Saturday, March 15, 2014

Being Haitian in New York (part 1)

English Translation :Herve Gilbert
Original text in french is available
 Statue of liberty is an iconic 
symbol of the American Dream  

As we know, most Haitians living in the country are fascinated to emigrate elsewhere. In general, the reasons are economic; objectively, Haiti is an extremely poor country and no one among those who belong to this category, would not like to spend their lives in absolute poverty.  In the list of countries in which Haitians dream to emigrate to, the United States always occupies the prominent place. New York is a city in the United States that captures the highest point in which Haitians dream to live in. At the time I was still living in Haiti, there was an area on the outskirts of Port -au- Prince which was given the name of Brooklyn in memory of the famous " borough " of New York. And those residents of this suburb of Port -au- Prince had not yet been to Brooklyn! The Haitian imagination is not comparable !

Régine O. Jackson 

There was a time people considered New York, by the size of its population, as the second city after Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Lately, most has been changed. According to Régine O. Jackson (Geographies of the Haitian Diaspora, Routledge 2011), who teaches American Studies at Emory University, the Haitian population of New York is estimated at 182,000 people compared to Florida which is around 360,000 immigrants. If true, this is a false comparison because it puts a city of (New York) against a state of (Florida), the fact remains that New York City has lost much of its 1970-1980 population, many of whom are either returned to Haiti, or moved to Florida ... just in search of a more hospitable climate

 Brooklyn neighborhoods

However, Haitian neighborhoods in New York continue to reflect the image of the typical Haitian cities such as (Port -au- Prince , Cap-Haitien ... ) ,especially with  variety of activities, where there is almost anything you find in Haiti. Streets such as Church Avenue in the heart of Anglophone Caribbean Brooklyn neighborhoods are full of Haitian commercial outdoor setting all kinds of food consumed in the country: fries , fried bananas , " Griyo " ( fried pork ), " taso " ( fried goat meat ), " diri dyondyon "(rice with mushrooms ), " mayi Moulen " Corn meal " Zaboka " ( Avocado) .

Haitian immigrants have settled in all five "borough" (districts) of the city of New York, but with a preference for the Brooklyn district that has long been the favorite of the large Haitian community area of ​​residence, followed in order by the Manhattan district, then through Queens, the Bronx and finally,Staten Island .
The view looking south from Rockefeller Center in Midtown Manhattan includes the art deco-styled Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. (Click on the picture to enlarge it)
In the beginning of Haitian immigration to New York, it was a pretty clear difference between Haitians living in Brooklyn and those living in Queens. Those living in Queens were seen as part of the "lelit" (elite) with the sense that Haitian Kreyol enunciators identify with this word (connotation colorist, belonging to the upper middle classes, perhaps high level of education ...) while those living in Brooklyn were considered as "common people", with all that this word conveyed in the Haitian mentality.
Brooklyn Museum 

In fact, this configuration corresponds to a typical American sociological reality that buying a home was a sign of social status and security. The Haitian anthropologist Michel S. Laguerre (. American Odyssey Haitians in New York City, Cornell University Press, 1984) reports what he was  told by one of his indicators: "Se vagabon ki lwe kay " (Honest people are not tenants) . In fact, owning a home is one of the marks of the realization of the so-called "American Dream".
Church Avenue ( Brooklyn) 

The Francophone Caribbean sociologist Stéphanie Melyon-Reynette of (Haitians in New York City, L'Harmattan, 2009) reports that "Jamaicans and Guyanese are more often owners than Haitians with the percentage respectively of 36.9% and 46.7%," but "best percentages in terms of habitat are reached by the Italians (64%) and Greece (50%). The emergence of a socio-professional category of younger generations of Haitian immigrants (university professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers ...) has changed the map resulting in a shift of the places of residence of much Haitian immigrants who are now living in areas formerly reserved for the upper class.
Haitian Music is relatively fairly well known in New York and Haitians never miss an opportunity to go and dance. Musical groups such as Tabou Combo or Boukman Experience always move Haitian and non-Haitian crowds when they play, no matter where they play. It was during the years 1970-1980 the Haitian music has built its capital celebrity thanks to the phenomenon of "mini-jazz " of Haiti that have transformed musically and the generation of the popular music of Haiti.

Haitian Konpa is so pleased, it has been emulated. Our cousins ​​Franco-Caribbean Creole created the "zouk" style that exploded in the 1990s, first in the West Indies, then in France and Haiti itself. Without rancor, most Haitians were quick to adopt it since the rhythm and melodies of "zouk" remain very close  to Konpa.


End of Part One - New York, December 2013

Translated  by Herve Gilbert from the Original text in french written by Hugues Saint Fort


Some awesome photos of the city of New York and its suburbs
A picture can be enlarged by clicking on it
This bridge establishes a critical link in the local and regional highway system. Since 1976. The bridge marks the gateway to New York Harbor; all cruise ships and most container ships arriving at the Port of New York and New Jersey must pass underneath the bridge and therefore must be built to accommodate the clearance under the bridge
               

Staten Island terminal 
The Verrazano–Narrows Bridge, in the U.S. state of New York, is a double-decked suspension bridge that connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn in New York City at the Narrows. It has a central span of 4,260 feet (1,298 m) and was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1964.
A view of New York and its surroundings in the gloom of Winter
The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City. Coextensive with Bronx County, it was the last of the 62 counties of New York State to be incorporated. Located north of Manhattan and Queens, and south of Westchester County, the Bronx is the only borough that is located primarily on the mainland
The Brooklyn Bridge is a bridge in New York City and is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River.

Ride the Staten Island Ferry to see the famous skyline and Statue of Liberty from Upper New York Bay. It’s free and runs about every 30 minutes. Ride on the front or back of the ship for the best views.

The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City. Coextensive with Bronx County, it was the last of the 62 counties of New York State to be incorporated. Located north of Manhattan and Queens, and south of WestchesterCounty, the Bronx is the only borough that is located primarily on the mainland

Staten Island terminal
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