The Legacy of plantation America

Material Information

The Legacy of plantation America : formation and growth of an Haitian community
Hay, Frederick J., 1953- ( Dissertant )
Wagley, Charles ( Thesis advisor )
Margolis, Maxine L. ( Reviewer )
Nunez, Theron A. ( Reviewer )
Lawless, Robert D. ( Reviewer )
McCoy, Terry L. ( Reviewer )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:
Copyright Date:
Physical Description:
xiv, 237 leaves : ill., map ; 28 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
African American culture ( jstor )
African Americans ( jstor )
Cultural anthropology ( jstor )
Fishing ( jstor )
Houses ( jstor )
Latin American culture ( jstor )
Peasant class ( jstor )
Plantations ( jstor )
Slavery ( jstor )
Voodoo ( jstor )
Anthropology thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Anthropology -- UF
Ethnology -- Haiti ( lcsh )
Social conditions -- Haiti ( lcsh )
Social life and customs -- Haiti ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage:


Though many studies have been made of the plantation's persistence in the New World, scholars have, for the most part, neglected the study of the plantation's legacy in peasant Afro-America. This dissertation investigates the phenomenon of community formation and evolution in post-bellum Afro-America. To this end, an ethnohistory of an Haitian fishing village is presented. It examines the formation and growth of the community and its organization in terms of its family life, economics, political system, religion and worldview. The social and economic impact of the recent introduction of tourism is considered. A life history of a village man is included for the purpose of elucidating the ways in which an individual interacts with his community and culture. Using Charles Wagley's concept of a Plantation America cultural sphere, the contemporary and historical cultural patterns of this community are related to those of other Afro-American communities. This Haitian fishing village is compared to other Haitian and non-Haitian Plantation American communities and to the closed corporate peasant community of Indo-America . Those features which are common to Afro-American cultures but foreign to Indo-America and Euro-America are examined. An explanation of historical causation is offered and a general developmental cycle proposed . The resilience typical of West African cultures was transformed by the plantation's desocializing influence into a generalized cultural amorphousness . Adaptive to the harsh realities of slavery, amorphousness permeated every aspect of the cultural and social life of Afro-Americans. It has survived, in part, because oppression of the Afro-American population has not diminished. Free from the plantation institution for more than 180 years, its influence persists in Haiti in the form of a total-culture style of amorphousness
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1985.
Bibliography: leaves 215-232.
General Note:
General Note:
Statement of Responsibility:
by Frederick J. Hay.

Record Information

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University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
Copyright [name of dissertation author]. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
Resource Identifier:
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014514628 ( OCLC )


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Frederick J. Hay




Copyright 1985


Frederick J. Hay


The research upon which this dissertation is based was

partially funded by the Tropical South America Fund of the

Center for Latin American Studies at the University of

Florida. To them I am grateful.

I am especially appreciative of Charles Wagley.

Professor Wagley supervised my graduate training at the

University of Florida and was my teacher and advisor before,

during and after my Haitian fieldwork. I owe Wagley an

intellectual debt the magnitude of which I doubt that even

he realizes.

I would also like to thank my committee members,

Professors Maxine Margolis, Theron Nunez, Terry McCoy and

Robert Lawless. I am particularly grateful for the helpful

suggestions made by Margolis and Nunez.

Many people in Haiti assisted us in various ways.

These include our friends Serge Martineau, who helped us in

more ways than we could ever mention, Roger Pinkcombe, owner

of the Brise de Mer Hotel, Charles Romain of the Institute

for the Study and Research of African Culture of Haiti and

Harry Sanchez, travel agent. I would also like to thank

various anthropologists who were stationed in

Port-au-Prince: Fred Conway, Shelagh O'Rouke and Donna


My wife and I are especially grateful to the remarkable

Sylvain family, and especially to Professor Jeanne Sylvain.

Without Professor Sylvain's assistance, advice and insights,

my work in Haiti would have been much more difficult and

less rewarding. Jeanne's brother Pierre and sister Yvonne

were also a tremendous help to us. It is our feeling that

the Sylvain family represents the best of Haitian

scholarship and professional life.

Our debt to Jeanne Sylvain's daughter and son-in-law,

Roselle and Leslie Nazon, is profound. We can not

sufficiently thank or acknowledge them for their assistance

and friendship.

I would also like to acknowledge our friend, Renold

Pierre, lawyer and judge, who helped us to understand rural

Haitian culture in so many ways.

Various Catholic and Protestant churchpeople

contributed to our well-being and my research. I would

especially like to thank Sister Antoine who compassionately

cared for us when we were ill in Plaisance, Father Roland

Lamy who helped us immensely and taught us even more, and

the Baptist ministers--Jack Hancocks, Phil Yueling and Mario

Valcin--for their help and interest in my research.

Many of the people that contributed to my research in

Haiti can not be mentioned here. My greatest debt is to the

people of Plage-Boutou; especially our friends Pierre Saint

Louis and Amos Magloire and their families.

My colleagues, Ronald Kephart and James T. McKay also

deserve special mention. Kephart generously assisted me

with the orthography. McKay read each draft of this

dissertation and offered many useful criticisms and

suggestions. He also gave me support of many kinds while I

was in the field and while I was writing this document.

The credit for the map and genealogical diagram goes

completely to Margie Niblack of the Office of Instructional

Resources of the University of Floirida.

To my parents, Sam and Dot Hay, I owe an overwhelming

acknowledgement. If it weren't for their care,

encouragement and financial assistance I would never have

pursued this degree or completed my research in Haiti. This

dissertation is lovingly dedicated to them.

To my wife, Dr. Valentina Maiewskij-Hay, I owe the

greatest debt. She accompanied me to the field and

willingly sustained great sacrifice. Her editorial

abilities are manifest on every page of this dissertaion.

More importantly, her advice on substance and her

encouragement enabled me to complete this task.



