“You can take the villager out of the village but you can’t take the village out of the villager” this is a well-known saying with unknown original origins as many nations would agree that their villages define the essence of their villagers: always with home in their minds.
Like my father and my father’s father and his father’s father family & ones home was always viewed as important, especially the home community. Masked within two-three hour evening phone calls with fellow long distance brethren, weekend family dinner plates set-up for unanticipated but open-door family & company arrivals, and the occasional snail mail letters received from our family’s island home is a part of my family’s traditions of the village mindset.
As far back as both my mother’s and my father’s family can remember our ancestors have resided on the lush green mountain island of Hispaniola (Haiti-side). However, prior to settling on the island some of our non-European and non- Taíno/ Arawakan Indians ancestors came from presumably the Western region of Africa. Unable to trace three hundred years of family history(i.e. 1500-1800s) prior to Haiti’s independence my family has focused more so on our island roots, culture, and community strength.
Living in small tropical villages in all regions of the island the Haitian people thrive in living their lives giving & receiving in the community that they grow up in. Growing up, my parents lived in these so-called villages that had continued to grow in population size earning small city titles. Living on the Northern tip of the island in Cap-Haïtien and Plaisance my parents grew up in tight-knit communities where every neighbor knew one another’s name, shared extra food purchased at the local markets, watched over each other’s children, and went to church together.
Maintaining a strong communal environment is how Haitian communities have lived and how many Haitian diaspora communities have thrived since departing from their ancestral villages and settling in new places. My family was no exception. Immigrating together as a family my mother and her siblings, aunts, and cousins came to the U.S between the 60s,70s, and 80s. Though not settling in the same vicinity due to moving around based on job opportunities and marriage my mother and her family held onto their communal village mindset of supporting one another.
Unlike my mother’s family many in my father’s family did not leave their island home. But, among those who did, including my father, they also followed the communal village mindset by supporting their fellow brethren(i.e. family members) in their new communities. Starting their own families and settling down nearby or close to relatives, Haitian-communities, or diverse neighborhoods my parent’s families maintained close connections: to one another and to the community they lived in. Recalling childhood memories of family get-togethers, reunions, dinners with fellow Haitian neighbors & new family friends my parents maintained the same village mindset of maintaining tight-knit relations with those closely surrounding them.
As a first-generation Haitian-American I am multicultural possessing both American and Haitian traditional views. But, of all the traditions I have learned since childhood the village mindset that my family has maintained for centuries is the one I love the most. It is a universal family tradition carried down by so many villages not only in Haiti, but across the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is a tradition that represents the heart of each village. It is also a tradition that ties into our own basic needs of belonging – whether it be to a family, a village, or a nation.
As mentioned the village mindset is universal mindset carried by many villages. But, each village’s family traditions tied to this mindset are different. What are some traditions that your village or town follow? Or your own family?