are the living spirits that live in Ginen (Africa) but also animate the landscape around us. They form complex and life long relationships with humans where they expect to be honored and fed, but like the ancestors also look after their charges and can protect, heal, or punish. The lwa become extended but revered family members - called by terms of endearment such as father, mother, and cousin. Some humans even marry spirits. In the larger scheme of things, the beloved dead and lwa help retain balance and moral order. One such spirit we only briefly touched on before is Baron and the Ghede

    The lwa are grouped into different nations and families that share some personality traits and often have interpersonal relationships with one another. The Ghede make up a family of spirits of the dead. But they are not the ancestors who are taken care of and remembered by the surviving family. Rather, Ghede are the Unclaimed Dead who have no one to look after them. The Barons are the spirits of death who head this family and look after the Unclaimed Dead and our own spirits when we die. Since the Ghede are dead, they have no inhibitions because they exist beyond such earthly constrictions and concerns of punishment. They are loud naughty pranksters who dance sexually, drink heavily, and love a good party even if it isn't thrown for them. When they show up they like to wear the formal but moth eaten clothes of an undertaker such as a top hat, a tux, and a cane. They also like to wear dark sunglasses, smoke, and powder their faces white like a skeleton. Ghede love liquor spiced with the habanero peppers and have enormous appetites. They always speak the truth (why lie when there are no repercussions for blunt honesty?) and love a good joke. Sometimes their jokes touch on subjects that the living are too afraid to speak about such as mocking dangerous political figures. Since they are part of the cycle of death and rebirth, they are also tied to sex and its consequences - i.e. children. Sometimes you'll see Ghede with a purple penis at the tip of their staff and they love to dance the banda (a type of sexual dance) with members of the party. But since they also care about children, they are fierce protectors of those who haven't yet led a full life. 

    There are also endless individual Ghede within the larger Ghede family and as the social and political situations in Haiti change, new Ghede appear to reflect that. For example, the economic situation that favors women has spurred female Ghede to appear and the ever present Protestant Preacher (who really, really does not approve of Ghede's sexuality) has even become a Ghede. A Protestant Ghede preacher drinking copious amounts of alcohol, making dirty jokes, and grinding on the dance floor is a pretty interesting commentary on religion, life, and politics. Most families have their own Ghede that only show up to their parties and have a personal relationship with them. But everyone has Ghede since everyone dies, and they are important spirits in part because they purposefully occupy the space between. Living in the boundaries, they provide powerful defense, vengeance, and healing against outsiders. They also provide a psychological release for dealing with death, political and cultural oppression, and the stress of living up to social norms.    Beginning on All Saints Day, which is November 1st, Haitian communities will begin holding their yearly fet (ceremony) for Ghede. This is always one of the biggest ceremonies of the year since everyone has Ghede and a need to honor the dead. In Haiti, these fets will go on for days. In the diaspora (i.e. immigrant communities living abroad), they usually last from about 9 PM to 9 AM. The community I work with here in the States will hold theirs in the upcoming weeks. Last year, the goal was to begin around 7 PM but most Vodou ceremonies happen on Haitian Standard Time, meaning they happen when they happen. The priestess made her way down into the tightly packed basement around 9 PM to begin the opening prayers. The vast majority of the people packed into the basement were Haitian immigrants or children of immigrants, though there were a few white visitors, scholars, and initiates. The altar was loaded down with Ghede's favorite fish, Halloween decorations of skulls and skeletons, white run packed with habaneros, and fabrics in Ghede's colors of black and purple. Though Ghede was the main attraction, all Vodou ceremonies have to go through the order of lwa and honor them all with at least a brief song or prayer. But Vodou ceremonies are less formal than church, so that people were dancing, talking, singing, and laughing throughout. Finally, around 2 AM it was time for Ghede to make an appearance. The drums began the beat of the banda and the congregation began singing songs for Ghede. The first Ghede showed up quickly, taking one of the manbo by surprise. But there is no mistaking when Ghede shows up. The usually demure and stately priestess's body took on the mannerisms of the lwa as her body began moving to the beat of the drums and the congregants brought Ghede's accouterments. Donning the tux, hat, powder, and sunglasses Ghede grabbed his staff and liquor. He drank some of the habanero packed rum and then poured it into his eyes. The fact that the priestess's eyes did not water or turn red was proof of an authentic possession. Then Ghede began the process of bringing his brothers to the party. He pulled attendees aside to dance with him, often spinning them around and around until they became dizzy. In this moment of dizzy confusion, it is easy for other Ghede to push out the person self and take over the body. Soon a host of Ghede were running around the cramped basement making sexual comments, cracking jokes, and dancing. One Ghede came up to me and invited me to dance by offering the end of his cane. We each put an end of the staff between our knees so that we were bound by the cane as we danced together. Though I am a rather horrible dancer, Ghede smiled his approval of my dancing and shook my hand afterwards. Then he was on to the next attendee. After a while, they began greeting individuals and giving advice, healing, and congratulating or predicting pregnancies. Then the drums picked back up and the dancing began again with everyone joining in. The Ghede and Vodouisants danced and celebrated for hours, the living and the dead joined together and laughing at and with the world.

The Body and the Soul

    Haitian Vodou concepts of the body and soul are influenced by both West African beliefs and Catholicism. The physical body is merely a vehicle for the soul, a material thing that eventually dies and rots. The most important part of the body is the head, which is the seat of consciousness and the space where sight, hearing, smell, and taste all reside. All experience is filtered through the head. The physical and metaphysical self is expressed in the concepts of gwo bon anj and ti bon anj, which are similar to our ideas of the soul. The consciousness and personality (gwo bon anj) are tied to the physical body, which is animated by the ti bon anj. These three things: body, the gwo bon anj and the ti bon anj make up the trinity of the individual self. The animating soul is not active in influencing personality or choices - it is just the force that keeps the body living. You might call it the spark of life. For the body to continue operating, this animating soul is necessary. For the person to have thoughts, beliefs, and emotions, though, they need their gwo bon anj.

    During possession, the lwa displace the gwo bon anj and utilize the animated body. The possessed person cannot remember the experience, it is believed, because their gwo bon anj is not seated in the body and therefore is temporarily not connected to its actions. This same concept applies to the foods offered to the spirits and the dead. The nanm (soul) of the food is consumed by the spirits and ancestors even as the physical aspect of the food remains. Therefore, the trinity of body, animating soul, and personality soul can be separated at various points throughout life and then, of course, at death. After death, the gwo bon anj returns to Ginen (a heavenly Africa) and the ti bon anj lingers around the cemetery for a while since it no longer has a body to animate. It is the gwo bon anj that houses the ego, self, personality, and ethics of the person from life. A year and a day after death, Vodouisants can work to bring this soul back across the waters so that it can be an active and honored ancestor.

    People who are called to work with the lwa also have a met tet. The met tet is the ruler of the head, and the person has a very personal deep relationship and set of obligations to this lwa. During initiations, a ritual head washing opens the head to allow the met tet to permanently reside within the individual head. This spirit becomes part of the self, adding to the existing souls that makeup the complex of personhood. Though the conscious remains, unlike in possession, the spirit now has a direct line to the individual that allows them to interact in a much more direct manner. One spirit may have its foot in multiple doors, so to speak, thereby forming these bonds with many individuals so that the spirit can actively communicate with and guide them. Individuals are believed to grow along with this spirit, its influence guiding their maturity and development. Knowledge of an individual’s met tet is often protected because it may provide dangerous people with too much power, but close friends and relatives understand the individual in relation to their spirits. Therefore, in Haitian Vodou the concept of the self and personhood is made up of the body, the gwo bon anj, the ti bon anj, and the met tet (if applicable).

Zombies in Haitian Vodou

    Though few people are aware of it today, the original concept of zombies in pop culture came from Haitian Vodou. I'll get back to this at the end, but first I want to explain what zombies actually are within the religion because they are quite different from the rotting stumblers we see in movies and Halloween in America. Anthropologist Elizabeth McAlister argues that you cannot understand zombies without first understanding colonialism and slavery in Haiti. I've already discussed this in my section on history, but you'll recall that it was incredibly brutal even by chattel slavery standards. And that on the eve of the revolution up to 2/3 of slaves in Haiti had been born in Africa. Enslaved peoples dreamed of returning to Africa, so much so that some committed suicide on the way to Haiti and on the plantations in hopes that their souls would return to Ginen. Though the revolution instituted the first free black republic in the world, many people found themselves back working on plantations in poor conditions. Plantation labor has continued to be a reality for Haitians all the way up to the present. Many poor Haitian men today travel to the Dominican Republic where they work in near slavery conditions on sugar cane plantations. Other peasants work on farms owned by elites or US businesses. When poor families cannot support their children, they might send a daughter to live as a restavek with a well off family in the city. These children are often taken advantage of and rather than being given the opportunities of education that they were promised, they are trapped in these homes as servants. There are many cases of sexual abuse. During periods of political unrest, militias like the Tonton Macoutes sometimes grab local control and force people to do their bidding. Sweatshops run 24/7 and people work in dangerous conditions for very little pay for foreigners. Therefore, this legacy of slavery and exploitation of the poor and weak continues to be a running theme in Haiti. People dread the concept of slavery because of Haiti's history, because of the contemporary semi-slave conditions for many poor, and also because of the concept of zonbi

