Creating Spaces of Home: Haitian Women's Journey of Migration, "Lakay!"
Bolles, A. Lynn
The literature on Haitian women immigrants has not offered a comprehensive portrayal of their experiences in America, but has treated their plight as a neutral entity, void of differences. Even more distressing, there is a lack of focus on the Haitian women's experiences in the U.S. based literature. However, the true experience of many Haitian women migrants is that they have been either the first to migrate and or the focal point of the migration process in terms of recruitment. This study addresses the specificity of Haitian women's experiences in the Washington, D.C. area, not one of the long established immigration centers in the U.S. An intersectional approach that maps the simultaneity of gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, class and legal status on the lives of these immigrants allowed theories of space, identity and notions of home to be developed. How did this group of women attempt to create "Lakay" in the metro Washington, D.C. area? Taking an ethnographical approach, this project centralizes an American immigrant population that has occupied a marginal if not invisible space by theorizing Haitian women's experience and giving them a voice in the broader framework of migration studies. Furthermore, the project will illustrate Haitian women's migration stories through examining their roles within their family, the community and transnationally through an analysis of the cultural understanding of Haitian women as central pillars of society. In particular, this ethnographic study explores the everyday lives of Haitian women as immigrants and also provides an in-depth analysis of their social worlds. We find that Haitians in the Washington, D.C. area were not visible due in large part to the small population size, the dispersal of the community, both factors that contributed to the lack of prominent social institutions that have historically drawn immigrants to an area. Despite this, the participants have created a space of home in Washington D.C. in which their investment in the community lies mainly in the churches and organizations to which they belong. From a transnational perspective, home for the participants is also simultaneously located in the U.S. and in Haiti, where they long to return.