USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘haiti’
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Proverbs

Proverb #1- Haiti

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)

Dye Mon, Gen Mon

 

Translation

Behind mountains are more mountains

 

Explanation

“The reason this proverb has a lot of meaning is because Haiti is a very mountainous country. Unlike the Dominican Republic whom it shares the island, Haiti is pretty much all mountains. And the Dominican Republic when you fly over the island is all green. And Haiti unfortunately over the years has diluted because they cut down the trees to make charcoal and things like that—it’s made poverty even worse. Because of the topography, it (the proverb) has kind of a double meaning in that one because it is a very mountain country and then second is that in life…it is a roller coaster. It doesn’t mean that you go through life smoothly. There is always a bump. There is always a hurdle. There is always something. And just when you think you’re done, then something else comes up. So, for them it’s even more accentuated if you will because the poverty is so extreme and they’ve had earthquake where thousands and thousands of people have died. And then after that came a whole string of health problems because of that. And I think perhaps a lot of poor people feel that way and you’re leaving a daily subsistence and it’s just everyday there’s something else for you to have to deal with. There’s no coasting.”

general
Proverbs

Proverb #3 – Haiti

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)

Konstitusyon se papye, babyonet se fe

Translation

The constitution is made of paper, but the bayonet is made of steel

Explanation

“This one requires a bit of history about Haiti. It was the first country where slaves gained their freedom and became the first nation to create one after a fight. It happened under the Napoleonic rule. And at the time, it was the richest colony that France had, so a lot of the money that it needed actually came from Haiti. Then when they lost Haiti, the French got their coffer drained so much that they couldn’t’ make ends meet. And it was because of that, that they sold a chunk of the United States called the Louisiana Purchase. So it was because they lost Haiti, they had to find other means to raise money, so they sold Louisiana and that whole area in the United States. The Haitians created the constitution, but it’s gone through so many constitutions to the point where constitutions don’t matter anymore. The way you make a difference is you get your armaments to fight. That’s what drives change. It has nothing to do with constitution. Unlike us in the United States, we can depend on our constitution because theres stability. But in so many countries there is no such thing. Somebody else comes into power, you have a new constitutions, somebody else comes into power, you have a new constitutions—it’s meaningless. But what does matter is who has the guns. It’s like people pay attention to that cause constitutions don’t’ matter.”

general
Proverbs

Proverb #4 – Haiti

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

Translation

A beautiful burial does not guarantee heaven

Explanation

“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.”

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