    Zonbi (zombies) can happen in one of two forms. The first is a spiritual zonbi. Since the ti bon anj lingers after death, it is vulnerable to being captured and used by sorcerers. In Haitian Vodou, houngans (priests) and manbos (priestesses) promise to keep a strict religious morality and do not practice with the left hand. This means that they can only bring justice, only work with a certain families and nations of lwa, and promise not to belong to secret societies. Justice in this sense refers to balance - if someone does something to you, you can return the curse or sent illness to return balance. There is nothing immoral about self defense and balance, but sending a curse without justification is dangerous. Secret societies, however, are more willing to work with the left hand, lwa, and magic that is dangerous. This doesn't mean that all secret society members are bad or do harm - just that they play with fire more than most. Though members of secret societies go through initiations and training too, they are usually considered sorcerers called boko. These sorcerers have the knowledge of how to capture the animating spirit after death and use it to do spiritual work.    The sorcerer goes to the cemetery where he or she may ask permission from the recently dead to use their ti bon anj. Sometimes this permission is not asked, depending on the kind of work that will be done. Either way, a few pieces of the skeleton, cemetery earth, money, and other ritual items are placed into a bottle that is then dressed in fabric and items related to the work the zonbi will do. Often one skull will provide enough energy for multiple zonbi bottles, so that the ti bon anj is splintered and set to goals specific to each bottle's owner. This practice is likely influenced by the Kongo nkisi. They might be aimed at healing, getting money, love relationships, work, or other desires. Each zonbi is crafted by the sorcerer for a specific person and purpose. The owner has an obligation to feed their zonbi, but they must be careful not to salt the food or else the zonbi might break loose. These zonbi become enslaved souls working tirelessly for their owners until the time when God calls them back. In this sense, it is a reenactment of the process of colonialism and slavery. But like colonialism in Haiti, the enslaved can rise up if mistreated too long. If the zonbi are not fed they will begin to feed on the life force of the owner, just as the Haitian slaves rose up and killed their masters.    Spiritual zonbi can also be sent to attack other people, and McAlister gives an example of such a case in her own fieldwork. A teenage boy was diagnosed as having a sent zonbi eating away at his life force because he had been secretly sold to a secret society. The local Vodou community had to come together to trick the zonbi and restore his health. Ghede Loray possessed a participants body in order to conduct the delicate procedure. The boy was buried up to his neck in dirt for a mock funeral. The zonbi was tricked into staying in the grave when the boy was lifted out and then trapped. The boy was free from the zonbi, but still needed to be bought back from the secret society to ensure his continued health and safety. So they took the boy to the cemetery where they negotiated with Baron to buy back the boy's soul and keep it safe until God determined his natural lifespan was up. Thus, a boy was tricked into slavery, an enslaved soul was sent to eat at his own, in turn the zonbi was tricked, and the boy was saved by getting a benevolent being to buy him instead. This idea of selling someone else's soul also shows up in related cultures. In New Orleans, the self proclaimed inventor of jazz Jelly Roll Morton claimed his godmother sold his soul to the devil (in Haiti spirits outside of the official Vodou pantheon are sometimes called devils) and that is why he was doomed to die young. 

    But there is also a second form of zonbi, which may be more familiar to avid movie fans. Zonbi ko kadav are somewhat controversial because everyone claims to know a person who knew a person who became one, but no one witnesses it directly. 1  Yet, the concept is still part of the popular idea of zonbi in Haiti and a powerful deterrent against serious moral transgressions. If someone does something that is so wrong and immoral that it completely fractures a family and community, the ultimate punishment of zonbi ko kadav might be meted out. When this happens, a sorcerer kicks out the gwo bon anj from the body leaving only the body and its animating force, the ti bon anj. Without the gwo bon anj the person has no self left - no personality, no hopes, no fears, no understanding of the world around him or her. Yet, the ti bon anj can be ordered by its master to do whatever he or she wishes. The body is then sold to a sugar cane plantation for money where it is worked night and day until it falls apart. 

    It is said that the first zonbi ko kadav was Jesus. Romans standing guard over his grave overheard the secret words that God used to raise Jesus from the dead. These Roman guards took this knowledge and used it for evil, passing down knowledge of its use through secret societies. In Haiti too, not every zonbi ko kadav is someone who committed an inexcusable wrong. Papa Doc, the horrific Haitian dictator, claimed to be a sorcerer and even dressed as Baron to scare people into submission. It is believed that political dissidents were turned into zonbi ko kadav as punishment. Papa Doc had 60,000 people killed but reserved the punishment of zonbi for his most dangerous opponents because it was so horrific. The body becomes a walking corpse for all society to see and fear lest they be made one too. Some believed that Papa Doc's Tonton Macoutes were zonbi ko kadav too because how else could you explain people who raped, tortured, and killed their former neighbors? 

Zonbi in Popular Culture

    So how did this concept of zonbi ko kadav turn into our walking dead of comic books and Hollywood? In 1932, Universal Studies released the horror movie White Zombie. If you're curious, you can watch the entire thing here. It was the first full-length feature film and stared the famous Bella Lugosi. The main plot was that a white plantation owner in Haiti falls in love with a woman engaged to marry someone else. He hires a sorcerer to win the woman's heart, but instead she is turned into a zonbi. I won't ruin the end in case anyone decides to watch it, but this was the first time most American audiences had ever heard of the concept. The US Marine occupation of Haiti at this same time fueled rumors and interest from letters that the marines wrote home. In fact, zonbi and cannibalism were part of the arguments for why the marines needed to intervene in the first place and justifications for staying there. In the 1940s, other zombie films were released that also shared the idea of loss of bodily control to another, Vodou drumming, and forced manual labor. 

    These early representations of zombies were highly influenced by the actual concept of zonbi, but they also reflected fears going on in America at the time: slavery to capitalism and the barbarism and backwardness of blacks. McAlister argues that ever since, zombies have been used to reflect contemporary fears. Over time, white Americans shifted their racist views and fears of black people, but this theme still appears in some representations of zombies. In 1968, Romero released Night of the Living Dead, which you can watch here. In this movie and the other two that make up the trilogy, issues of patriarchy, racism, traditional family units, consumerism, militarism, and the misuse of science are all addressed. From there, zombie movies took off and have become increasingly popular. And in each film, the cause and action of the zombies often reflects our fears. Today, it seems we fear science and epidemics. In the video game series Resident Evil, which began in 1996, horrific zombies and other mutations are created from a release of the T-virus by an evil corporation. In 28 Days Later the zombies are caused by scientists accidentally releasing a virus they created. In the Walking Dead comics and tv show the zombies are also caused by a viral epidemic that infects everyone. You could even argue that Joss Whedon's thankfully short lived Dollhouse series was a modern twist on a zombie theme. An evil company takes people, wipes their minds using technology, and implants their memory and personality with whatever their owner wants them to be. Unchecked capitalism and the misuse of science are issues that many Americans still worry about. Zombie films provide an outlet for exploring these fears and battling with them. Perhaps, in some ways, our own representations of zombies aren't that different from the role that zonbi play in Haiti. There too, they provide a way for Haitians to deal with the fears of past and present and symbolically take control over them. 

1 Ethnobotonist Wade Davis once claimed in his book The Serpent and the Rainbow to have found a scientific chemical explanation for this type of zonbi. But subsequent scientists have argued this argument makes no scientific sense and faced with overwhelming evidence in the contrary, Wade Davis recanted his argument. He is also ahistorical, seems to not fully understand Haitian culture and Vodou, has a number of methodology issues, and tends to make an argument about the whole with only anecdotal local evidence. In short, it is a poor ethnography and does not stand up to expert scrutiny. Davis is not a good reliable source about zombies or Vodou.

Further Reading: 

McAlister, Elizabeth A. 1995. “A Sorcerer’s Bottle: The Art of Magic in Haiti.” In Donald J. Cosentino, ed.
Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou, 305-321. Los Angeles: UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.

Pagano, David. 2008. “The Space of Apocalypse in Zombie Cinema.” In Shawn McIntosh and Marc
Leverette, eds. Zombie Culture: Autopsies of the Living Dead, 71-86. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Taussig, Michael. 1987. Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

My own photos related to the topic:

All photos and text are original creations of the author. Please ask permission before using them. Thanks!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

[HoI Course] Foreign Intervention in Haiti: From the US to NGOs (Haiti Today 4/6)



You can find the outline for the course here, a brief history of Haiti here, an introduction to Vodou here, and a discussion of daily life here. Please post all comments, requests, and questions in the Reddit post rather than the blog. That way we can continue our discussion within the History of Ideas subreddit.

Foreign Intervention in Haiti
US, UN, and NGOs 

The goal of this post is to cover the different foreign influences in Haitian politics, government, infrastructure, and social services and the impact that it has had. The Haitian government is notorious for its corruption and inefficiencies, which is often the justification for outside involvement. Yet, they have also rarely had the recent opportunity to manage the country on their own. This post looks at the ways these outside influences and control have changed Haiti and how the Haitian people feel about it. 

