Monday, January 18, 2010

our Sister Nation -Haiti- is hurting


It is no secret how I feel about Haitians. I published my feelings in articles in my Harvest Journal column in Barista Magazine. When people ask me, "Why is Haiti so poor and the DR so much better off when they seem to have been given similar land?" I get that question a lot. If I had a good answer that I thought fit what I've seen and heard about I would state it here, but I don't have an answer. I love and respect Haitians.

I can only speak from my personal relationships with Haitians that live and work in the Dominican Republic, the few wonderful Haitians I met when I traveled to Haiti, and close Haitian friends here in the US. Americans are known for pronouncing the "R" with our entire mouth, we like hamburgers and pizza. Haiti is the first freed slave nation and they are exceptionally proud of that. When you ask them about how things are they respond, "Well". But the tone and body language tell much more. As a nation they have endured more than their share of abuse, corruption, and terrible luck.

Last harvest trip in the DR, I was sitting at a bus stop waiting for the bus to leave. Two Dominicans were talking about how bad things were economically. They brought up the two usual suspects: the US and Haitians. Because I didn't know the man who said the thing about Haitians and I was not having the best of days I told him what I thought. Using the non-verbal sign for dark skin, I repeated the question, "they are the problem?" " Yes, they are coming over here illegally and taking our jobs. They are dirty and uncivilized." I was in Neyba a town know for sugar production. "Stop," I said rather aggressively. "What would happen if all the Haitians left the only major industry here in this region? What would happen if the Haitians didn't harvest sugar cane, one of the largest exports from the DR? Would you pick up a machete and work like they do for their shitty pay?" He was silent. I continued, "They may come here illegally, but they work harder than you do and their for support a massive industry that this country wouldn't function without." He then nodded in agreement.

I have been able to communicate with most of my major contacts and closest friends in the DR. Antonio called me this morning at 7:15AM. He half way to his garlic farm. It was cold. I could hear in his voice he was near shivering. When the earth quake shook he was on his farm and surely felt the "twisting of the earth". He asked me if there was any damage done here in the US. No damage happened to my farm or anyone's property I talked to in the DR.

The sincere lament expressed by some of my Dominican friends as they said, "Our Sister Nation has been so damaged, our hearts go out to them," was a pleasure to hear. I feel that these two tiny and poor countries which have done so much wrong to each other are starting to forgive. You won't hear it in the streets, but I feel it below the surface in cultural currents. Just maybe this quake will help mend the wounds.

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