Celebrating 50 years of the Haitian diaspora in Guyana
Le Nouvelliste | Publié le :
06 février 2014
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the arrival of Haitians in Guyana, Konbit Association, in partnership with the Consulate General of Haiti, held on January 26th and 27th a host of activities to mark the anniversary. Thousands of Haitians and other Caribbean natives participated in the days of lectures, cultural events and official meetings.
“We left Haiti but Haiti never left us after 50 years of engagement in the Haitian diaspora in the land of Félix Eboué," said Yves André Rameau, President of the Konbit Association during a panel discussion on Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Matoury City Hall. According to Haitian Professor Milot Oxigène, who arrived at the age of 11 years in Guyana, in general, when we talk about Haitian diaspora, we tend to see only the Haitian communities of North America (the United States and Canada). The polarization is normal, given the significant number of Haitians on US and Canadian territories.
“However,” Oxigène said “Haitian communities locatedin Africa, Europe and the Caribbean region, including that of Guyana, have their role to play if we want to work towards becoming a little more decisive and positive for the good of Haiti. "We must thank the Guyanese population which has welcomed Haitians," he said, in the presence of the, Jean-Pierre Thé Roumillac , Mayor of Matoury, Roger Narfez,Director of the Department of Continuing Education at the University of the West Indies and Guyana , and Mécène Fortuné, Regional Councilor.
Professor Gary Paul, who holds a doctorate in Contemporary History, said that according to reliable documents, the first Haitian immigrants arrived in Guyana in 1963, following extensive damage caused by Hurricane Flora in Haiti. They come mostly from the town of Aquin, Les Cayes, Fond-des-Negres, Miragoâne and Jacmel. Since then, the migratory movement continued, today, Haitians are the largest diaspora of Guyana.
In an interview with Le Nouvelliste, the researcher stated that according to the National Institute of Statistics and French Economic Studies (INSEE in French) there are 33,500 Haitians in Guyana. He also noted that if we referred to the consumption index, there are between 40,000 and 50,000 Haitian compatriots residing in Guyana even if the vast majority of them are there illegally.
According to history researcher Paulin-Christian Bruné, there is a world of difference between the Haitian community of 1963 and the current one of2013. He says that the first Haitian immigrants arrived barefoot, uneducated but they had the wisdom to send their children to school. "Despite their illiteracy, they worked very hard to educate their offspring. Today, many of them hold high posts in the Guyanese society, some even chose to political arena, as the mayors of Kourou, Matoury and Cayenne.
Jacques Raphael Marcellus, Consul General of Haiti, said that despite many efforts in the community, there are certainly some challenges. He once again sought the help of his countrymen, not only for the proper functioning of the General Consulate, but also for the advancement of Haiti. "Despite the distance that separates us from our homeland, we must turn to our country, to serve as a bridge, to bring our contribution, if we want to get to the new Haiti we all dream of. We must do everything in our power to accomplish peace between us all. Share a common vision for Haiti, one of a prosperous Haiti, with our help," stated Marcellus.
In addition, the 50 years of Haitian immigration to Guyana was marked by a cultural evening featuring Haitian and Guyanese artists. Thanks to the goodwill and enthusiasm of all to project a positive image of the Haitian diaspora in Guyana, the festivities ended on a high note.
Article by Amos Cincir
Translated from Le Nouvelliste
by Kristine Belizaire