US Interventions

          As you'll recall from the history section, foreign intervention in Haitian government, economy, social services, environment, and other aspects of the nation have been frequent. But the United States of America has had the heaviest hand in Haiti's government, social services, and policies and so it is worth discussing their role in Haiti's history and current situation. In 1915, the US began its 19 year occupation of Haiti where this foreign nation literally controlled all aspects of the Haitian government and maintained control of Haiti's foreign finances until 1947. While there, the US instituted a new constitution which allowed foreigners and foreign companies to legally hold land in Haiti. US companies bought up land in the countryside for large plantation farms. Conditions were poor and so was pay, so many peasants moved to the cities for new opportunities. Unfortunately, the centralization of uneducated poor Haitians in the cities resulted in few chances for work and serious problems with urban slums and all the problems that go along with them. During Papa Doc's reign he courted the US for cheap manufacturing jobs, which did briefly provide economic opportunities. But many of these jobs paid very, very little and working conditions were often unsafe. Sweatshops rarely provide opportunities to improve local situations - at best they allow very poor people to just barely subsist while making huge profits for corporations. I'll talk more about this later.

          Despite Papa and Baby Doc's brutal rule, the US had a close relationship at times with their government through economic investments and aid programs. This shouldn't be too surprising since the US was heavily involved in supporting dictators in other areas too at that time as part of an initiative to prevent communist governments and ensure the safety of US financial interests. In 1981, the USAID-World Bank worked together to create a new strategy of purposefully making the Haitian economy dependent upon the US. Part of this included encouraging farmers to produce cash crops so that 30% of arable land was shifted from growing food to growing items for export. However, cash crops are subject to fluctuations in price that are uncontrollable by local farmers and natural disasters such as hurricanes or droughts could easily wipe out a season's crops. It also meant a reduction in food grown for local consumption so that as the island's population grew, their food production was not able to keep up. In response to food shortages  and American farmer's needs, in 1986 the IMF with US backing required Haiti remove the 50% tariffs on imported food in order to get a loan thus allowing the US to send heavily subsidized US rice to Haiti. This rice was significantly cheaper than local rice, effectively putting local farmers out of business. It also shifted local cuisine from one where rice was only eaten a couple times a week to a staple, pushing out healthier foods like squash and greens. In 1990, Haiti still produced all of the rice it consumed and only imported 19% of its food. In 1994, the US pushed Aristide to remove even more trade restrictions. Today 75% of the rice comes from the US and 50% of its food is imported. In many cases, American brands of soda, chips, rice, flour, etc. are cheaper than locally produced options. Without much international interest in importing Haitian food goods and a poor market at home, it is very difficult for local farmers and producers to survive. In 2008 when rice prices soared all over the globe, Haitians were hit harder than most since they could no longer afford imported rice but did not produce enough locally. Many people starved. This is why in 2010, former President Bill Clinton publicly apologized for the subsidized rice policy put in place during his administration. While it helped US rice farmers, Clinton called it a devil's bargain and said, "I had to live everyday with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else." After the earthquake, Haiti was inundated with even more cheap and free food which while providing vital assistance immediately after the disaster it also served to destroy what economic opportunity farmers had left.   

          The rice program was not intended to harm local Haitians - rather policy makers thought it would be a win win where US farmers were subsidized and poor countries got cheap food. But it is a good example of how even well intended programs can create a domino effect of damage. Another good example is the Peligre Dam, which while it would have highly benefited many of the American owned farms it was also supposed to help the local people. In 1956, the US Army Corps of Engineers helped plan and a company from Texas built the Peligre Dam, which dammed a large river in Haiti to create hydroelectric power. However, to do this they flooded the so called bread basket of Haiti, which included the lands of many peasants who had to flee. They did not fully understand what the consequences of the dam would be and many only realized their situation within hours of their homes being completely under water.This hurt local food production, but also completely disrupted the lives of hundreds of farmers. Some set up on the sides of the mountains where erosion and soil quality were worse. When the US killed off all of their black creole pigs in response to fears about swine flu, already desperate people lost the last of their savings. Destitute, people went to the cities for more opportunities where they also engaged in romantic relationships with people. Back home, women formed relationships with men for financial support, especially with soldiers that had been brought in for the project. Some of these were intended to be long-term relationships (though the men often still had multiple partners) and some were one night exchanges. There were also acts of rape or situations where women felt they could not say no. These movements of people and sexual relationships didn't just create unwanted pregnancies, trauma, and break up of family units. It also spread something much, much worse in a manner much faster than it otherwise would have spread.

          HIV first came to Haiti via a traveler from Central Africa and was probably spread through the sex tourism trade around 1966. Around 1969, it was brought from Haiti to America where it was first spread through heterosexual relationships before taking root in more vulnerable populations such as the gay community. It took a decade before anyone noticed. In the early 1980s, doctors began reporting strange cancers, pneumonia, and autoimmune issues but it took years before the medical community really understood AIDs and how to treat it. But as part of their efforts they began to identify communities where the newly named AIDs was more prevalent. In 1982, the CDC listed four groups as risk factors for infection: homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin addicts, and Haitians. Haiti was blamed by the media and politicians alike with some prominent American figures even blaming voodoo rituals. Overnight, Haiti and Haitians became stigmatized as carriers of a disease that America was terrified about. Many people in the general public knew little about how AIDs was transmitted, so while it was sometimes seen as a punishment for immoral activities like drug use, homosexuality, and prostitution people were still afraid that just being near someone with AIDs could be enough for contamination.  Haitian-Americans couldn't sell their homes, find jobs, and their children were ostracized at schools. Back in Haiti, tourism dropped 80% in one year. Previously, tourism had been an important industry with famous people like Mick Jagger (lead singer of the Rolling Stones) spending their holiday there. But no one wanted to vacation in a place where the CDC said they might catch AIDs. Further political instability and growing poverty due to a number of factors further diminished Haiti's tourism industry even more. Today, organizations like Partners in Health have made important inroads for treating HIV patients and help preventing transmission. And most people recognize that HIV and AIDs are not the fault of the victim and cannot be caught through normal day to day interactions. Tourism is increasing both from Haitians returning home from abroad and internationals. But Haiti has a long way to go in solving the problems of AIDs, rural and urban poverty, and reviving its tourism industry.

          More recently, Wikileaks has provided an interesting and sobering insight into some of the other ways that the US and other international bodies have involved themselves in Haiti. For example, the US and other foreign governments forced elections even though they thought they were fraudulent because they did not want to see their democracy experiment fail. There were also admissions that the reason the US doesn't want Aristide to return is that it would be bad for US business. The US Ambassador called Haiti after the earthquake a gold rush for American business opportunities. And the cables also reveal that the US worked together with Hanes and Levis to ensure that minimum wage for their textile factory workers did not increase from $3 a day to $5 a day. Now, minimum wage increases usually do not improve life for the poor drastically because the economy quickly catches up. But the larger problem was that every other industry received the minimum wage increase so that textile workers' pay was kept artificially low. As the economy around them catches up to $5 a day as the norm, textile workers are left behind. According to recent studies done prior to the minimum wage increase, a family of one worker and two kids (remember that a mother and her children are the basic family unit in Haiti) needs $12.50 a day to meet basic needs. Therefore, even those who are able to take advantage of the minimum wage increase cannot meet their family's financial needs. The current Haitian President Martelly has welcomed factory jobs for Haiti, especially textile industries. In order to avoid the centralization issues of the past, the government set up free trade zones (which came from seizing farmer's land) in hopes that more rural factories will reduce pressures on the cities. But without living wages, slums still pop up near the factories and families rarely have enough to send their children to bed with full stomachs let alone get them an education. Though much of the American press touts these textile factory jobs as almost a charitable act by US businesses and the government, it is important to remember what these cables reveal - Haiti has almost no labor laws, their minimum wage is one of the lowest in the Americas and is fully competitive with China, and US officials have revealed their interest in taking advantage of Haiti's cheap labor. Building factories in Haiti is not about Haiti's best interest. It is about American business interests. These Wikileaks cables reveal that many of the US interventions in Haiti have been about protecting US financial interests more than helping the country. This shouldn't be surprising since governments are at heart about serving the interests of their nation over others. Even the Peace Corps is a soft propaganda program. But it is still disheartening.

United Nations: The MINUSTAH Mistake?

          The goals of the UN is supposed to be above some of the self serving acts we saw from the US towards Haiti. The UN works towards world peace, economic development, global security, and human rights. However, while the UN has achieved some admirable things in Haiti they have also left a path of destruction and fear. The goal of this section is to discuss why the UN is still in Haiti, what they've achieved, and why most Haitians want them to leave. Right after Aristide fled for the second time in 2004, the UN sent in 9,000 troops to ensure stability. There were legitimate concerns that one of the Duvalier era thugs would try to take control again and the vacuum of power was dangerous. UN resolution 1529 stated that, "Haiti constitutes a threat to international peace and security and to stability in the Caribbean." MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) was created at the behest of the US, with the goals of stabilizing the government, ensuring democracy, and protecting human rights. However, Haitian democratic elections have been reestablished and the country is relatively stable and peaceful. Below you can see the very low murder rates in Haiti and compare them with nearby Caribbean nations. The goal of protecting human rights is also debatable considering the many human rights violations that UN workers have been accused of while in Haiti. The violence, rapes, cholera epidemic, and possible violation of the UN's own charter have led to many demonstrations by Haitians asking the UN to end its occupation. But so far it looks like the UN is staying put.

2010 UN Country Data
Murders per 100,000
Puerto Rico
Dominican Republic
*Note that murder rates do not include executions and other political violence and therefore is only a small part of the overall issue of stability and safety. 

