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#298: Special week brings native Haitians back home (fwd)


Published Sunday, August 15, 1999, in the Miami Herald   LITTLE HAITI
Special week brings native Haitians back home
 By HANS MARDY Herald Writer 

 Dozens of local Haitian Americans are heading back to their homeland
today. They will be joined by perhaps thousands of others now living in
Canada, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa who will take part in Diaspora
Week in Haiti. The government-sponsored event will feature a week of
festivities and events designed to build a bridge between those living
on the island and those who have migrated across the globe over the
years. ``It's a good experience,'' said Jean-Claude P. Cantave, who
served as a liaison between officials from the Ministry of Haitians
Living Outside of Haiti and the South Florida Haitian community.
``Diaspora Week will be a very positive thing for Haitians either in
Miami or on the island.'' The government wants to encourage the former
residents to go back and consider investing in the island's future and
growth and sharing their experiences and skills with current residents.
Several Haitian-American professionals and members of local
organizations are attending, among them doctors, lawyers, artists,
journalists, activists and business owners. ``I'm very happy to
represent the Miami community,'' said Jan Mapou of Sosyete Koukouy, a
multicultural performance group. He is also the owner of the Libreri
 Mapou bookstore, 5919 NE Second Ave., in Little Haiti. ``I will share
my cultural experience with my brothers in Haiti. I hope there will be a
continuity.'' Haitians living outside the country say they may be gone,
but they haven't forgotten their island homeland. Though millions are
now living outside the country, they still stay abreast of events in
Haiti. Many have relatives on the island and call or visit often or
write. Others send money and goods home to help their relatives.
 The Diaspora events are also designed to help ease the tensions that
some say have arisen between former residents and current island
inhabitants. For some still living in the country, there's a feeling of
resentment toward those who have left. Diaspora Week will offer them an
opportunity to interact with the former residents and hopefully see them
in another light, said Yves Renaud of HaitiOnline, who is planning to
attend the convention. ``We do not have two kinds of Haitians. We are
the same Haitians, in and out of the island,'' said Renaud. ``It's like
a coconut. Haitian outsiders are the brown husk that enclosed those in
Haiti, and then those in the island are the white meat. But it's the
same coconut. We live outside to protect them.'' Still, some in the
local Haitian community are skeptical of the government's
 attempt to lure their investment dollars and other support.
 Many are resentful that they cannot vote in Haitian elections and say
the country wants their money, but they have no input in the
decision-making process. There is an election in November, but
nonresidents can't vote. Those living outside the island hope eventually
to be able to vote through their consulate offices. ``Haitians should
vote wherever we are living,'' said Mapou, who acknowledged
 there is not enough staff in the Haitian consulates yet to allow
everyone to vote. ``I hope one day we will get there.''