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#1747: "restless Haitian soul," etc. : Laleau comments


Dear Daniel,

I think that there is some truth in this too... not exactly the way it 
sounded in the author's posting, perhaps, but --

I bought a painting in Haiti in 1994 that shows a drowning Haitian seaman 
being gathered into the arms of a number of Sirenes, and taken into a 
peristyle below the waters, where a voudoo ceremony is being prepared.  It 
is, of course, Ginen an ba dlo.  I think this is central to whatever "Haitian 
mentality" may exist in the majority class Haitians.  I think Haitian slaves 
may have had a stronger sense than most uprooted Africans that they came from 
somewhere else that was better than Hispaniola and slavery.  This is because 
they died in such numbers in Haiti and were replaced so regularly, that this 
consciousness was a direct expression of their immediate personal experience, 
and it continued on a societal level on up until 1804.  After the partial 
liberation of Haiti in 1804, that consciousness was absorbed in a different 
form in Haitian culture at large, I suspect.  It is no accident that Ginen is 
central to Haitian religion.  

This characteristic of Haiti may also be part of the unconscious attraction 
Haiti has for large numbers of "unusual" foreigners... (purely a hypothesis 
on my part, of course, based on limited personal experience).  Perhaps other 
people who feel uprooted or detached from their own culture, are drawn to 
Haiti in some way because they feel an inner resonance with that nostalgia 
and longing for a home they don't remember, and maybe never even had.

Nancy Laleau

PS -- And I'll bet that wherever there are groups of historically oppressed 
people, you will find something similar.  Jews long for Israel, the Irish 
long for Heaven, and other people can fill out this list.