          The UN did bring stability after Aristide's ouster, has provided social services, and has reduced the gang violence in slums like Cite Soleil. However, the means with which they did this were often violent and have made many Haitians scared of UN forces. Like many slums and shanty towns, Cite Soleil is often beyond the reach of the government and local gangs control the neighborhood. The UN identified these gangs as serious threats to the stability of the nation, despite their marginal influence beyond the neighborhood. To deal with this problem they sent in troops in armored cars to round up gang leaders. Since MINUSTAH troops are not from Haiti and very few speak the local language, they have little knowledge about the local gangs and how to discern thugs from innocent poor people who have no choice but to live in this neighborhood. This has often meant that locals get roughed up, large groups of people are rounded up to be sorted out later, and that when violence breaks out innocent people get hurt. Despite its stated purpose to combat gang violence, MINUSTAH usually goes into Cite Soleil in response to a political protest, even if it is peaceful. In 2006, after a large demonstration from Aristide supporters the UN did a sweep of the neighborhood that resulted in the deaths of at least thirty people, some of whom were women and children. Though the UN denies it, victims claim that the troops opened fire on unarmed civilians spraying crowds with bullets. Some also claim that the UN shot people from helicopters and dropped grenades. A declassified US Embassy cable from 2005, revealed that over a period of several hours MINUSTAH shot 22,000 bullets in Cite Soleil. The ambassador admits that given the shoddy construction of buildings in shanty towns it is likely that the bullets went through walls and hit people hiding inside. To date several such massacres have been attributed to the UN. Though these activities do sometimes pick off gang leaders, they also destroy lives, homes, livelihoods, and the trust of innocent people. You can watch an admittedly biased documentary about it here, though I warn you it contains very graphic images.

          In Port-au-Prince far removed from the slums, many people are terrified of UN soldiers. I even realized I had picked up on this fear and also made sure to give soldiers and wide berth on the streets and never took their photo or spoke to them. Part of this fear comes from the violent responses I discussed above. But there are other reasons that Haitians fear the UN. There are numerous accusations of rape, beatings, and even murder of people outside the slums. Many of the rape accusations are hard to prove and seem even harder to prosecute since it is ups to the individual countries of the soldiers to do so. But there are a few well documented cases that have galvanized Haitian anger against the UN. In 2005, three Pakistani UN soldiers gang raped a young girl. In 2007, Sri Lanka recalled more than 100 of its troops after accusations that they raped and abused Haitian women and children. In 2010, a 16 year old boy was found hanging from a noose on a UN base in Okap. The UN did not release his body for 72 hours, but told the family the boy had hung himself even though the autopsy ruled out suicide. In 2011, MINUSTAH troops from Uruguay gang raped a teenage boy and one perpetrator filmed it on his cell phone and uploaded it to the internet. Though the boy flew to Uruguay to testify against them and the video was shown in court, the perpetrators were released after only being found guilty of bullying. In 2012, three Pakistani MINUSTAH soldiers were found guilty for also raping a mentally challenged teenage Haitian boy. Witnesses also claimed that after the crime had been reported the Pakistani UN mission kidnapped the victim and held him on a MINUSTAH base to prevent further investigation. Pakistan gave the rapists one year in prison.

          In October of 2010, a photo began making the rounds on the internet reportedly showing a UN truck dumping sewage into a Haitian river that people used for cooking, drinking, and bathing. Just a month before had been the first reported case of cholera in Haiti in over one hundred years. The disease was spreading fast and without quick treatment an infected person can die within one day. Clean water was difficult to access even before the earthquake and medicine very expensive if available. Haitians blamed the UN for bringing the disease to the island, but initially the UN denied any connection. However, forensic studies on the strain of cholera revealed it came from Nepal and most likely from the Nepalese UN troops at the Mirabalais camp. Some Haitians have filed a class action lawsuit against the UN for negligence in addition to demands that the UN work to install clean water filters around the island to end the epidemic they unintentionally started. To date over 500,000 have become sick and at least 7,500 people have died from cholera in Haiti. That is more cholera deaths in Haiti than the entire continent of Africa combined. This past summer aid organizations were able to vaccinate 100,000 Haitians from vulnerable populations. Hopefully, this project along with clean water projects will greatly reduce the impact of cholera on the island.

          These well publicized events have influenced many Haitians to feel negatively about the continued UN presence in their country. Many liken it to the 18 year US occupation, especially since MINUSTAH troops tend to send a violent message whenever local people protest over political issues that are unpopular with the US. As the Wikileaks cables reveal, the UN has also played a large role in directing Haitian politics and preventing the election of anyone from Aristide's political party. President "Sweet Mickey" Martelly (whom the UN helped get elected despite his former association with the Tonton Macoutes) says he does not want the UN to leave. However, the continued public demonstrations against the UN occupation suggest that his view is not popular with the masses. Regardless of your own personal views about the UN's presence in Haiti, it seems unlikely that the country will attain peace and stability as long as the main enforcers belong to a group that the people do not trust or respect.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Their Role in Haiti

          Given the corruption of the government, the numerous problems with US aid intervention, and the violence from UN soldiers many people have turned to non-profits and NGOs to solve Haiti's many problems. The hope is that without a political agenda, organizations unaffiliated with any government agency can focus on humanitarian aid alone. The presence of such organizations has led to Haiti's nickname "The Republic of NGOs" and has unfortunately been well-earned for a couple of reasons. First, there are literally hundreds of groups in Haiti at the moment working on a variety of issues all over the country. You can see a map of a few of the official organizations here, though it is important to recognize that there are hundreds more church groups and small organizations that continually come in and out of Haiti to work on short-term projects. Official numbers of NGOs in Haiti even before the earthquake range from 3,000 to 10,000. Second, much of the population depends upon NGOs for services like healthcare, education, clean water, etc. more than its own government. Likewise, the government sees no reason to waste tax money providing services that are already provided by NGOs. NGOs in Haiti are a mix of successes and failures, with perhaps more negative examples than positive. You can read about the specific failures of NGOs below and then in detail in some of the books I suggest. However, Haiti provides a kind of microcosm of the problems with aid and NGOs all over the globe so I want to take a moment to discuss some of the larger issues.

          Though NGOs attempt to remove the political restrictions that government agendas have on nation-based aid giving, most NGOs are still beholden to their country of origin and their donors. Government agencies and donors often remain central in planning and implementation decisions. These plans and goals are set outside of the local contexts of a community's needs, so that at times they do not reflect what people actually want and the methods implemented are unrealistic and ineffective. Due to the realities of a home office outside of Haiti, there are usually multiple tiers within the NGO that allow for satellite offices and intermediaries. However, they also increase overhead spending, often include redundancies, and increase the odds of miscommunications. This bureaucracy also limits the ability of people on the ground to make substantive changes to the goals or methods of the project even if they see that they are being ineffective. The top down approach of most NGOs silences the voices of the very people they are trying to raise up. These processes are part of what some scholars consider the neocolonialism of aid and NGOs. Rather than working alongside local people to solve problems, NGOs and aid programs often treat local people as the problem. NGOs justify their presence by arguing that locals cannot manage their own situation and require an outside force to come in and take over. Part of solving the issue that the officials in the NGO and their donors have identified as the primary goal often includes reorienting communities towards the NGO home culture's own viewpoint. For example, rather than handing out condoms or examining reasons for multiple partners locals may just be chastised for promiscuity. But remaking a foreign culture into a model of your own does not necessarily solve the problem at hand and may inadvertently replicate the inequalities present in your own society. These communities also become dependent upon these outside forces, just like they did during colonialism, giving them immense power to sway local politics and creating devastating effects when the NGOs leave.

          The very problems that many NGOs set out to solve sometimes continue not only in spite of but because of NGO presence due to the local economy's reliance upon the NGO, problematic goals or implementation, and the fact that NGOs profit from having a continued issue to address. In Port-au-Prince, for example, apartments and business buildings are renting for sometimes triple what they cost prior to the earthquake. Even Haitians who have steady jobs are sometimes unable to move into more permanent housing because the aid organizations have rented most of them and those that remain are now out of  locals' price ranges. In fact, some Haitians who were living in tent cities actually had homes that were untouched but they could rent them out to NGO workers for such high prices that it was worth staying in temporary housing a while longer. And why not? Not only could they save for the future when the NGO workers inevitably all run off to the next big disaster, but they could take advantage of the free food and education provided at some of the tent cities. The buying power of aid workers also meant that the local prices for food and other necessities sky rocketed. So NGO workers coming to address the tent city crisis intensified the pressures that kept people from moving out of tent cities, which of course provides more incentives for the heads of the NGO to say they should stay and demand more money from donors. There have even been accusations that aid organizations and NGOs have overestimated numbers of those living in tent cities and other issues to get more money. Though technically not government organizations, they often get large donations from governments who want to see proof of need. They also sensationalize suffering through photographs and stories, which opens pocketbooks for donations but closes them for vacations. When the NGOs do eventually leave the housing market will crash, Haitians will have difficulty finding local sources of food since they went out of business, and many people who relied on the NGOs for jobs will once again be out of work.