LIST OF TABLES. ............................................ix

NOTE ON ORTHOGRAPHY........................................x

ABSTRACT........ ........................................xiii



Research Plans and Realities........................3
An Historical Overview of the Haitian Experience....5
The Plantation Cycle ...............................15
Plantation America .................................19
Conclusion .........................................23
Notes................................................ 24


Environmental and Demographic Description..........26
The Founding Fathers--1900-1930....................32
The Stabilization of an Amorphous Community--1930-
1970.......................... .......... ........ 38
The Advent of Tourism and Its Impact--1970-Present.45
Conclusion. ..........................................49
Notes ............................................. 52

CHANGING COMMUNITY............................... 55

The Life Cycle of the Laku in Plage-Boutou.........56
The Life Cycle of the Famni in Plage-Boutou........61
Marriage, Plasazh and Polygamy .....................67
The Household as Microcosm of the Community: A Case
Study of Fluctuation in Household Composition in
Contemporary Lucner.... .........................74
Conclusion............................................... 82
Notes to Chapter III................................84

THE SOCIOLOGY OF WORK ...........................86

The Fishing Village in Plantation America..........86
A Social History of Agriculture in Plage-Boutou....90
Adaptation to Depletion: Changing Strategies in
Subsistence Fishing..............................97

Marketing and Domestic Activities: The History of
Women's Work in Plage-Boutou...................103
Conclusion.............................................. 105
Notes ............................................. 106


Voodoo, the African Heritage and Revolution in
Haiti.......................................... 109
The Decline of the Zazh ...........................112
The Mandingues: A Creole Islam Cult ............117
The History of Catholicism in Plage-Boutou........120
The Founding of the Baptist Church: The Protestant
Ethic and the Changing Realities of Life in
Plage-Boutou..................................... 125
The Persistence of Magic--A Traditional Alterna-
tive to the Protestant Ethic ...................131
Conclusion. .........................................137
Notes ............................................. 139

VI INCIPIENT TOURISM .................................142

Foreign Nationals Come to Visit and Stay..........143
Latortue Beach Development .............. ......... 146
Corporate Failure and the Control of Local
Entrepreneurship................................... 151
The Impact of Tourism on Plage-Boutou.............155
Conclusion.............................................. 160
Notes.............................................. 161

PIERRE SAINT LOUIS .............................164

Pierre Marcelin....................................165
Pere Pierre........................................169
Pierre Saint Louis.................................173
Pierre as Gro Mun ................................. 180
Conclusion.............................................. 183
Notes.............................................. 185

AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE............................ 187

Plage-Boutou, Mirebalais and Marbial: A
Comparison......................................... 188
Cultural Amorphousness and Cultural Style.........195
Cultural Models and Afro-American Culture.........199
Conclusion.............................................. 205
Notes........................... ..................... 207

AMORPHOUSNESS ..... ........................... 210

GLOSSARY .................................................213



A MAP OF PLAGE-BOUTOU...............................233

B GENEALOGY OF ABIS FAMNI ..........................235

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH......................................... 237



PLAGE-BOUTOU ........... .............................29


TABLE 3: PLAGE-BOUTOU LAKUS IN 1930 ......................37


1984 ..................................... .............78



AND 1984............................................... 80

TABLE 9: HOUSE AGE IN LUCNER, 1984 .......................80


The orthography used for Creole words in this

dissertation was developed by my colleague Ron Kephart for

the Carricou Literacy Project. Many, and frequently

inconsistent, orthographies are currently in use for Haitian

Creole. These orthographies have been developed, more often

than not, with Standard French or Standard English ("Export

English" or "Export French" in Kephart's terminology) rather

than Creole speakers in mind. Consequently, they have

usually been an obstacle to the advancement of literacy

among native Creole speakers. This includes, I believe, the

Haitian governmental agency approved orthography for Creole,

generally referred to by that agency's acronym, ONEC.

With Kephart's assistance, I have used his orthography

to render the Creole terms used herein into the dialect of

northern Haiti. The Kephart orthography is valuable not

only because it can express dialectical differences in

Haitian Creole but it is equally useful for all Caribbean

Creole languages. Because of its simplicity it is

exceedingly practical. It has also proven to be immediately

understandable for both English and French Creole speakers

on the island of Carricou in the Lesser Antilles (Grenada).

Explanation of Symbols


i u
e 6
e o


ey ay y

Nasalized Vowels

e a o


b d j
p t ch
v z zh
f s sh
m n
w 1 y

i i a 6 u




j, ch


This key to the Kephart

covers all Creole items

approximates the Spanish
i e a o u

like the vowel in the English word

like the vowel in the English word
caught (rounded British

approximates the consonant in the
English word measure

approximates the consonant in the
English words jump and church

always as in the English word go

orthography is not exhaustive but

cited in the text (Kephart 1984).

Words are pluralized in Haitian Creole syntactically or

by context rather than morphologically. All Creole words

contained herein are written in the singular. Plurality of

Creole words is to be determined by context.

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Fred J. Hay

May, 1985

Chairman: Dr. Charles Wagley
Major Department: Anthropology

Though many studies have been made of the plantation's

persistence in the New World, scholars have, for the most

part, neglected the study of the plantation's legacy in

peasant Afro-America. This dissertation investigates the

phenomenon of community formation and evolution in

post-bellum Afro-America.

To this end, an ethnohistory of an Haitian fishing

village is presented. It examines the formation and growth

of the community and its organization in terms of its family

life, economics, political system, religion and worldview.

The social and economic impact of the recent introduction of

tourism is considered. A life history of a village man is

included for the purpose of elucidating the ways in which an

individual interacts with his community and culture.

Using Charles Wagley's concept of a Plantation America

cultural sphere, the contemporary and historical cultural


patterns of this community are related to those of other

Afro-American communities. This Haitian fishing village is

compared to other Haitian and non-Haitian Plantation

American communities and to the closed corporate peasant

community of Indo-America. Those features which are common

to Afro-American cultures but foreign to Indo-America and

Euro-America are examined. An explanation of historical

causation is offered and a general developmental cycle


The resilience typical of West African cultures was

transformed by the plantation's desocializing influence into

a generalized cultural amorphousness. Adaptive to the harsh

realities of slavery, amorphousness permeated every aspect

of the cultural and social life of Afro-Americans. It has

survived, in part, because oppression of the Afro-American

population has not diminished. Free from the plantation

institution for more than 180 years, its influence persists

in Haiti in the form of a total-culture style of




The past is never dead. It's not even past--William
Faulkner (1951:92).

From the beginning of his career the novelist William

Faulkner was deeply concerned with plantation society and

its legacy. Social scientists, on the other hand, did not

begin to study this tradition in earnest until mid-century.

Today, there is a large literature on plantations,

plantation society and Afro-American cultures. Yet, there

remains a dearth of research on the plantation's role in the

formation of post-bellum, post-plantation, Afro-American


This dissertation is an ethnohistory of an Haitian

fishing village. It is ethnohistory not only because it is

about the history of an Afro-American peasant community but

because it was orally elicted through resident fieldwork.

It is anthropological history because it is primarily

concerned with the history of those aspects of a people's

life which anthropologists have traditionally studied

(family, household composition, subsistence patterns,

religion, political system, social stratification, and the

individual's relation to his culture).

