Haiti and New Orleans: Is The Feeling Mutual?

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WWNO’s original history podcast TriPod: New Orleans at 300 launches its third season with this special on the relationship between New Orleans and Haiti. Listen to the hour-long documentary at WWNO- New Orleans Public Radio. Here are excerpts from the transcript:

TriPod: New Orleans at 300 returns with an hour-long special that explores two places linked in history. called “Haiti and New Orleans: Is the Feeling Mutual?”

“The connection in New Orleans is all around you, right? It’s in the music, it’s in the food. It’s in the culture with the carnival. When people get married, when they are put to rest, and die. So, when New Orleans is celebrating its tricentennial, I think it’s only natural that Haiti play its proper role in that celebration. There’s no denying it, we’re kin. You can try to deny it, but you know, history will prove you otherwise.”

This whole series is leading up to the tricentennial of New Orleans. 300 years — and definitely no shortage of material. But throughout the past two seasons of TriPod, one place kept coming up: Haiti. And the Haitian Revolution, which remains the only successful slave rebellion in the Americas. That Revolution lasted from 1791 until 1804, and led to a mass migration from Haiti to New Orleans that shaped the city’s culture so intensely, a lot of people here in New Orleans still talk about that Haitian influence. A lot. Haiti remains an important part of the story New Orleans tells about itself. But on the flip side, is New Orleans part of the Haiti story? All of this made me wonder, Hey Haiti, is the feeling mutual?

Barbara Trevigne is dressed in all white, from head wrap to sandals. Her immaculate outfit does not stop her from lying face down on the ground of the St. Jude shrine at the edge of the French Quarter. Surrounding candles bathe her in light, as she whispers her prayers into the floor.

As a ritual, Barbara always wears all white when she prays, and she loves to pray here. “Because of the candles, the saints up there, it feels right.”

She has Haitian roots, and she wanted to meet at this church because it’s one of the spots in New Orleans where Barbara feels most connected to Haiti. She explains her family’s migration from Haiti to New Orleans. “Mine escaped from Saint-Marc, and some went to Jamaica and some went to Cuba. And then they came to New Orleans.” Barbara says having this connection to Haiti helps her know who she is. “Who I am and what I do,” she says.

There are a lot of people like Barbara in New Orleans, whose ancestors come from Haiti. But not everyone’s as into genealogical research like Barbara. So do other people in New Orleans know about this historical connection? Barbara says yes. “A lot has been written about it. I have written about it. People do talk about it. So we keep perpetuating it and saying it over and over again to get the word out that you are more Haitian here than anything because of the influx of Haitians that gave New Orleans its flavor and its culture. We’re more Haitian than anything.” [. . .]

[Photo above: A street scene in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, by WYNNE MUSCATINE GRAHAM.]

For full article, see http://wwno.org/post/haiti-new-orleans-feeling-mutual

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