          It would be unfair, though, to categorize all NGOs in the same way. While inefficiencies and misused funds are often the story of NGOs in Haiti, some are improving. Many have realized the errors of the past and are making efforts to work with rather than in spite of local people and to incorporate local contexts and concerns into their plans. However, even the most well intentioned NGOs can sometimes fall back into this framework. After studying aid and NGOs in Haiti and the larger global scene, I have four main points where non-profits and NGOs tend to fail. First, there is the patchwork effect where the NGO takes a very narrow approach to solving a specific localized issue. Second, there are redundant and overlapping services. Third, there is a failure of communication both with other NGOs and the local people they want to serve. And fourth, they do not appropriately plan for the future and rarely have a sound exit strategy. These points are worth going into more detail about.

The Patchwork Effect: Many NGOs go in with a specific solution and look for a location where it might be useful. For example, they might want to solve clean water problems and use a new filtration system. They will find a community in need and spend a summer installing filtration systems for local people. There is nothing wrong with this, but one city or even neighborhood over people might not be able to benefit. You can examine the map I linked earlier and see that this is the case all over the country. For example, Asile has health care, but no other NGO help. Nearby San Luis de Sud has a school with a free lunch program, but no health care. Another nearby community Petit Trou De Nippes has a few health care providers, two housing projects, and a sanitation project but no education. Yet these communities could all use health care, education, and housing projects. Without stepping back to see the bigger picture the NGO's successes will be very localized and limited and there will be large disparities in services between communities. Reaching horizontally to work with other related NGOs can help solve this problem even if the NGO in question is too small or funds limited to have a broader individual impact.

Redundant and Overlapping Services: Since NGOs often go in with a preconceived idea of what services they will provide, they may not take into account what other projects are already providing those services. Though some large urban centers may be populous enough to warrant multiple organizations providing the same thing, most rural areas are not. The narrow blinders on approach that creates the patchwork effect also allows for redundancies and overlaps. For example, a couple years ago my cousin was in Gonaives with a relatively new NGO that had first come to Haiti after the earthquake. One of their major projects was to build a school, which they had discussed with a local politician. One day on his way to the job site my cousin ran into someone from an older NGO. After talking they discovered that their NGOs were each building a school on the same block with permission from the same politician. They did sit down with that politician and explain only one school would be built. But by then both organizations had wasted a lot of time, money, and people on a redundant project. Their resources could have been much better served working on something else that was not being addressed. To be fair, they got swindled by a local politician who likely wanted to make money by turning at least one of them into a private school. But these kinds of overlaps are frequent, even without corrupt politicians intervening.

Failure to Communicate: The redundancies could be eliminated if organizations were better at communicating with one another and coordinating horizontally rather than just approaching the situation vertically. Linking organizations with similar goals can allow for more effective services and sharing of resources, which cuts down overhead and can actually open up larger granting opportunities. But NGOs also need to communicate with the people they are servicing not only when planning their program but at regular intervals after it begins to ensure they are still being effective and relevant. Organizations also need to be willing to adjust their methods or even goals if necessary. Failure to do this often results in ineffective aid that at best does little good and at worst can harm communities. For example, many public health HIV prevention programs in Haiti have the goal of going into a community and teaching them about AIDs how to prevent its spread. Often local people are trained as educators who then hold classes for their community. Afterwards, participants are surveyed about their knowledge and the results are turned into pretty graphs and charts to prove the organization's efficacy to donors. However, when anthropologists later go in and ask the course participants if they plan to be abstinent or use condoms in the future the answer is almost always no. Abstinence only education fails in Haiti for many of the same reasons that it fails in the US. But condoms are rarely an option either because NGOs do not give them out or do not give out enough. Condoms in Haiti are very expensive if you can even find them for sale. Additionally, women feel uncomfortable demanding their partners use them and men dislike the feel. Children are also incredibly important, while steady male partners are not the norm. So women are not necessarily looking for a monogamous partner to have a child with. And lastly, rape and forced prostitution are sadly common and condoms are clearly not options in such situations. But despite all of these problems, many public health NGOs return to the states and report success to their donors. Another example is CARE, who stepped in to help out with anticipated famine from a drought in the 1990s. They got the funding from USAID and began handing out food aid to farmers and fishermen. But six months after the drought ended they continued giving out free food. In fact, they did it for two years, which completely destroyed local food production. If they had bothered to reassess they could have directed that money somewhere else that would be more effective.

Failure to plan for the future: Many non-profits and NGOs operate grant to mouth. They depend entirely upon on or two grants with no other major sources of funding and no contingency plans for if they fail to get the grant one year. This has happened to many NGOs since grant funds have been drying up recently. Communities become dependent upon the services that NGOs promise to deliver, so even a year without a program can be devastating. Sometimes the grant money runs out and never comes back or the mission of the NGO refocuses on a different region. Organizations give up and move on to the next project, but locals are left to deal with the aftermath. NGOs also often fail to plan adequately for how the project will continue getting the funds they need once they leave. Building a school or a hospital is great, but more goes into running one than just the construction and initial start-up costs. These facilities continue to need supplies, trained paid professionals, electricity, clean water, to pass government inspections, etc. Without a viable plan for how they will obtain the funds for these things locals are often unable to actually see the plan through past a year or two.  Haiti is littered with half built schools, abandoned NGO offices, and communities who once depended upon NGO services but are now struggling. Some NGOs do not even think about how to appropriately pull out and do so suddenly, which does not give local communities time to plan for life without their services. For example, NGOs are pulling out of tent cities and without the free clean water the water quality for these communities is quickly diminishing. Considering the cholera epidemic, this is a serious issue. But Haitians have become understandably jaded by NGOs and many just try to milk the cow for all it is worth now because they know it won't be there in the future. This is bad for both the NGO and the local people. Irresponsible aid is dangerous and harmful to the very communities that such NGOs claim they want to help. If a NGO actually wants to make a long-term difference for a community they have to plan for both how they are going to complete their immediate goals and how to transition out so that communities can be self sufficient.

          Though there are certainly other issues to examine when determining efficacy of aid and NGO programs, these four pieces are useful tools for analysis. Yet even using these sometimes the sheer number of NGOs in Haiti is just too overwhelming. Picking a good non-profit or NGO to donate to can be daunting if you care about making sure your money goes towards a good cause that is handled responsibly. The more I learn about the damage bad aid can do to a community, the more discerning I've become with how and where I donate. But it can take a lot of work to figure out not only if an organization is worth donating to but to trace back their affiliations. For example, the FEED project sells burlap bags to raise money to feed hungry children and they have an arm dedicated specifically to Haiti. But they don't actually directly use this money for food programs. Instead, they give it to the World Food Program (WFP), which is a program of the UN. Setting aside my dislike of how the UN has handled itself in Haiti, I previously would never have supported FEED because WFP did not use local food sources. Dumping free food on a community destroys local economies and jobs. A program that feeds the kids for a day but puts their parents permanently out of work it isn't a good solution. But recently WFP has begun getting dairy and rice from local farmers rather than importing it. So they are now on my maybe list, though I would like to see even less imported for their program. But I am glad that they have listened to criticisms and adjusted their approach appropriately. The main issue will be planning for the future since families are now dependent upon.

          While it would be impossible to go through every one of the thousands of NGOs and evaluate them here, I do think it is worthwhile mentioning a few others. The first two have been in the news both right around the earthquake and recently. The last you might not have heard of before, but it has an interesting approach that bodes well for the future of aid programs.

Yele Haiti: Started by Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean in 2005, this non-profit was initially quite small. Up until the earthquake, Yele Haiti only had $37,000 in assets and mostly provided services through intermediaries. For example, they gave scholarships to poor students to attend a local school that Yele Haiti was not directly affiliated with. In 2009, they also worked with the Timberland Company to raise environmental awareness in Haiti. None of their pre-earthquake activities involved healthcare, emergency services, housing, water, etc. In fact, they were already in financial trouble for failing to report spending to the IRS and accused of shady manipulations of donations. A forensic audit reported that between 2005-2009 $265,580 was improperly funneled to Wyclef Jean and his friends.Yet, when the earthquake hit Wyclef Jean was very vocal about his charity's ability to help and Yele Haiti received $16 million in donations.  Only $5.1 million of that went towards relief efforts, and even then the organization gave contracts to Jean's relatives for projects that were not all completed. He paid himself $100,000 for performing at his own charity's event, and later canceled another performance because Yele Haiti could not cover his fee. He hired his own mistress who had no qualifications. A Florida firm was paid over $1,000,000 for food distribution but there are no records of the firm ever existing. Money was spent all over the place, but rarely was it spent smartly. The New York attorney general's office still has an active investigation into the non-profit, but after Wyclef Jean declined to settle Yele Haiti was officially shut down.
          Yele Haiti fails on many accounts, especially since Wyclef Jean and the other board members mismanaged funds and were not transparent about how money was spent. That alone should be enough to disqualify any non-profit from being a good place to donate. But, even before all of this damning information came out it was clear that Yele Haiti was a poor non-profit choice because it also fails many of my points above. They focused on a seemingly random selection of activities without coordinating well with other non-profits or existing programs. So they tried to build schools, hospitals, job programs, food programs, houses, water, etc. all over the region in very localized spaces but without linking them together into a bigger vision. They also did not communicate with local people about what was really desired or needed so that their $5 million job programs just consisted of hiring people to clean sidewalks that were dirty again within a day. They also failed to plan for how they would actually carry out these programs and had no exit strategy. Before Yele Haiti even closed down, it left behind a string of unfinished projects. Some examples are $93,000 for temporary homes that were never built, $146,000 for a hospital that wasn't finished, and $230,000 for a revitalization of a plaza that was never completed. An orphanage that had become dependent upon $3,000 Yele Haiti gave them a month for food had to scramble when the stipend was unexpectedly cut off. Failure to plan meant not only a scandal for the non-profit but real world damage to vulnerable populations. You can read more about Yele Haiti's failures in this New York Times piece here.