In presenting this admittedly particularistt" history

of a single community, I have tried to elucidate some of the

broader meanings and global relevance of these data by

putting it in the context of a culture area ("Plantation

America") and in terms of an evolutionary process

("Plantation Cycle"). This chapter concludes with a review

of these two guiding concepts.

Contemporary Afro-American culture is a distinct and

vital sub-culture of the New World. It was created and

maintained under conditions of relentless oppression and

was/is adaptive for maintaining life and dignity under these

conditions. It is my thesis that the plantation

institution, which established this milieu of oppression,

has had a persistent influence on Afro-American communities

whether they are situated in contemporary plantation areas

(Mintz 1956, Johnson 1934) or whether they are distinct and

isolated from contemporary plantation society (Woofter 1930,

Horowitz 1967).

The community selected for study has, until recently,

been an isolated peasant fishing village on the north coast

of Haiti. Because this village has been outside the sphere

of active plantation influence for at least 180 years, the

study of its creation and growth will contribute to our

understanding of the tenacity of the plantation's influence

in contemporary Afro-America.

Research Plans And Realities

My original intention for research in Haiti was to do a

re-study of George Eaton Simpson's research in the Bassin

section in the commune of Plaisance. Simpson's 1937-1938

study of this northern Haitian community is the basis of a

number of important publications on Afro-American culture.

Simpson was the first and still one of the few

anthropologists or sociologists to do intensive field

research in Haiti outside of a fifty-mile area surrounding

the nation's capital, Port-au-Prince.

My wife, Valentina, and I arrived in Port-au-Prince,

Haiti, in early October, 1983. By the end of the month we

were settled in Plaisance and I had embarked on my study of

the Bassin section. In a few days, we were both bed-ridden

with high fevers, chills and generalized discomfort. As

soon as we were able, we took the bus to Cap-Haitien and

later to Port-au-Prince. Though we were attended by

physicians in Plaisance and Cap Haitien, we did not discover

that we were suffering from dengue fever until we visited a

physician in Port-au-Prince.

We spent several weeks in the capital city recuperating

and meeting with American and Haitian scholars and friends.

On the advice of our friends in Port-au-Prince and Cap

Haitien, we began to look for another rural community in

which to settle and conduct research.

We had spent a total of six weeks in Plaisance and most

of this time we were very ill. My research there was

confined to collecting information on the social and

economic life of the town of Plaisance and in practising my


Once we had decided to study a fishing village, we

began to visit a number of fishing communities along the

north coast of Haiti. Each of these villages was accessible

to an urban area and medical facilities. This was necessary

due to our low white blood cell counts--a consequence of our

illness, misdiagnosis and medical mistreatment.

Among the communities we visited was Plage-Boutou.

We returned there for a week's stay during which time we

gained, from the Commandant (the civil and military boss of

the community), approval for our research and residence and

made arrangements to rent a house and retain a local woman

to cook and clean. By the end of December 1983, I had begun

my research in Plage-Boutou. We lived in the community,

except for short trips to town and to Port-au-Prince (and a

week in Kingston, Jamaica), until mid-July, 1984.

I conducted my research primarily through

participant-observation. I fished, gardened, made fish

traps, worshiped, gambled and played with the inhabitants.

During the seven months of our residence in Plage-Boutou, I

conducted, with the aid of two local field assistants, a

house-to-house survey. At each house--except four who chose

not to participate--I interviewed all adults. I asked

questions from a standardized interview schedule covering

many aspects of local life including genealogy, migration,

household composition, gardening, fishing, livestock,

finances and other matters. In addition, I interviewed each

of the adult Protestants about their personal religious

histories and the reasons for their conversion.

During our stay in Plage-Boutou, Valentina and I became

close friends with some of the local residents. These men

and women we interviewed regularly in more depth about

things we did not understand and about things which other

locals were not willing to discuss with us. Valentina also

collected information on cooking, child-rearing and sexual

practices from Plage-Boutou's women.

An Historical Overview Of The Haitian Experience

The island of Hispaniola was discovered in 1492 by

Columbus' expedition to the New World. Columbus' flagship,

the Santa Maria ran aground near the present town of Cap

Haitien on the north coast of Haiti. A temporary settlement

of forty men was left to await Columbus' second trip to the

New World. These forty men were never heard from again

(Courlander 1966:1, Korngold 1965:4-5).

Presumably, the forty settlers met their deaths at the

hands of the Amerindian population. The Amerindians who

inhabited Hispaniola at the time of Columbus' arrival were

mostly Arawaks and Tainos who had previously migrated to the

island from the North and/or South American mainland (Rouse

1960:24). When the Spaniards returned in larger numbers,

they forced the indigenous population into service in

pursuit of gold and for agricultural development; some

Arawaks were also shipped to Spain as slaves. Mortality

among the Amerindians was high; many others fled to the

mountains or neighboring islands in search of refuge, others

resorted to suicide. Within fifteen years, three-fourths of

the native population had disappeared (Courlander 1966:1-2).

By 1570, all the Amerindians had disappeared (Leyburn


The Spanish intruders were forced to look elsewhere for

labor. Thus began the African slave trade. As early as

1502, blacks from Africa were being imported to Hispaniola

(Leyburn 1937:378). Bellegarde reported that the first

slaves were brought to Hispaniola in 1503 (Bellegarde

1936:8). Courlander put the date slightly later in the

period between 1510-1512 (Courlander 1966:2). Most of the

16th-century importation of Africans was to the eastern part

of Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic). Curtin

estimated that 74,600 Africans were delivered to the western

third of Hispaniola (present-day Haiti) between 1601-1700.

The real boom in slave importation began after 1697 when

Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to France.

Between 1701 and Haitian independence in 1804, an estimated

789,700 Africans were brought to Haiti, raising the total

figure of Africans imported to Haiti to 864,300 (Curtin


Africans brought to Haiti were from a "wide stretch of

the African continent," from all walks of life and from a

diversity of cultural/ethnic groups. The Africans brought

with them many socio-cultural ideas and practices; perhaps

the most important of these Africanisms in Haitian history

have been the Dahomean religious ones. The present-day

religion of the Haitian masses still reflects its specific

West African tribal origins and the general resilience of

African culture:

Although slaves brought to Haiti . came from a wide
stretch of the African continent . .The Fon people of
Dahomey (who in Haiti called themselves Arada, after
the Dahomean city of Allada) and the Anago (Western
Yoruba, from what today is Nigeria and Dahomey) were
the major influence in the development of Vodoun
(Courlander 1966:11).

