A white Frenchman married A black woman
married in Africa in early 1800s.
She may have been an American black or a Haitian
traveling in Africa.
Child of this marriage:
Joseph Binbin Mauvant married Manman Marasa
b. about 1820 (in Africa)
after living in France, he migrated to Haiti as a young man.
d. (or disappeared) in about 1899
Children of Joseph and Manman Mauvant
Alourde came to the US in 1962. She was in her late 20s. Close to my own age.
"Currently, unemployment among young urban males hovers around 8o percent. Many young men in the city follow the old pattern, circulating among the households of their girlfriends and families to be fed, enjoy some intimacy, and get their laun-dry done. But life is hard and resources scarce. With the land gone, it is no longer clear how essential particular men are to the survival of particular women and children. As a result, rela-tionships between urban men and women have become brittle and, too often, violent.
"Men are caught in a double bind. They are still reared to ex-pect to exercise power and authority, although they have few resources with which to do so. When their expectations run up against a wall of social impossibility, men often veer off in un-productive directions. The least harmful is manifested in a na-tional preoccupation with soccer. The most damaging involve the military, the domestic police force of Haiti, and a vast, com-plicated, many-headed male patronage system that provides the one road to upward social mobility for desperate, poor young men. Drinking and gambling fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Alcoholism is a big problem throughout Haiti and an even bigger problem in Port-au-Prince, where a bottle of Johnny Walker is thought to be indispensable to the image of a young man who likes to flannen (hang out) with his buddies. Gambling is also pervasive among poor men. The many lot-teries, large and small, that can be played every day in Port-au--Prince offer one outlet for the fever. Rue du Dr. Dehoux, a main artery that skirts the city cemetery, is clogged with rickety gam-bling concessions, roulette wheels, and dice games, which ap-pear only after dark, garishly lighted by Coleman lanterns. Many of the players are men so poor their feet are bare and their clothes ragged."
Because the Vodou spirits hover so close to the social ground, they have also been useful in sorting out the moral dilemmas faced by a people first enslaved by the French, then oppressed and starved by their own leaders, and finally shoved to the mar-gins in immigrant communities throughout the United States. Talk of ethical norms or moral absolutes is for those who have power and a wide range of choices, unlike the great majority of the Haitian people now or in the past. Haitians view life as a sea turbulent with moral crosscurrents. You do well in Vodou if you choose to ride the currents that flow in the constructive direc-tions set by your basic character. The Vodou spirits help people to name the most important aspects of their character and then to hold on to this vision when the ride gets rough. Vodou is a religion of survival, and it counsels what it must to ensure sur-vival. Dant6 counseled Alourdes to keep one baby, and Ogou gave her sufficient reason to abort another.
Those who serve the spirits do not fall on their knees and im-plore a god to solve their problems for them. A Vodou spirit is not a deus ex machina but a catalyst who mobilizes the will and energy of human beings. Vodou spirits do not often deliver pro-clamations. They speak in lean, enigmatic ways that call forth the voice of the community. "Dey-dey-dey-dey-dey," says Ezili Dant6, and the people say, "Yes, we will do it for you."
Slavery broke the African family. Drought, corruption, and poverty broke the patriarchal extended family that reconstituted itself after Haiti's slave revolution. From the wreckage, women's previously muted voices began to emerge. Women's "dey-dey-dey" is now becoming articulate in Haiti. Few other places in the world rival Haiti in recognizing women's religious leadership. In part, this is an inheritance of the African home-land where women could be cult leaders, even though the reli-gious institutions with social status were led by men, as were the public ceremonies. But the more significant source of wom-en's religious power in Haiti is, I believe, the recent shift in fam-ily structure brought on by the movement of large numbers of people from the countryside to the cities.
When women's religious leadership is unfettered by male con-trol, that religion begins to take account of the circumstances of women's lives. Women become visible. In Vodou, the female spirits have begun to tell the stories of women's lives from their point of view, in striking contrast to religious systems in which goddess figures function largely as the carriers of male projec-tions about women.
Yet Haiti is a place in transition. Women's voices are strong, but they do not dominate. Perhaps they never will, and perhaps they never should. For example, when men serve the female Vodou spirits, the vision can still be a thoroughly anthrocentric one. Alourdes*'s childhood friend Big Daddy once reported this dream: "I saw this lady, this white lady; and she have hair *ihat come down to here." He traced a line below his buttocks. "And she was tall, maybe six foot three. I never seen no lady like that, and she was walking like this . . ." Big Daddy imitated a minc-ing step combined with a very sexy over-the-shoulder glance. "And I'm thinking to myself, you know ... Oh, boy! How I'm going to get that lady? You know ... take her to bed. And that was Ezili Freda! She my wife, and I didn't even know. The spirit is real, let me tell you!" Ezili Freda imitates ideas of beauty that have social power and prestige. For men, she can function as the target for dreams of conquest. Speaking for women, she re-minds all people that these values can be superficial and even dangerous.
The healing work Alourdes performed in Jamaica is more easily understood when set within the context of the Vodou view of person and the Vodou philosophy of life. In the Vodou under-standing of personhood, the individual is given identity, solid-ity, and safety in a precarious world by a thick weave of rela-tionships with other human beings as well as with spirits and ancestors. That the world is precarious is the core of the Vodou philosophy of life.
"Moun fet pou mouri [People are born to die]," Haitians are fond of saying, usually with a casual shrug of the shoulders. This proverb gives voice to both the pain of life in poverty-stricken Haiti and the stoic acceptance that, on one level at least, characterizes the Haitian attitude toward this life. Mize (suffering, and, more precisely, the suffering of poverty) is an expected and recurrent condition. Haitians face this, and they accept it. Neither experience nor religion gives them a way out. The notion of progress is of no help in making sense of their history, and they have seen little upward social mobility, either in their own lives or in those of their children. Furthermore, Haitians do not believe that the human condition has degener-ated from an ideal state any more than that it leads to one; in Vodou, there is neither an Eden nor a heaven. Because, for the great majority of Haitians, it is a given that life is filled with struggle and suffering, it is not inaccurate to say that problem- free periods are pervaded with an anxiety that anticipates crises just around the corner. Life, in the Vodou view of things, is thus characterized by alternating cycles of suffering and the transient relief from suffering that is called "having luck."
Luck (chans) is, however, not entirely a matter of chance in Vodou philosophy. Maintaining and enhancing good luck and, when necessary, fending off and removing bad luck are forms of labor as necessary to life as the labor of the peasant farmer in his fields or the urban pieceworker at her factory bench. A person who expects that life will run smoothly without spiritual effort is "naive," the word Alourdes used to describe Cecile. Vodou healers such as Alourdes are for-hire specialists in the spiritual labor required to orchestrate luck.
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