Partners in Health: By far, Partners in Health is the most respected non-profit in Haiti and where most scholars and Haitians alike suggest you donate your money. Paul Farmer, who has a medical degree and a PhD in medical anthropology, founded PIH in the central plateau of Haiti in 1987. Since then they've expanded to eight other sites within Haiti and five other countries. Paul Farmer pioneered the approach to treating drug-resistant tuberculosis that WHO recommends today. PIH's approach works closely with local people, takes into account impediments to successful treatment, and works to develop methods of implementation that are realistic, cost-efficient, and work within those cultures. Most of the paid workers in Haiti are Haitians, and they are committed to training them rather than keeping locals in only low level positions. They coordinate medical services with other organizations and work across multiple regions. They also try to address the many levels of issues that can prevent adequate care for the poor - lobbying politicians, working with pharmaceutical companies, coordinating with other health organizations, and developing ways to get care and medicine to people in rural areas. Some critics have said that Paul Farmer is too idealistic and while his call for healthcare as a human right is admirable, he provides few practical ways to enforce it. In the beginning, PIH also had funding issues in the beginning, but now they are large enough that their existence is relatively stable. For all of these reasons, charity review sites like Charity Navigator rate PIH very highly.
          However, PIH is not perfect. After the huge influx of money from earthquake donations, PIH set up a number of new projects. Since that burst of money has not been sustained, PIH is now trying to figure out how to scale back. For their fiscal year 2011, all of PIH had a deficit of $27,000,000 largely due to grants made to partner organizations after the earthquake. But utilizing the surplus from 2009 along with predicted donations and smart investments should make this up. PIH also does not have an exit strategy, but this is because they plan to stay indefinitely. The Haitian government has come to rely on their services some critics have questioned whether it is best to remove healthcare from government and private businesses. But these hospitals and clinics do provide training and long-term job opportunities for many Haitians. More concerning is the recent report about how PIH has been in a turf war over peanut butter factories. In 2003, Meds and Foods for Kids (MFK) began using local peanut butter sources to develop a nutritional paste. After learning all about it from the MFK founders in 2006, PIH started their own peanut butter paste program. Meanwhile, MFK started a factory with UNICEF money so that everything needed for the nutritional paste could be produced in Haiti using Haitian peanuts and workers. Now PIH is building its own even bigger peanut butter paste factory. The problem is that there aren't enough peanuts grown locally for both factories and not enough demand for that much nutritional paste. This kind of redundant overlapping project does nothing to help people locally and just directs money away from other places where it could be spent.

Prosperity Candles: This young non-profit takes an entirely different approach that is interesting and worth investigating. They actually began in Iraq in 2008, where they began working with local women to teach them how to make candles and then provided a platform for them to sell the candles to an international market. They partnered with a local more established Iraq non-profit and worked with local concerns. Listening to the women they wanted to help, they arranged for them to do this work in their own homes since women's mobility is limited. Women were also trained not only how to make the candles but how to teach the skill to others and given basic business instruction so they could be entrepreneurs on their own. After the earthquake, Prosperity Candles began their plans to come to Haiti and established a candle factory in one of the industrial parks in the North. I recently sat down with one of the women who is highly involved in the Haiti arm of their project and I was impressed with their foresight and plans. The have now traveled to Haiti a few times and worked with local existing non-profits and community leaders to develop a plan of action that would adapt their models used elsewhere to local concerns and needs. Unlike in Iraq, women in Haiti move about freely so a factory made more sense. It also increased the prestige of working there because the job would be considered steady work (travay) unlike craft items made out of the home. They have a clear exit strategy where they want to train the women in candle making and business skills so that they can slowly hand over the business to the women. At the end of their project the women will fully own the business and be able to run it completely on their own and have all profits gained through selling their candles, while still providing the platform to sell them. They recognize the problem for many women of leaving their children behind to go to work, so they are arranging for flexible working schedules and investigating options for child care. While their goals are very localized, they are reaching out to nearby non-profits that focus on women and families to coordinate. And they are trying to use local beeswax rather than importing it. They are young and their Haiti project just getting under way so we will have to wait before we can evaluate their lasting impact and effectiveness. But their commitment to local input, working with other non-profits, and a strong exit strategy look promising.


Hopefully this discussion has helped make sense of the frustration and protests against foreign presence in Haiti. Many Redditors have been involved with non-profits either directly as volunteers or just through donating funds. US Redditors also have their tax money used on many of these projects in Haiti and elsewhere. Therefore, I hope you'll find this discussion useful not only for understanding Haiti but for being a better informed citizen and donor. If you have any questions or want to discuss a topic, please post your comments in the reddit thread here. I have also put together an album of relevant photos I have taken that you can view here. If you would like to do your own research on these topics I have included some suggestions below. Thanks for reading!

Further Reading

Crewe, Emma and Elizabeth Harrison
1998 Whose Development? An ethnography of aid. University of Michigan Press

Farmer, Paul
2003 Pathologies of Power:Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. University of California Press. 

Farmer, Paul
2005 The Uses of Haiti Updated Edition. Common Courage Press.

Farmer, Paul
2006 AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame. University of California Press.

Schuller, Mark 
2012 Killing with Kindness. Rutgers University Press. 

Schwartz, Timothy T.
2008 Travesty in Haiti: A True Account of Christian Missions, Orphanages, Fraud, Food Aid and Drug Trafficking. Charleston, South Carolina: BookSurge Publishing.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

[HoI Course] Daily Life in Haiti (Haiti Today 3/6)



You can find the outline for the course here, a brief history of Haiti here, and an introduction to Vodou here. Please post all comments, requests, and questions in the Reddit post rather than the blog. That way we can continue our discussion within the History of Ideas subreddit.

Daily Life In Haiti
What does it mean to be Haitian?

      The news tends to show a very limited view of what life in Haiti is like. We see image after image of poverty, tent cities, and starving children. These are real and present issues in Haiti. But we miss out on the context of these pictures and the fact that this is a very limited view of Haitian daily life. My goal for this lecture is to use a few different categories as windows into aspects of what it means to live in Haiti. My approach will naturally leave out some things in order to highlight others. If there is an aspect of Haiti that I do not cover but you would like to know more about, just let me know in the comments.

Family and Work in Rural & Urban Haiti

      After the revolution, most Haitians continued to work on the land as farmers producing their own food and selling any extra in nearby markets. Families staked out plots of land where they farmed together as a unit. As children grew up and started families of their own they might build their own house on the familial land or claim an unused plot to begin their own farm. Each family plot had space for agriculture, housing, cooking, religious obligations, and a graveyard for the dead. The eldest male of the family unit was usually in charge of religious duties to the spirits and ancestors. Nearby families came together for special religious and social celebrations, to trade, socialize, and help one another. Individual success was dependent upon communal success and so the tradition of a konbit became an important part of rural life. A konbit is similar to the concept of an Amish barn raising where everyone in the area comes to help out with harvesting, planting, or building. In return when they need assistance, the community will show up to help them. This allows people to do more in less time, helping ensure local success for everyone. It also means that the whole community is fully aware of how many resources every family has available. This helps stem stinginess and hoarding of resources and people are expected to share their successes with others in the community. Yet, they are also fully aware that to get ahead they need to save and reinvest. Some academics argue that this tension between individual and community is fundamental to understanding Caribbean and Central American cultures.

      These communities were usually bounded by geographical features such as rivers and mountains, isolating them to a certain extent for day to day purposes. Once a week women often took extra produce, cooked foods, and handmade goods down to a nearby market to sell. These market women could be absent for a day or two, depending on how long and difficult the journey was. They tended to stay in groups for safety and sometimes sleeping in the open air marketplace at night. They were shrewd negotiators who had to quickly discern local price changes and adapt their strategies to maximize their profits. In times of drought or other misfortunes that prevented families from growing enough produce, they sometimes sold their private "land" i.e. their bodies so they could purchase food at the market. This was only done if absolutely necessary and was not something they were proud of, but mothers did what they had to do in order to feed their children. In the end, the main moral obligation is to one's children and any action that serves to support them cannot be locally considered immoral. Back home, the earnings from the marketplace were usually controlled by the women and were used to send kids to school (when available), buy clothes and other goods in the marketplace, and save for the future.

