Culture of Haiti
The Culture of Haiti Carrie St. Jean Axia College of University of Phoenix What does the average American really know about the country, Haiti? Is the lifestyle all black magic, spells, and seances? Is this media portrayal of Voodoo the only way of life and what is Voodoo, any way? These questions come to mind when someone wants to know the truth about Haitian culture and life in Haiti. Haitian culture consists of deep rooted religious beliefs, music, and Haitian cuisine.
First and foremost, voodoo is not just black magic, spells, and voodoo dolls that everyone associates with what has been portrayed in the movies and television shows. For example, the movie Serpent and the Rainbow, directed by Wes Craven (1988), is a horror movie that depicts voodoo as an evil practice that turned people into zombies. The premise of this movie was a doctor who goes to Haiti to investigate the rumors of a drug used with black magic that left people in total paralysis, yet conscious.
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Most Americans in fact believe that all Haitians are part of this media portrayed version of this Haitian religion. The media has glorified and exaggerated this minor part of the Voodoo religion. Yes, those Haitian individuals who actively believe in the Voodoo religion do believe in some types of black magic and unfortunately the spells and voodoo dolls, but not all Haitians practice religion this way. In actuality, voodoo means spirit in African tradition. Haitians believe in only one God and other categories of spiritual beings.
Haiti is also primarily a Catholic religion but the natives’ daily life still revolves around spirit religion. Many Haitians believe in spirits and other beings but his does not always mean ouija boards, seances, or ceremonies of raising the dead. This is the way Haitians live their lives and value the word of God. Other aspects to Haiti that most people do not realize about Haitian life are the music and cuisine. As for music, Haiti’s varied cultural background shaped the history of music. The different styles of music combine Spanish, French, American, and African influences.
Voudou is one of the first types of music adopted by Haitians from Africa. Voudou is considered sacred and spiritual folklore. Mizik Rasin, mini jazz, and Haitian rap are a few different types of music that most people are not aware of. Mizik Rasin is considered roots music and actually evolved in the late 1980’s after the overthrow of Baby Doc Duvalier (1999). This music is believed to heal and honor the spirits. Mini jazz mixes French and American styles and Haitian rap is basically embraced by the Haitian youth to express views on violence, politics, and social matters.
Rara is the type of music that is not really considered mainstream. This is the music of celebration and was also used back in the days of slavery. There are many other types of music that exist in Haiti and have all be created or shaped by other worldly influences. Haitian music has gone through many stages and with the availability of the Internet, Haitian music is spreading globally; With the possibilities of the internet, more people will be able to experience the wonderful sounds of many styles of Haitian music.
Part of the music in Haiti also includes dance. Music and dance are a major part of Haitian life from birth through death. The Haitian tradition of dance begins with the christening of a child, as the people of Haiti view dance as a celebration of life. Dance also signifies important stages of a person’s life There are many different styles of dance but the most commonly known, throughout the county, are used to send the dead on their way to the afterlife. Parigol is the dance to let the spirits take control of the body.
Parigol “is a graceful and subtle dance where the human body becomes a horse for the spirit to ride” (2004). Another dance, called Banda, calls the Gede spirits. These are the spirits of for the circle of life and death. This dance is not only decadent, but erotic. These dances are actually derived from the Voodoo religion and most Haitians living in the United States are not too familiar, as they did not grow up in Haiti. Most Haitian-Americans are Catholic and do not practice the Voodoo religion. Another important tradition in Haiti, beyond religion and music, is food.
Haitian cuisine is actually kreyol or creole cuisine. Food has always been an important aspect of Haitian life, but is actually used to signify certain events in Haitian history and considered a cultural treasure. For example, Haitian soup, or pumpkin soup, is a dish that celebrates Haitian independence. This soup of “freedom” is called Joumou and is consumed by all Haitian households, in Haiti, on January 1st, every year. This is Haiti’s Independence Day. The soup mainly consists of beef, chicken, squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, and other leafy greens.
The interesting fact about this dish is the fact that no pumpkin is used to make the soup. Specific Haitian recipes have been passed along from generation to generation and when a person mentions one Haitian dish, most likely everyone will know exactly what the dish is and how it tastes. Rice, beans, beef, pork, goat, and plantain are prominent throughout most Haitian cuisine. Griots, pronounced gree-yoo, is one of the most popular, flavorful dishes among Haitians. Many Haitians will serve this dish at family gatherings, as this is another cuisine of celebration.
Griots is fried, glazed pork and because the Kreyol language of Haiti was not written until about fifteen years ago, Griots is also spelled as grillots, griyo, and griyot. The reason for the different spellings is that Haitian Kreyol was not a written language until about ten years ago. More popular foods used in Haitian cuisine are rice, beans, plantain, fish, and fruit. Bananes pesees or banan peze is a favorite among Haitians. This entree is green plantain that is fried twice. Banan Peze is not just a Haitian favorite but popular in Puerto Rico, as well. Puerto Ricans call the dish tostones.
Plantain is just one of the many foods that are a staple to Haitian cuisine. Now that many Haitians have immigrated to the United States, Americans can actually taste the fine cuisine of Haiti and visit a Haitian restaurant or if you get the chance, select Haiti the next time a vacation opportunity arises and experience all the different positive, cultural experiences Haiti has to offer Sample the music varieties, the celebration of life, with both music and the amazing different Haitian cuisine dishes, and most importantly, interact with the people and experience the true culture of this country.
Your original opinion of this country will be changed forever. Haiti is truly an undiscovered, misunderstood country. When Americans reach beyond the media portrayed sense of Haitian culture they will realize the reality of a strong, religious culture with people who value God, bring food, music, and dance into their daily lives. Haitians value and celebrate life and Americans might want to sample this way of living. References Laterriere, D. (n. d. ) Discover Culture Retrieved October 15, 2009 from website: http://www. discoverhaiti. com/culture. htm