Since I did a post about the Dominican Republic yesterday, I thought I’d go ahead and do the other half of this Caribbean island today.
Welcome to Haiti! If the only thing you’ve ever heard about Haiti has had to do with earthquakes, hurricanes, and disease, then you CLEARLY have not really read anything about Haiti. FYI.
Haiti is located on the western half of an island shared with the Dominican Republic. It is definitely the poorer half of the island, no question. However, it has a rich history of rebellion and sacrifice, just as the Dominican Republic does. Although that doesn’t really play into the book that I’m talking about today – which is: Claire of the sea light by Edwidge Danticat.
Claire is the daughter of poor Haitians who live in a hut near the beach. Her mother died giving birth to her, and she has been left in her father’s care. Her father loves his daughter very much, but fears that he cannot provide enough for her.
An integral part of this story is the fact that they are surrounded by the ocean. Like most island cultures, Haitians have a deep respect for the sea. Lasiren, the goddess of the sea, is very important to Haitian fishermen. Lasiren is the queen of the oceans – a mermaid – and is considered the mother of the world. If you fall under Lasiren’s spell, she will keep you for in her underwater kingdom, either for 7 days or 7 years – the story varies. Interestingly enough, Claire is 7 years old in this story.
Lasiren is considered “mother of the world,” and this is likened to pregnancy in that “as a fetus, we swim for nine months in our mother’s belly. So, the stretch to calling the Ocean our Mother is not all that big – a large body of salt water, rolling and moving with the tides. Not unlike being rocked in the womb of our mother. And, just as early life evolved out of the oceans, we too must change from little fish-like fetuses into human beings at birth.” (Sosyete du Marche, 8/2/2016).
Even more interesting: at one point, early in Claire’s mother’s pregnancy, she and Claire’s father are out on a moonlit sea in his fishing boat. Claire’s mother decides to go for a swim, much to the anxiety of her husband. However, he is quickly distracted by her ethereal beauty in the moonlight. Surrounded by tiny, glowing fish, he likens her to Lasiren herself. At this point, Claire’s mother decides on their baby’s name: Claire Limyè Lanmè, or Claire of the Sea Light. It’s almost as though she is saying her daughter belongs to the sea, before she is even born.
At the end of the story, Claire disappears. Although the reader knows where she is (no spoilers!!!), the other characters in the story do not, and are frantic to find her.
Basically, this is a mermaid story without someone growing scales and a tail.
So what have you read from Haiti?