As late as 1681, the whites outnumbered the blacks

three-to-one but by 1781 there were over eleven slaves for

every white (Herskovits 1966:102). The early white settlers

were primarily French. Often they were people considered by

the Parisian authorities to be unassimilable marginals such

as prostitutes, criminals, debtors and vagrants. Once in

Haiti, these colonists adapted to the new environment in

four basic ways, that have been characterized by the French

historian P.F.X. Charlevoix:

the buccaneers who were occupied with the hunt, the
filibusters who cruised the seas, the habitants, who
cultivated the land, and the bondsmen who, for the most
part, lived with the habitants and the buccaneers
(Herskovits 1966:103).

Before the Haitian Revolution, Saint-Domingue (the

French name for the colony) was the most prosperous

plantation enterprise in the Caribbean. Plantations and

slaves were owned by absentee French landlords, native white

Creoles, and native free coloureds (mulattoes). Although

friction between these groups was ever present in colonial

Haiti, during the eighteenth century this tension increased.

Laws were passed in France restricting the coloureds'

freedom of movement. Economic squabbling, often expressed

in terms of racial antagonism, provoked the Haitian

Revolution (James 1963).

By 1789, just before the violent disturbances leading

to the Haitian Revolution, the estimated population of Haiti

consisted of 30-40,000 whites, 25-50,000 free mulattoes and

blacks and 465,000 to 510,000 slaves (Segal 1975:179).

The Revolution was a series of little wars perpetuated

by fluctuating loyalities. Different groups of free

coloureds, creole whites, slaves, French, English and

Spanish armies continually aligned and realigned themselves.

The slave group--the numerical majority in the colony's

population--is usually interpreted by historians as the

major military force in the war (James 1963).

In a slave system, especially one as brutal as Haiti's,

the potential for violent revolt is built-in. That the

slave system of Haiti was particularly harsh is demonstrated

by the fact that "there was a considerable excess of deaths

over births in the slave population, a fact that speaks

volumes about the brutality of the system" (Rotberg

1971:39). (The historian's tendency to understate the

slave's determination and role in the Haitian Revolution

revolves around the same misconception implicit in the myth

of the contented slave, Harris 1964). Harris' retelling of

one such cruel incident, is illustrative of the misdirection

of this kind of thinking:

It was now obvious that the insurrection was general,
and that the measures of the revolted slaves had been
skillfully preconcerted, on which account the revolt
became more dangerous. The blacks on the plantation of
M. Gallifet had been treated with such remarkable
tenderness that their happiness became proverbial.
These, it was presumed, would retain their fidelity.
So M. Odelac, the agent of the plantation, and member
of the General Assembly, determined to visit them at
the head of a few soldiers, and to lead them against
the insurgents. When he got there he found they had
not only raised the ensign of rebellion, but had
actually erected for their standard THE BODY OF A WHITE
INFANT, which they had impaled on a stake. So much for
happy Negroes and contended slaves! (Harris 1969:96).

White Haitians and their slaves began emigrating at

least as early as 1793, when 10,000 white Haitians fled the

ransacked city of Cap Francais (present-day Cap Haitien) to

the United States (Rotberg 1971:44).2 McKenzie reported

emigration of Haitians during the time of the Revolution to

Cuba and Puerto Rico (MacKenzie 1971:281). According to

Courlander, Haitians fled war-weary Haiti to the French

colonies of Martinque, Guadeloupe and Trinidad (where he

sees evidence of Voodoun's influence on the Shango cult) and

to the Spanish colony Cuba (Courlander observed that the

essentially Dahomean Arara cult of eastern Cuba was present

due to this Haitian migration and influence, Courlander


Others migrated to France including most of the

island's priests (Laguerre 1976:37). Franklin wrote of

Haitian migration to the eastern end of Hispaniola (Franklin

1969:174), England and Jamaica, where the provincial

government was directed "to afford to those inhabitants of

St. Domingo who were desirous to place themselves under

British protection every possible support" (Franklin


The Haitian Revolution not only destroyed Haiti's

economy but decimated its populace:

The slave plantations and estates were destroyed
forever, and 150 years later exports had not regained
their 1789 value. Rotberg estimates that perhaps
20,000 of the 30,000 whites resident in Saint-Dominque
before the revolution had been killed or compelled to
emigrate. Ten thousand of the 40,000 mulattoes and
freed blacks had disappeared, and more than a third of
the slave population of 500,000 were no longer alive
(Segal 1975:179).

In 1802, M. Rumboldt estimated the population of Haiti

to be 375,000, composed of 290,000 cultivators, 47,700

domestics, sailors, and others, and 37,000 soldiers.

Another slightly different estimate in 1803 gave the total

population as 348,000, which included 272,000 cultivators,

35,000 soldiers, with the remainder consisting of domestics,

artisans and a few sailors (Franklin 1969:173).

On New Year's Day, 1804, General Jean Jacques

Dessalines declared Haiti's independence from France. Since

Independence Day the successive governments of Haiti have in

general been unstable:

In the 112 years between Independence and the beginning
of the American Occupation, Haiti had 26 rulers.
Fifteen of these were deposed by revolution, four were
murdered, one committed suicide, four died in office,
and two retired to private life (Simpson 1942a:488).

Haiti's first president was the revolutionary general

Dessalines. He later declared himself emperor and ruled the

new country in the totalitarian manner appropriate to that

office. On October 17, 1806, Dessalines was killed in an

ambush near Port-au-Prince. Following Dessalines'

assassination, a power struggle between the former black

slaves and the mulatto elite divided the country into a

southern republic ruled by the mulatto president Alexdre

Petion and a northern empire under the firm hand of the

black king Henri Christophe.3 Haiti was reunited in

1820 by President Jean-Pierre Boyer following Christophe's

suicide (Leyburn 1966).

During Petion's presidency of the southern republic

he--misguidedly in the opinion of the mulatto elite--broke

up the old plantations and distributed small plots of land

to the newly emancipated in an attempt to keep them on the

land (Leyburn 1966). After Christophe's death and the

reuniting of the northern and southern sections of Haiti,

President Boyer tried unsuccessfully to reverse the trend

toward an independent yeoman agriculture:

a growing number of peasants acquired small holdings of
land, and began to squat on vacant property. This
meant that the larger landowners found it difficult to
get agricultural laborers to work for them. In 1821
Boyer attempted to halt the trend, and stopped the
allocation and sale of state land. This was followed
in 1826 by his celebrated Rural Code (Nicholls

The Rural Code prohibited internal migration. A

peasant needed a pass to enter a town and peasants who could

not prove that they were gainfully employed were pressed

into labor on public works (Wingfield 1966, Leyburn 1966).

Nevertheless, by 1826, a black peasantry had established

itself on the land virtually everywhere in Haiti.

