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#3575: Culture Vulturism: Selby comments

From: Lynn Selby <lynnselby@yahoo.com>

To the visitor who would have been charged for the
ceremony in 1978,

This is a very interesting conversation.  I don't know
how the fee for the ceremony was pitched, but I
actually don't object that the matter of money was
brought up, even if exclusively to the blan in the
audience.  The ceremonies cost a lot of money (as well
as maintaing the network of a spiritual community),
and what the leaders of the ceremony receive in
reciprocity from the community they service they
cannot receive by a short-term visitor.  Perhaps I am
just playing devil's advocate, and do not understand
the full extent of the "disrespect" in the demand for

Was going to the ceremony part of building a
relationship with the community?  I think of the "fee"
of $10 (even in 1978) as a small price for an initial
presentation to a community of serviteur/serviteuses. 
The money may go to more Florida water, food, rum,
etc.; in a sense, it is supporting the faith.  Or
perhaps it is going straight into the pocket of
someone who is not accountable to the community. 
Whatever may be the case, I believe the outsider,
however devoted to Haiti, is not in a position to call
the shots, or micro-manage in the abstract.

I think that giving money would be a show of good
faith in the leadership hosting the ceremony.  The
average foreigner has a lot of wealth compared to the
average Haitian.  Is it so bad to share, particularly
in the context of supporting a community event?

I also wonder who the guide was who brought the
visitor to the public ceremony.  Or was the visitor
accompanied by any other person?  Did the guide have a
history of bringing foreigners to the ceremony?  Would
the guide have received a cut of the $10?

And how can one discuss the issue of money in a way
that says, "Hey, I have a different understanding of
the exchange of money and religious ceremonies, since
I grew up in a different place.  I noticed that you
are not 'charging' any one else and I am here to
observe the faith, I believe, like the other
attendees.  Is there another way I can show my support
in a respectful way to the community?"  Or something
like that.  Maybe a straightforward conversation would
be unrealistic given the lack of established
relationship with the person demanding the money, or
this would be an imposition of non-Haitian values
about money.

I have a very incomplete picture of the dynamics of
that situation, but I think it is an anecdote about
power, relationships, and outsider-insider dynamics,
and if you wanted to share more, I would surely
appreciate it.

Thanks for the comment,
--- Robert Corbett <bcorbett@netcom.com> wrote:
> From:Racine125@aol.com
> << Sorry, but some of them DO charge. I was in Haiti
>  in 1978 and my Haitian friends wanted to take me
>  to see a public ceremony.  It was the first of
>  November and there were many ceremonies going on.
>   We were far out in the country, and definately
>  not in a tourist area.  I was the only white
>  person there.  I was asked to pay $10 for the
>  previlage of attending while none of the other
>  persons there had to.>>
> Well, there you see - it is not customary for people
> to pay.  You were right 
> to refuse, and I commend you for it.  We never ask
> people to pay to attend 
> ceremonies at our house, and I have never been asked
> to pay.
> Now, having said that, let me point out that it is
> customary for a well-to-do 
> participant to make small gifts to the house - a
> bottle of rum, candles, 
> whatever.  This is just a way of giving something in
> return, but it is not a 
> requirement.
> Peace and love,
> Bon Mambo Racine Sans Bout Sa Te La Daginen
> "Se bon ki ra", 
>      Good is rare - Haitian Proverb
> The VODOU Page - <A
> members.aol.com/racine125/index.html</A>

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