“Two lines of development” … between Haiti and its neighbors By Emilio Jorge Rodríguez
In recent years, I have basically centered on the research of historical and cultural relations between Haiti and its neighbors. First, on the rich cultural trans-Caribbean exchange through its border with the Dominican Republic and, later, the impact of Nicolás Guillén’s visit to Haiti in 1942, considered a pioneer among a series of Cuban visitors – such as Alejo Carpentier, Carlos Enríquez, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Diago and Teodoro Ramos Blanco -, who reinforced both country’s mutual influence in several areas of culture.
When I traveled to Port-au-Prince in December 1999, I had access to valuable sources of information at the periodicals section of the most important libraries in the city – dozens of references unknown till then, including lectures, daily information regarding his activities, reviews about his work and a large coverage of the creation of the Société Haïtien-Cubaine des Relations Culturelles.
Sifting through the antecedents and consequences of the Cuban poet’s visit led me to an analysis of the cultural relations between Haiti and Cuba, marked principally by two lines of development: migratory displacements of citizens from the neighboring island to the provinces in the eastern region of Cuba since the end of the 18th century, with the resulting contribution of cultural elements (like music, dance, language, religion, architecture, folklore) and exchanges among intellectuals in both countries, whether individual or professional, or through the production of works that serve as communicating vessels in this cultural endeavor.
Indeed, studies on Caribbean trans-nationalization indicate the expansion of cultures beyond national administrative boundaries, although some have examined said expansion to the metropolis as examples par excellence of “globalized” phenomena or have focused on diasporas from the South in large metropolitan centers, with a strong emphasis on validating their importance while underpinning their original identity.
Perhaps a look at Caribbean trans-nationalization based on intra-regional studies may contribute to demonstrate how identity-building has shaped our history and culture.
A small part of the experiences accrued on Haiti and the importance of its history, folklore and literature for the entire Caribbean region is to be found in the essays gathered in this volume [Ed. Note: Haiti and Trans-Caribbean Literary Identity / Haití y la transcaribeñidad literaria / Haïti et l’identité littéraire trans-caribéenne].
In my modest opinion, just as Alejo Carpentier highlighted in 1951 the pressing need of taking into account Haitian novels when drawing an overview of Latin American literature, today we can assert that in any attempt to define the cultural geography of the Caribbean and Latin America, the trans-Caribbean links emerging since the Haitian Revolution, are one of the pillars that gave rise to our hemispheric specificity.
In addition to the book’s introduction entitled “Confessions to justify Devotion,” Haiti and Trans-Caribbean Literary Identity [in all three languages], include the following chapters:”Fernand Hibbert’s novel Séna in the wake of the Haitian 20th century,” “Alejo Carpentier in His Quest for Amerindian and African Genesis,” “Creole Transgression in Quisqueyan Written/Oral Discourse,” “Nicolás Guillén and the Debate on Race and Culture in Haiti,” and “On Jacques Stéphen Alexis’s L’espace d’un cillement.”