According to President Boyer, the official census of

1824 showed that there were 933,335 people in Haiti (which

was temporarily the whole of Hispaniola), 61,468 of whom

were living in the present-day Dominican Republic. Franklin

thought Boyer's figures were incredible and obtained from a

unnamed government employee the following revision of

715,000 Haitians of which 54,000 were living in the

present-day Dominican Republic (Franklin 1969:404).

Obviously, one generation had not been enough time to

sufficiently repopulate Haiti. In 1830, British agent

Charles MacKenzie said: "but still the want of population

and capital are evils that can only be thoroughly remedied

by time" (MacKenzie 1971:282). After surveying the meager

demographic data for nineteenth-century Haiti, Segal


Sporadic attempts to estimate the total population
suggest that during the nineteenth century natural
increase was about 1 percent per annum with little or
no immigration or emigration to or from the isolated,
pariah and chronically unstable Black Republic (Segal

Following several years of more than usual governmental

instability and violence, the United States Marines occupied

Haiti on July 28, 1915. President Woodrow Wilson

rationalized this move by invoking the Monroe Doctrine. He

claimed that if the United States had not invaded Haiti, one

of the European powers would have done so to protect their

financial interests in the country (Nicholls 1979).4

The Marines and the United States State Department

virtually ran the government of Haiti for nineteen years:

they disarmed the peasantry, disbanded the army, wrote and

instituted a new constitution5 and centralized Haitian

government and commerce in the capital city of

Port-au-Prince. Thus, while stabilizing national affairs,

the United States Occupation eliminated the traditional

mechanisms for revolt and overthrow of the tyrannical and

corrupt regimes which had, with few exceptions, been Haiti's

lot since Independence (Nicholls 1979, Schmidt 1971).

During the presidencies of Lescot, Estime and Magloire,

a post-Occupation nationalism evolved. This nationalism

took the form of a cultural renaissance among the elite

while to the masses it meant a greater openess to blacks in

the national bureaucracy. Intellectuals re-evaluated the

Haitian past and, for the first time, celebrated Haiti's

African cultural patterns.

The Occupation's legacy in contemporary Haiti is the

reign of the Duvalier dynasty from 1957 to the present day.

It created the conditions by which Francois "Papa Doc"

Duvalier could, quite brilliantly, establish a regime which

is both the most powerful and most enduring in the country's

history. The Duvalier government is based on a broad

understanding of the social and cultural realities of

Haitian life, the use of unprecedented terrorism and the

maintainence of the Haitian tradition of government

corruption (Rotberg 1971, Crassweller 1971, Manigat 1964,

Obichere 1971, Hooper 1984).

The ascension of Duvalier to power only intensified the

on-going processes which had for a century demoralized and

impoverished Haiti's peasant majority. Writing in 1910, Sir

Harry Johnston commented on this process:

But a few more years of wastefulness and fraud in the
collection and administration of public revenues, which
has been characteristic of the Haitian Executive since
1870, will make the country bankrupt, rich as it is, or
provoke the emigration of the peasantry in large
numbers to Cuba and San Domingo (Johnston 1969:202).

The United States financial advisor to Haiti, Arthur

Millspaugh, said in 1929: "Haiti is already

overpopulated even relative to its potential population"

(Schmidt 1971: 172-173).

In 1949, The United Nations' Mission to Haiti stated:

"The Mission recommends that serious consideration be given

to the feasibility of encouraging emigration as a means of

relieving the acute population pressure" (1949:12).

In 1975, Segal summed it up: "Haiti's demographic

problems are frightening" (Segal 1975:12).

The sad facts are that Haiti is the poorest, hungriest,

and most disease-ridden country in the Western Hemisphere.

Poverty and governmental corruption are the legacy of the

colonial plantation society and, in less exaggerated form,

are common to all countries and areas of countries which

were originally colonialized by the plantation settlement


The Plantation Cycle

Edgar T. Thompson, a pioneer in the sociological study

of the plantation, described the plantation as a form of

"settlement institution." Inherent in the institution is a

transience and "a typical cycle of change:"

As an institution of settlement, the plantation arises
as the terminus of a migration. This means that, as
finally organized, it is a transient institution and is
involved in a typical cycle of change. It seems to me
of the utmost importance that any design to guide
research should take the plantation cycle into
account...For there do seem to be cycles in which a
wave of concentration of land and a growth of social
stratification is followed by a wave of deconcentration
and a decrease of stratification (Thompson 1957:31).

In 1959, Julian Steward proposed three general

historical stages common to the plantation cycle in the New

World. The first of these stages was "indirect rule" where

the European colonizers subordinated the native peoples for

the purpose of extracting wealth. In Hispanola (the Spanish

name for the island that is currently composed of two

nation-states: Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the era

of indirect rule corresponded to the initial Spanish

settlements, the decimation of the Amerindian population and

the ceding of the western third of the island (contemporary

Haiti) to France (Steward 1959:6).

The second stage of this cycle was "direct rule: land

expropriation" in which the European colonizers assumed

private ownership of native lands for the purpose of

establishing productive agricultural settlements. "In the

expropriated lands, two principal types of plantations were

established: slave plantations in areas of low native

population density; haciendas with bound labor in areas of

dense and stable population" (Steward 1959:7).

The French colonials in Haiti established plantations

(worked by imported African slaves) primarily in the fertile

coastal plains. Although coffee, cacao, cotton and indigo

were produced by these plantations, sugar was the dominant

crop. The sugar plantation was a distinct type which

Ribeiro has labeled the "caneocracy" (Ribeiro 1972:309). He

describes the caneocracy as the locus of:

some of the most wretched communities known,
characterized by the contrast between the wealth of the
resident owners, who reproduced European conditions of
comfort and even surpassed them at very high cost on
their plantations, and the indigence of the human mass
engaged in the productive process (Ribeiro 1972:301).

Steward's third stage of plantation evolution was

"industrial influences" where "the nature of exploitative

arrangements on lands or properties taken from the native

people began to change as the industrial revolution

progressed" (Steward 1959:7). This phase of plantation

development has been characterized as a transition from the

engenho to the usina plantation type in Portugese America

(Wagley and Harris 1955, Hutchinson 1961). The transition

involved an increased centralization of production, a

decline of paternalism and face-to-face relations of workers

and owners and often a change from family to corporate

ownership and from slave to wage labor. Mintz has described

this process and the emergence of the "field-and-factory"

mode of production in detail for a Puerto Rican community

(Mintz 1956, 1974).

