Haiti Is Not Where I Live

In The Butterfly's Way, a collection of works edited by Edwidge Danticat, Joanne Hyppolite writes:

When you are in Haiti they call you Dyaspora. This word, which connotes both connection and disconnection, accurately describes your condition as a Haitian American... Haiti is not where you live.

It is almost the three month mark and the truth is Haiti lives within me. Being present in the United States and speaking of the condition of a country from which I am physically removed, though by birth I am associated with the economic, social and political issues of the nation, make my approach to writing about Haiti a complex situation.

It is difficult to frame Haiti, as it is difficult to frame the state of being Haitian-American. Boundaries are smeared and the negotiation of that landscape is perhaps obstructed by my uniquely American view. My social construction of reality, though not fraudulent, may certainly be distorted by the, at times oppositional, binary system through which I view the world.

The negotiation of this identity is a continuous process, one that is sped along by events of catastrophic proportions such as the January 12th earthquake. There is an urgency that was previously non-existent to examine my Haitian-ness. I can attempt to understand it through the earthquake, through Haiti's history or through my own.

At the end of the day, here is what I know for sure: I am a child of the diaspora who daily experiences contradictions of being from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere while living in world most privileged nation. My understanding will never be the understanding of my parents or of Haitians living in Haiti. Most importantly, at this defining moment in our history, I will never fully understand the devastation because Haiti is not where I live.

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