My informant was born and raised in Haiti. She shared with me a few proverbs that she learned from her time growing up there.
When people think of Haiti, they rightly so think of severe poverty, denuded mountains, music, art, and its oral history — including proverbs of its peasants. These peasants have suffered so much over the centuries. Because of all that they have suffered, they have gained a treasure full of wisdom. Haitians seem to hold the mentality that a lot of things are up to them and that they can only depend on themselves. This belief that they hold is understandable; how can they trust a world that has been so cruel and unfair to them? A lot of their proverbs reflect skepticism, relentless hardship of life, universal truths about people, and at times a hopelessness or defeated attitude. Below I have laid out the proverb in Creole, the English translation, and then an explanation behind the proverb as provided by my informant:
Haitian Proverb (Creole)
Nan benyen pa gen kache lonbrit
A beautiful burial does not guarantee heaven
“People put in so much into the external in their lives. So it’s like ok you do all this for yourself—you pamper yourself. But in the end it’s not a passport to heaven. Because who knows what’s on the other side? It’s not ultimately money that matters when you die. It’s not going to take you to heaven. You can lavish on yourself, but in the end it won’t matter.”