Steward's third and last stage of the plantation

cycle--"industrial influences"--has been of little

significance in Haitian society and economy.7 Instead,

an alternative third stage, an Afro-American peasantry,

evolved. During the phase that Steward labeled "direct

rule," the slaves revolted. The Haitian Revolution created

a free state composed primarily of black squatters and


The destruction of the plantations did not mean an end

to the institution's influence in Afro-American culture. As

Thompson observed:

finally, the plantation may dissolve into a system of
peasant proprietorships for which it has been prepared
by the growth of labor-family equities within the
structure of the institution (Thompson 1957:33).

Thus, an alternative third stage of the New World

plantation cycle was the creation of an independent

yeomanry. The "reconstituted yeomen" class (Mintz

1966:xxii), though free of the physical plantation itself,

was not emancipated from its persistent influences.

Although Haiti is a country of reconstituted yeomanry,

similar peasant communities exist throughout Plantation

America. Descriptions of post-plantation Afro-American

peasant communities (outside of Haiti) include those for

Jamaica (Davenport 1964, Comitas 1962, Clarke 1957), Brazil

(Eduardo 1948), South Carolina (Woofter 1930), Martinique

(Horowitz 1967) and Florida (Dougherty 1978).

Plantation America

Finally, given the essential similarity in development
of institutions, Plantation-America offers a
magnificent laboratory for the comparative
approach...Within the framework of the culture sphere
of Plantation-America there are innumerable "variables"
which make comparison both possible and promising. It
is precisely in this projection of the cultural
variation--whether inherited from Europe, derived from
variations in the local natural and socio-cultural
environs or from distinctive developmental
trends--against the common features of the cultural
sphere and in the seeking out of significant
relationships that we can use the comparative method to
help us build a science of society and culture (Wagley

In "Plantation-America: A Cultural Sphere" (1957),

Charles Wagley synthesized the literature on plantation

society, slavery and Afro-American cultures.

The author began by dividing the New World into three

cultural spheres: Euro-America, Indo-America and

Plantation-America. Euro-America covers the northern and

southern areas of the hemisphere and is predominantly

Caucasoid ethnically and European culturally. Indo-America,

"the region from Mexico to northern Chile, along the Andean

cordilleras," is populated by Indians and meztizos and is

the area in which the Amerindian past has contributed the

most to contemporary cultures (Wagley 1957:4-5).

The Plantation American cultural sphere

extends spatially from about midway up the coast of
Brazil into the Guianas, along the Caribbean coast,
throughout the Caribbean itself, and into the United
States. It is characteristically coastal; not until
the nineteenth century did the way of life of the
Plantation culture sphere penetrate far into the
mainland interior, and then only in Brazil and the
United States. This area has an environment which is
characteristically tropical (except in the southern
United States) and lowland (Wagley 1957:5).

Plantation America also includes stretches of the

Pacific coast of Central and South America (e.g. Whitten

1965), the urban ghettoes of the northern United States

(e.g. Drake and Cayton 1945) and southern Brazil (e.g.

Bastide 1978) and pockets of African derived peoples in

other areas such as Canada (e.g. Henry 1973) and the Black

Aymara of the Bolivian Yungas (McKay, personal


Wagley considered the following to be the basic

features of the Plantation America cultural sphere: 1.

plantation system and monocrop agriculture, 2. rigid class

lines, 3. multi-racial composition, 4. weak community

structure 5. Afro-American peasantry and 6.

prevalence of the matrifocal family In addition to

these primary features, Wagley identified a number of

secondary characteristics:

there are a series of cultural characteristics common
to Plantation-America which derive often from
similarities in environment, often from the common
historical background, and often from the presence of
such a large population of African origin (Wagley

Wagley proposed the following as the common secondary

characteristics of Plantation America: 1. similarity of

food crops, 2. slash and burn horticulture, 3. local markets

and women marketeers, 4. commonalities in cuisine, 5. basic
features in musical patterning 6. African derived

folklore 7. Afro-American religious cults, 8. "a

series of traditions and values" which include the special

stereotypical roles of "mammy," "the black uncle," "the

young gentleman" and others2 (Wagley 1957:9-11).

The author referred to the above as an "incomplete list"

of the common cultural features of Plantation America

(Wagley 1957:11). Additions to this list might include the

following characteristics: the slave and free(d)people

fishing village (Price 1966), the presence of communities

composed of the descendants of maroons (Price 1973), the

emergence of a mulatto class or caste (Reuter 1918, Leyburn

1966, Curtin 1955), the development of elaborate racial

classifications (Wagley 1952, 1959a and Harris 1964),

similarity in language syntax and usage and the social role

of the verbal performer (Dillard 1972, Parsons 1933-43,

Abrahams 1983, Herskovits 1958, Turner 1949), the survival

of Euro-African magical syncretisms (Puckett 1926, Whitten

1962, Tallant 1946, Hurston 1931, 1935, Herskovits 1958,

Bastide 1978, Simpson 1940a, Hyatt 1970), a series of motor

habits (Herskovits 1966), "persistent poverty" (Beckford

1972, Valentine 1968), the development of various symbolic

forms of pan-Africanism, such as negritude among the elite

(Jahn 1961, Preto-Rodas 1970) or Rastifarianism among the

impoverished (Smith, Augier and Nettleford 1960, Barrett

1977, Owens 1976), certain shared forms of entertainment

such as the cockfight and the carnival, and a common

aesthetic sensibility which Thompson has called the

"aesthetic of cool" (Thompson 1969).

Even with these additions, this is undoubtedly an

incomplete list of the common characteristics of Plantation

America, but it "should be enough to indicate that we are

dealing with a particular species, so to speak, of

contemporary society which has taken form in the New World"

(Wagley 1957:11).

By way of summation--to quote Wagley's influential

article again:

It is, of course, a fact that there are important
differences between the southern United States, the
Caribbean islands of Spanish, French, Dutch,
and English colonial backgrounds, and northern Brazil.
Detailed local studies are obviously necessary and will
provide the only basis for understanding the
distinctive societies and cultures within this larger
culture sphere. Yet, our local studies must be seen in
relationship to this larger sphere which historically,
and in the present, shares certain basic institutions
and cultural patterns (Wagley 1957:11).

The ethnohistory of an Haitian fishing village, which

follows, is a detailed local study presented in terms of its

relationship to this larger cultural sphere of Plantation



Recognizing the uniqueness of the Haitian experience

and, for that matter, the Plage-Boutouian experience, I have

attempted to understand the social history of Plage-Boutou

in the context of the Plantation American cultural sphere

and a pan-plantation developmental cycle.

