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
Behind mountains are more mountains
“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.”