      The reason that most of my description of rural life so far has been in the past tense is because few people are able to continue living this way. It is still the idealized way of life for many Haitians, the same way we idealize rural American life in TV and movies as an important source of authentic values and principles for the country. And three-quarters of Haitians rely upon agriculture for food or cash crops. Yet, making a living off the land has become increasingly difficult in Haiti due to environmental and socio-economic changes. Haiti has become increasingly deforested due to overpopulation, poor agricultural practices, a push towards cash crops like tobacco, and the need for charcoal. By 1954, only 8-9% of Haiti remained forested compared to 60% in the 1920s. In the 1950s, the need for charcoal grew and the easiest local source were the trees. Today, some of the poorest people in Haiti still make their own charcoal and sell it on the streets of the cities. As of 2008, less than 2% of Haiti is forested. The deforestation has caused erosion of the entire countryside, destroying the topsoil and polluting the water. Additionally, the push for cash crops meant a less stable market and less food crops for when the prices of tobacco and coffee were low. Prices for food crops decreased as tariffs on imported goods were lowered and projects like the USAID's free rice to Haiti program destroyed demand for local rice. Animal domestication suffered a serious blow when the USAID killed 1.3 million Haitian pigs in 1982 due to fears of swine flu. Like I mentioned in the history section, these Creole pigs were bred for the environment and were a safety net that could be sold or butchered in times of need. In short, the environmental devastation meant that farmers had a harder time growing crops, the market meant they had a harder time selling them, and the loss of their savings accounts on hoofs meant they had no backup.

      The increasingly inability to sustain an agricultural lifestyle meant more and more people went to the cities looking for work. With few non-agricultural skills and low levels of education, most people had to take menial jobs if they could even find them. Slums grew along the edges of cities, creating extremely condensed spaces of poverty and violence. The most well known example is Cite Soleil, a shanty town right outside Port-au-Prince which grew quickly after the slaughter of the Creole pigs and then again when President Delatour (who succeeded Baby Doc) encouraged people from the countryside to come to the neighborhood for industrial jobs. Unfortunately the industrial sector broke down after 1991, and most people living there have little to no education, half the houses are built from scrap, about 65% of the homes do not have latrines, and armed gangs are a serious problem. The damage from the earthquake was devastating to these shanty towns, especially since many of these homes were barely standing to begin with. However, there is a public school Lycee National where parents can try to send their children. And these neighborhoods provide free or extremely cheap places for people to use as a launching pad to better their situation. The problem, of course, is that it can be difficult to find the jobs necessary to afford better housing.

      In the city there are more job opportunities for women than men like doing laundry, cooking, caring for kids, and cleaning. Women still dominate the markets, though men also sell goods there too. Men with trade skills like carpentry might find a job working in a warehouse or doing construction. If they have some education they might be able to find a job working in a store or hotel. Most government jobs are doled out to friends and family, though some people do earn those positions through higher education. Jobs that pay a known amount at a known time are called travay and are highly coveted but very hard to come by. The vast majority of Haitians do what is called commerce. This is when someone sells goods or food on the street for a profit. Early in the morning Haitians will purchase items cheaply from a source, cook or make goods, or gather items like coconuts. They then go out into the streets to hawk their wares for the day. In Port-au-Prince pedestrians have to walk in the street with the cars because every inch of the sidewalks are covered in goods for sale. In this sense, all Haitians are entrepreneurs. But most days they are lucky if they can make enough to feed their families for the day and buy items to sell the next. If they do manage to save, however, they might build a stand, send their kids to school, and move their families out of the slums. However, without access to higher education, most people reach a plateau since even if they understood the process of buying property and starting a business they could not get the loans to do so.

      These days many people migrate back and forth from rural to city many times over their lifetime. Rural families have few economic opportunities, but can provide housing and support for extended family members. Mothers who are unable to care for their children might send one or more of them to live with well-off extended family or rich families in city. These children are called restaveks, and in its ideal form they children do chores in exchange for free housing, food, and education. Unfortunately, many restaveks are taken advantage of and there are numerous cases of sexual abuse or children who are treated like slaves. When the restaveks become adults they usually go home or transition into being domestic servants for a well to do family in the city. Adult men may leave their children and partners behind in the city or rural family homestead in search of job opportunities, splitting up families. But this also extends networks across multiple spaces allowing people the ability to tap into extended family and friends for help wherever they move. Modern day technology of cell phones are cheap and easily accessible, meaning that even when separated in different cities people can stay in touch and maintain networks in ways previously impossible. Fathers who were no longer able to live with their children will pull out their cell phones to proudly show me tons of photos of their kids. Coffee farmers can call down from the mountains to check prices to avoid getting ripped off by middle men. And family that has immigrated to America can call home and easily send money. Modernization and technology have only increased the importance of networks and family and the ability to connect to them.

      Family is an incredibly important part of Haitian life because it is the foundation for the networks that help people succeed. In small rural communities everyone is a cousin if you go back far enough, which intensifies the bonds and obligations to assist one another. In cities it is harder to keep families together since often only one or two members left the homestead at a time and apartment or shanty spaces are much smaller. But fictive kinship (like your uncle who isn't really your blood uncle) can fill those spaces. Vodou houses have adapted to this reality, and in the South where people undergo initiations they become spiritual brothers, sisters, and children to other members in the group. These relationships provide familial networks allowing relationships similar to those found in rural regions to continue in urban spaces. Over time, these Vodou familial networks extend across rural and urban as well. All of these relationships provide friendship, assistance in times of need, links to news and gossip, and comfort.


      In 1825, Haitian peasants were legally made second-class citizens. In 1945, the law required paysans (peasant) to appear on their birth certificates. This was eventually repealed, but the repeal was not implemented until 1995. Therefore, the divide between rich and poor has always been a part of the Haitian socio-political system. Though this divide is sometimes explained in racial terms with the elites being light skinned mulattos and the peasants dark skinned without French heritage this is not how it always plays out in reality. Mulat and Neg (mulatto and black) are more economic and social classes than racial ones, since people can easily transcend skin color barriers through economic status changes. There are mulats who are quite dark skinned and negs who are light skinned. Rather than using skin color and other racial markers, class is maintained through cultural aspects of language, dress, education, and behavior. Language plays a major role in this, with elites using French for all official purposes such as government, business, and education. Peasants usually only speak Haitian Kreyol fluently, which is a different language. Members of the lower class who have gone to some school may claim to speak French because that is the only language in which education takes place and therefore indicates they have some schooling. Yet, they are rarely fluent and at most speak a broken form of French. Access to education is a serious problem for many Haitians, but once there it can be difficult to adjust to instruction in a new language that is not taught as a second language. Children tend to sink or swim, and even if they catch on poor families can rarely afford to send their children to school past elementary age. This lack of education and language skills often prevents members of the lower class from achieving financial and social success, regardless of their intelligence.

      In rural and city areas there are hierarchies within the peasant class. Women gain status through success in the marketplace and marrying up (hypergamy.) If they save up enough from selling items in the market they can start what is called a boutique, which may be a store in a permanent structure or a business they run out of their house. These businesses have more stability than commerce on the street and tend to carry nicer items. Women who marry in a church wedding also gain a certain status in part because of the lavish public parties and conspicuous consumption required of a wedding and in part because they tend to have husbands who can support them. Men are often lumped into either gwo neg or ti neg (big man and small man). Gwo neg are financially and socially successful, often having small businesses like a taxi service or store. They maintain their status through sponsoring dances, Vodou fets, and Rara parades. Ti neg are men who are not as successful and are dependent upon female family members. Machismo can be proven other ways, however, through excessive drinking and sexual prowess. 

      The elites make up about two percent of the entire population in Haiti. The vast majority live in big cities such as Port-au-Prince and Okap. They have the ability to send their children to school, hire domestic servants, and often have significant influence over governmental policies and decisions. While there have been presidents and prime ministers from the lower class, they require the support of elites to stay in power and get things done. Socially it is important to maintain the class hierarchy and hegemony, so that children are often forbidden to speak to the maid in Creole (even though they know the language) or even at all. As adults they are expected to marry within their class, get a college education, and go on to a job that is appropriate for their station. Though many experts recognize the importance of overcoming these class barriers to helping Haiti succeed, elites who do so commit class suicide and can result in being ostracized. Therefore, while educated elites may speak of treating everyone equally and working towards a unified Haiti, they rarely interact with the lower class. 

The middle class is made up largely of foreigners, who are called blans. Most businesses like hotels, grocery stores, book stores, etc. are owned by blans. They are often from the Middle East (sometimes just referred to locally as Arab) and represent a wide variety of backgrounds such as Lebanese, Palestinian, and Algerian as well as religious affiliations such as Jews, Muslims, and Bahai'i. Many are refugees from regions that were politically unstable or where they were persecuted. In Haiti they often band together for business and social purposes, leading to the oft heard joke that the only place in the world where Muslims and Jews get along is the Caribbean. Because they are isolated from most of Haitian society, they have maintained many of their own cultural traditions and their money tends to stay within their class or go abroad to help those back home. There have been frustrations with some of these financial aspects since many lower class Haitians feel they are prevented from entering into certain business opportunities because they are dominated by blans. Some have also taken advantage of the fact that embassies are not considered Haitian soil so that businesses built there are not subject to local taxes. However, they do provide jobs to many Haitians and are important for the economy and providing access to the goods they sell. 