I present this ethnohistory in terms of what appeared

to be the salient features of contemporary Plage-Boutou

life. Chapter II is a general introduction to the

community's history. Chapters III, IV and V are historical

overviews of kinship and household organization, subsistence

patterns and religion, magic and worldview. In Chapter VI,

I have examined the social and economic impact of recent

touristic development. Chapter VII is a life history of an

exceptional Plage-Boutouian and an analysis of the potential

for personal economic and social mobility within the

confines of the community. Chapter VIII concludes with a

comparison of Plage-Boutou with both the closed corporate

communities of Indo-America and with other rural communities

in Haiti. It is postulated that amorphousness is the

"total-culture style" of Afro-America. An Epilogue contains

a brief statement on the policy implications of cultural



1. Plage-Boutou is a pseudonym as are all local place names
and the names of individuals. Considerable effort has been
expended in disguising this community and its inhabitants
and to obfuscate its location.

2. In 1804, Louisiana's Governor Claiborne expressed his
anxiety about the increasing numbers of Caribbean blacks
that were immigrating to his state. In May 1804, Claiborne
informed President Madison that "the Emigration from the
West Indies continues great; few vessels arrive from that
quarter but are crowded with passengers, and among them many
slaves." The state legislature of Louisiana prohibited the
entry of Haitian free blacks in 1806 (Taylor 1963:211-212).

3. Christophe was a harsh master of the northern kingdom.
He forced the former slaves back to the plantations and made
the northern kingdom prosperous but at a tremendous human
cost (Cole 1967). Because of his blackness and his
brilliance, he has often been lauded by Afro-Americans from
other countries:

"They established under the great Christophe, whose monument
is still the most marvelous building in America, a replica
of the African tribal government with emperor, chieftains,
clans and family life, and raised Haiti from the inertia of
reaction to organized and fairly efficient beginnings of
economic life" (DuBois 1939:182).

4. The Afro-American press in the United States was
critical of the United States invasion of Haiti. They
claimed the Occupation was racist and served only to protect
private United States corporate interests in Haiti. For
instance, Grace Hutchins wrote in the Afro-American that
"the story of Wall Street's occupation of Hayti is one of
the bloodiest chapters in the history of American
imperialism" (Hutchins 1970:288).

5. Franklin D. Roosevelt, then Assistant Secretary of the
Navy wrote in the August 19, 1920 New York Times: "The
facts are that I wrote Hayti's constitution myself, and if I
do say it, I think it a pretty good constitution" (Hutchins
1970:288). More than twenty years later Roosevelt said in a
toast to Haitian President Lescot that "one of the
experiments of my life has been permanently successful"
(Roosevelt 1944:125) and that "the future of Haiti is very,
very, bright" (Roosevelt 1944:126).

6. For a description of the differences between the
plantation and hacienda settlement institutions, see Mintz
and Wolf, 1957.

7. Some plantations survived the Haitian Revolution, but
they were so few as to be insignificant. During and
following the United States Occupation of Haiti, United
States corporate interests established several plantations,
the largest of which were HASCO (Haitian American Sugar
Company) near Port-au-Prince and Plantation Dauphin sisal
estate in northeastern Haiti. In spite of American, Haitian
and other countries' nationals' attempts to exploit the
cheap manpower of rural Haiti, plantations are still of
little importance in the country's over-all economic

8. See, for instance, M.G. Smith's description of community
delimitation in Jamaica in Smith 1965:176-195. See also
Morton Rubin's description of the plantation culture area in
the Southern United States (Rubin 1951:191-205).

9. For a review of the literature on matrifocality, see
Gonzalez, 1970:231-244.

10. For the common musical patterns of Afro-American
cultures, see especially Waterman 1948, 1952 and Roberts

11. See especially Parsons, 1933-1943, where she developed
a virtual concordance of her extensive Afro-American
folklore collections.

12. Related to these stereotypes was the pan-Plantation
American reputation for hospitality of the ruling class:

"Even the bitter opponents of the planting class found them
kind and generous to strangers and democratic within a
narrow circle. Hospitality was, in fact, a special point of
pride with white explanation of one paradox
in Jamaican life--the peculiar combination of tight social
stratification with the ideal of hospitality. The white
Jamaican was himself a stranger...As a stranger he turned to
other strangers to meet his own loneliness" (Curtin

Gilberto Freyre described the tradition of planter
hospitality in Brazil in his classic The Masters and the
Slaves (1964). The theme of "Southern Hospitality" has, of
course, been the basis of many "magnolia romances" written
about the antebellum southern United States (e.g. Margaret
Mitchell's Gone With The Wind and Stark Young's So Red The


Environmental And Demographic Description

Plage-Boutou is located on the north side of a roughly

broken mountain which extends about 12 kilometers east to

west and 7-8 kilometers north to south. The mountain's

crest has an altitude of 600-800 meters above sea level with

its highest peak reaching an altitude of about 827 meters

above sea level (Woodring, et al. 1924: 363). On its north

the mountain descends into the Atlantic Ocean, to its east

and west are ocean bays, and to the south is a westward

extension of a coastal plain.

This mountain area was described by the geographer Wood

as the most sparsely populated area (under 50 people per

square mile in 1954) in the Departement du Nord. Wood found

the cause of the sparse population in the rugged terrain:

. in this jagged terrain, house sites are by no
means easy to find. Consequently, dwellers within the
region are few in number, except in a few areas with
deeper soils. The ridge crests and areas adjacent to
the most precipitious sections of the shore are
virtually uninhabited and support a cover of dense
broadleaf forest...More favorable living conditions are
offered along the coast where a few beaches exist, wide
enough to support small villages (Wood 1963: 97)

Plage-Boutou is one of the two small coastal villages

in this section.1 It is located on the southwest side

of a small bay which opens to the northwest. A road,

passable by jeep from the town which serves as the

administrative center of the commune, runs to the northeast

side of the bay. From where the road terminates, access to

Plage-Boutou may be gained either by local fishing boat or

over a rugged trail which circles the bay.

The village is situated on a narrow strip of flat land

through which a small stream meanders after draining the

steeply sloping mountains which surround Plage-Boutou on

three sides. The village is protected from the occasional

high waves and rough water of the Atlantic Ocean by a series

of reefs--the closest one runs parallel to the shore nearly

the length of the village.

Though denied or ignored by geologists Woodring et al.

(1924), Butterlin (1954) and Wood (1963), there are two

small villages in the mountains above and behind

Plage-Boutou. These are accessible only on foot. Woodring

also denies the existence of several small streams which

drain the mountain and empty into the Atlantic, including

the stream at Plage-Boutou.

The crest and northern slopes of the mountain are

covered with limestone of upper Eocene age. Below the

limestone are volcanic rocks and "an impure cherty limestone

of supposed Cretaceous age" (Woodring, et al. 1924: 110).

