Whenever someone mentions Haiti I think of abject poverty, and the tumultuous plight of the Western Hemisphere’s first independent black democratic nation. Like the US, Haiti is a country born out of conflict. A country which has ancestral roots that are tied to the African slave trade.
Haiti is also a country where people openly express their strong ties to the culture and independence of a nation that other countries view as lost to corruption, violence, social depravity, and religious occultism. But when I communicate with Facebook followers from Haiti, I get an entirely different perspective of what is happening in one of the world’s poorest nations, where over 70% of the population is unemployed.
Despite the poverty and turmoil, I sense an undeniable solidarity and even cohesion amongst the citizens of Haiti. Yes, they express concern over differing opinions regarding the spirituality of a people whose culture is based on reverence to their ancestral spirits. The majority of Haitians are Catholics, but evangelical Christians came to Haiti in 2010 with relief for earthquake victims, and have stayed and made it their mission to convert the entire population to Christianity to save them from themselves. It is the belief of many of these evangelicals, and others, that Haiti will continue to suffer until Vudoun practices are no longer a part of their culture.
Is an altar to the ancestral lwa so diffferent than altars for Catholic Mass, complete with sacrificial offerings? The only difference I see is that Mass involves the Holy Trinity, while a Vudoun altar is set up to remember and appease the spirits of the Haitian ancestors, elders, and relatives who have crossed over into another existence.
And there appears to be a sense of patriotism in Haiti that is unparalleled. Despite the poverty, social, political, and geologic instability of the country, there are not mass migrations to the Dominican Reublic, which Haiti shares borders with on the island of Hispaniola. People speak of the poverty and the difficulties of day to day existence, but not with animosity, malice, or hopelessness. For many, they anticipate a day when all Haitians stand together as a united front, so that all of their Human Resources can work together to develop a thriving economy.As for the children of Haiti, the education system seems to be more of a deterrent than an asset. The limited data that is available tells the story of a nation where only 57% of elementary age children are enrolled in school. Out of those, only 30% reach sixth grade. The literacy rate is 52.9%. And the majority of schools are private schools run by missionaries. Teachers are not required to meet strict standards and adhere to successful methodologies, thus ensuring they are qualified to be educators.
But, for those Millennials who have managed to beat the odds, the outlook is one of hope. In their desire to uplift their country, many have graduated high school and have completed college in Haiti, while others have come to the US for college and returned home to help in any way possible. Many of my Facebook followers are Haitian Millennials, so I have learned they use social media to garner as much information from an electronic world as they can.
That is the beauty of the democratic nation of Haiti. It lies in the spirit of it’s people. It’s hope shines brightly through the eyes of it’s youth. Haiti is a people determined to combat the social, political, and economic odds, until the first black democratic nation of the Western Hemisphere stands strong and economically independent for the first time in it’s short life.