Gender and Relationships

      In 1805, right after the revolution, Dessalines declared that unlike under French rule children born out of wedlock were legitimate heirs. This made sense considering the fact that after the white population either ran away or was killed, most of the Haitians who remained never even had the opportunity to marry. Some had also engaged in a formalized mistress relationship called placage prior to the revolution. This was common in many French colonies where white French men would marry white French women, but keep a placagee as a mistress in the city with her own household and promises that their children would be free. Eventually, this also became the term used for any couple that cohabitated without marriage - slaves included. This became the norm and continued after the revolution. To this day, church marriages are expensive and unnecessary from both legal and social viewpoints. Plus, avoiding legal documentation means avoiding the government, which given the history of corruption and violence in Haitian politics can be a wise decision. There are formal names sometimes given to partners or the relationship (fiyanse, renmen, marye, placage, viv avek) but outside of marriages documented by church and state none have legal ramifications. Most women engage in relationships with men one at a time (though some do have multiple partners) while many men may have loose arrangements with one or more women. Sometimes women are aware of their significant other's partners, but accept this as normal. Remember that in addition to what I've mentioned above, two-thirds of slaves at the time of the revolution had been born in West Africa where polygamy is common among many of the communities. Polygamy was important in rural areas of Haiti for a long time as a practical way to increase the labor needed for working the farm. Terms for female companions were fanm marie (married woman/spouse), fanm kay (house woman), and fanm jadin (garden woman). Today these more formal arrangements are less usual and relationships tend to be less well defined - especially since men can rarely stay on the family homestead.

      When couples cohabitate or have children together, it increases the odds that the man contributes economically to the household. But in most cases women are the primary caregivers and financial supporters for the children. Women are called the poto mitan, a term for the central pillar that holds up a house. Since men so often must leave for work or because a relationship has ended, women and children are the primary familial unit in Haiti. Women and girls take care of all household duties such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child rearing. They sometimes help out in the fields and also engage in certain folk crafts such as basket weaving. They are also in charge of selling any items the family makes in the market, though men and boys also help sell items in commerce. In the past, boys were sent to school much more often than girls often because if the family could not afford to send all of their children they chose the males. Men were thought to put the education to better use and girls were more valuable at home. Yet, today the literacy rates and enrollment rates are quite close for girls and boys. Since more jobs are available to women than men, families may be beginning to see the value of educating their girls. Women also played an important role in fighting for their own education through the Mouvement Paysan Papay in the 1980s. As adults, poor women have a fair amount of autonomy and freedom. They control the finances, set prices for goods being sold, make most of the decisions regarding the household and children, and can end or being relationships with men as they see fit. Some researchers argue that upper class women have less freedom since they do not work and therefore are dependent upon their husbands and more limited to the household. However, it is important to remember that poor women are expected to do all household chores, some work in the fields, care for the children, and engage in commerce - an exhausting list of activities.

      Like many Caribbean societies, there are sexist views about women and their ideal roles. To be fair, anthropologists argue that women are second class citizens in every society on earth so that what we see in Haiti is just a local form and expression of ideas that exist everywhere. But every time there is an issue of political unrest that requires movement of people, military, and/or temporary camps it is women who often bear the brunt of the violence and sexual assault that seems to go along with such events. Haiti is no different but their frequent political unrest, the occupation of the island by various foreign nations, and the tent cities have led to upsetting amounts of violence and sexual assault against women. Women in dire economic situations may also find that their only option for feeding their children is prostitution. Not only is all of this traumatic, but it leaves women burdened with children they may not be able to raise and diseases they cannot afford to treat. Paul Farmer documents how these factors played a large role in the spread of HIV in Haiti, an issue I will take up in a later lecture. Despite all of this, in recent years Haitian women have fought for their rights and education. Women have formed organizations to support one another from domestic violence, to train other women to do jobs traditionally done by men, to teach women to read and write, and even purchase land together in order to farm without the assistance of men. Today there are a number of female Haitian politicians such as former prime minister Michele Pierre Louis who today is an ardent promoter of women's rights in Haiti. Many experts believe that economic empowerment and education are major factors in improving women's status and safety in Haiti.

      Men also have a social role and set of expectations to fulfill, though few are able to sufficiently do so. From a young age, boys begin helping their fathers in the field and carrying out duties considered too difficult or dangerous for women and girls. The traditional space for men is one of social authority, the head of the household, and the family member whose labor provides the financial support for the family. However, as I've explained above, for the most part this is no longer a role that men can completely fill. This tension is part of the reason why men so often out migrate from their families and plays a role in violence against women. From the day they are born men are told to expect this status and position, yet rarely are able to attain it. With few job options at home, men often tap into their networks of friends and family to find job opportunities outside their hometown. This might mean going into the city, traveling to another rural region for farm work, or going to Cuba or the Dominican Republic to work in the sugar cane fields. Sugar cane work promises guaranteed pay, but working conditions are often terrible. During periods of political instability men can temporarily gain status through joining militias such as the Tonton Macoutes. But these positions of power never last longer than the political power, which in Haiti can be quite fleeting. In the end, many men cannot find long-term work or the social positions society has told them to expect. Many turn to commerce, but some also become alcoholics. 

      Mansisi, a somewhat negative but prevalent term for gay men in Haiti, are another category that are worth mentioning. In anthropology we recognize that gender is not necessarily linked to sex in that our concept of what makes someone an appropriate woman or man is cultural rather than biological. Once we step back and recognize the variety of ways people are good men and women across the world, we can also see that this binary is not cross-cultural. Some societies have more than two genders, which we sometimes call third gender. In Haiti, it could be argued that mansisi can fall into a third gender category. Homosexuality is stigmatized in everyday Haitian life, but many men still choose to live openly as gay through specific dress, mannerisms, and occupations. Most openly gay men work selling clothes, and as such are considered good at this position and they can become financially well off through a pathway closed to most straight men. They also find a safe haven in Vodou communities where homosexuality is religiously sanctioned. There are a variety of explanations, from a ritual to change their sexuality for financial gain to a spirit such as Erzulie Freda controlling their head and imprinting her desires onto their own. Many mansisi can attain social status through Vodou initiations, and in Okap I once saw an entire Vodou house made up of mansisi who for all the world looked like Haitian versions of Hijras

      These gender ideals and realities are reflected in the Vodou religion. Erzulie Freda is sometimes characterized as the lwa of love but this is not quite correct. She is the seductive virgin, the excitement of the first blush of love, the possibility of everything that could be. She is light skinned - the ideal of beauty in Haiti - and desires all things beautiful and luxurious. But she often cries because she cannot reach the very ideals she represents. In another nation (lwa are grouped in the spiritual nations that reflect their West African geographical & cultural origins) Ezili Dantor is a very different kind of woman. She is tough, dark skinned, and a devout mother. In her Catholic form she holds a baby - but this child is a daughter because daughters are more highly valued. Her veve is a pierced heart that may bleed but still stands strong. She is the peasant woman's reality. These are just two female ideals present in the Vodou pantheon, but they stand as contrasts to one another. They are what women want to be, what they are, and what they cannot always attain.

      For men, Ogou Feray represents the powerful warrior king who is attractive, manly, a good father, and a leader. In this sense he represents what men could and should be. But unable to attain this, many men also find reflections of their reality in other Ogou members of the Nago nation. The Ogous are brothers that at times work together but might also fight one another. Some are healers, father figures, or elders. But some are also womanizers, drunks, and are vain. Ogou is the lover of Ezili Dantor, but in this form he is unreliable and does not provide economic assistance. Thus, their relationship mirrors the reality for many Haitians. But there are also positive examples of relationships through Azaka and his wife. He is a hard working peasant farmer and his wife is a shrewd market woman. Together they make a formidable pair and represent the achievements of hard work not only for material things but relationships as well. Of course, Azaka sometimes partakes of his wormwood laced alcoholic drink a little too much. But he is not abusive or cruel as a drunk - merely bratty and sleepy. Drinking is a common pastime in Haiti but men without concerns about their machismo can enjoy it as a social activity rather than a way to prove themselves. There are still spaces and opportunities for men to be successful and content with their lot in life, and Azaka is one example of how that can be achieved. 


      These categories have hopefully provided windows into the Haitian world and what life is like for many people living there. Despite the length of my lecture, it is obviously incomplete and at times simplified. You can also see my obvious anthropological bias given that the categories I chose fall in line with topics covered by many classic ethnographies. However, these categories of kinship, gender, economy, and class are real concerns and important aspects of the Haitian people. I've built this paper around my readings but also my personal experiences and conversations in Haiti. If you have any questions or want to discuss a topic, please post your comments in the reddit thread here. I have also put together an album of relevant photos I have taken that you can view here. If you would like to do your own research on these topics I have included some suggestions below. Thanks for reading!

'Fanm Se Poto Mitan': Haitian Woman, the Pillar of Society
Author(s): Marie-José N'Zengou-TayoReviewed work(s):Source: Feminist Review, No. 59, Rethinking Caribbean Difference (Summer, 1998), pp. 118-142

Women's Moral and Spiritual Leadership in Haitian Vodou: The Voice of Mama Lola and KarenMcCarthy BrownAuthor(s): Claudine MichelReviewed work(s):Source: Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Fall, 2001), pp. 61-87

Oswald, Laura. Culture Swapping: Consumption and the Ethnogenesis of Middle‐Class Haitian Immigrants.
Journal of Consumer Research. Vol. 25, No. 4 (March 1999), pp. 303-318

Kovats-Bernat, J. Christopher. Sleeping Rough in Port-Au-Prince: An Ethnography of Street Children and Violence in Haiti

Of Men and Gods - A documentary about Haitian sexuality

Melville J. Herskovits. 1937. Life in a Haitian Valley. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Mintz, Sidney “The employment of capital by Haitian market women,” in Firth, R., and B. Yamey, eds., Capital, Savings and Credit in Peasant Societies: 256-86. 1964.

All photos and text are my own original work. 
If you would like to reproduce them in whole or in part please contact me first. Thanks!