Woodring, et al. describe the limestone cover:

It is hard and is gray on weathered and white on fresh
surfaces. Some of it appears to be crystalline, and it
contains coarse crystals of calcite. The rock is
generally massive on weathered exposures. Its surface
is pitted with solution cavities, and at almost every
locality observed it consists of huge blocks left by
solution, making the land surface very jagged and
uneven (Woodring, et al. 1924: 110).

Plage-Boutou is situated in a roughly V-shaped level

spot which follows the stream from the beach southward into

the hollow from which the stream descends. It also extends

northwesterly up the bay to another smaller level space and


The settlement of Plage-Boutou would ordinarily be

considered a village. However, the Plage-Boutouians

themselves use the term vilazh (village) to divide the

settlement into three distinct yet contiguous housing areas.

The three housing areas (which I will refer to hence as

villages) are sub-divided into smaller units (which I will

refer to as neighborhoods). For the whole settlement I will

use the term community.

The name Plage-Boutou, as used by its residents, refers

to the whole community, a village within the community and a

neighborhood within the village. The names of the other two

villages, Kaypaul and Lucner, also refer to neighborhoods

within the respective villages.

Lucner, the smallest of the three villages, is the

eastern end of the settlement. To the west is the largest

village Plage-Boutou. Northwest of Plage-Boutou and divided

from it by a small sloping ridge of the mountain is Kaypaul.

Kaypaul is the most affluent village in the settlement.

It fronts directly on the bay and the houses extend up the

side of the mountain behind the beach. The houses of

Plage-Boutou also begin on the beach and extend southward

and westward up the slopes. Lucner, on the other hand, is

separated from the beach by a hedge of raket (cactus) and is

restricted to the level area in front of the mountain. All

the villages have a number of large fruit trees but only

Lucner--the poorest of the villages--is completely shaded by


Table 1: Diagram Of Community Organization In Plage-Boutou


Lucner Lucner

Plage-Boutou Plage-Boutou
Nan Jerome
Nan Dlo Plage-Boutou
Plage-Boutou Nan Dlo Plage-Boutou
(155 Houses) Anro
La Sousse
Nan Bouche

Kaypaul Kaypaul
Bout Roche
Nan Morn Kaypaul

The houses in all three villages are built close

together, sometimes touching each other or with only a small

pathway between them. They are built of a wattle and daub

construction with dirt floors and tin or thatched roofs.

Some of the houses of more affluent villagers have a

concrete floor. A few of the recently constructed houses

are of locally made concrete block. Many of the houses are

periodically whitewashed or brightly painted.3

The houses are usually divided into two or three small

rooms. They are furnished with a few items of homemade or

inexpensive factory made items such as stools, chairs,

tables, beds and cabinets, straw mats for sleeping and

various cooking utensils.

Only one house (the Commandant's house in Kaypaul) has

running water and a toilet. Plage-Boutou and Kaypaul, but

not Lucner, have several community faucets for fresh water

and a few latrines. The latrines are now generally out of

use due to the stench. The people of Lucner get water from

the stream or from faucets in Ladadie. Bathing and clothes

washing are done either from a bucket at one's house or in

the stream which separates Plage-Boutou from Lucner.

Several buildings are not used as houses. These

include the Baptist Church and school building, the Catholic

Church, two Catholic school buildings, six small "hotels"

and an open-roofed rectangular concrete block enclosure once

intended to be a night club but now used only as additional

garden space and cockfight pit.

Though both the Baptist and Catholic Churches of

Plage-Boutou have primary schools, the quality of education

they offer is very poor. Most parents cannot afford to

send their children to school because payment for tuition,

uniform, school supplies and books is prohibitive. A Creole

literacy program has never been initiated in Plage-Boutou,

and as most of the population has little or no comprehension

of French, the populace is predominantly illiterate.

Plage-Boutou's population and composition change so

frequently that any survey only approximates the day to day

reality. The Haitian Government Census done in the Spring

of 1983 gives us the population of the Plage-Boutou

community as 898 people--446 males and 452 females. The

community is young as expected in a population whose life

expectancy is only 47 1/2 years (Hippolyte-Manigat 1980:


Table 2: Population Age Profile For Plage-Boutou, 1983


-1 28
1-4 120
5-14 220
15-24 157
25-34 137
35-44 82
45-54 64
55-64 43
65-74 25
75+ 13
Non-determined 10

The population of Plage-Boutou has grown from zero in

approximately 1900 to almost 900 in 1983. The growth in

population is directly attributable to in-migration. This

population movement has come primarily in two waves, from

1900-1930 and in the late 1970's. The forty year period

from 1930 to 1970 was a time of stabilization when

population growth was predominantly through the natural

increase of the settler families.

The Founding Fathers--1900-1930

There are no available written records for the

reconstruction of Plage-Boutou's history. The following is

an orally-derived genealogical history based on informant


In 1900 or before, when Lucner Lamour first came from

St.-Louis-du-Nord (13 miles distant by sea) to Plage-Boutou,

he found a small bay the shores of which were uninhabited.

All around the bay were colonial ruins which probably met

their demise in the earthquake of 1842.4

We know from old maps, that among the ruins of the

colonial era is the gullied road that runs through the

mountains to the Plage-Boutou Bay. This road presumably

took supplies and men to a small fortification on the

mountain facing the Atlantic from the southeastern end of

the bay. The ruins of this fortification are known today as

Fort Bontemps.

Growing around and over these ruins was r6z6,

a reed used in the making of pane or fish traps. This

reed thicket is a secondary growth which takes over

previously cleared areas along the north coast of Haiti. An

experienced fisherman and pane maker, Lucner

immediately recognized the potential of this protected and

uninhabited bay for reestablishing his family.

On his first visit, Lucner (the old folks also call him

Belonir) built a small house under the large tamarind tree

which still stands on the beach at Kaypaul. A storm

demolished Lucner's make-shift house, so he relocated closer

to fresh water in the area known today, for its first

inhabitant, as Lucner. Lucner brought his wife Meranzia and

his children to live with him in his new home.

No one today knows how it was that Lucner Lamour came

to discover Plage-Boutou. Possibly he happened on

Plage-Boutou on one of the extended fishing trips, lasting

from a few days to several months, which contemporary

fishermen still take in search of less intensely fished

waters. It may be, that Lucner actively sought a new place

to relocate his family. That the Lamour family, unlike all

the other old families of Plage-Boutou, has not maintained

any kinship links with their area of origin suggests Lucner

might have been banned or pressured to leave his home. That

he decided to resettle not in an established community but

in an isolated and uninhabited area lends strength to this


The second settler in Plage-Boutou, also came from a

marine fishing community. Simedar Paul and his wife

Sarafine Persy moved to Kaypaul at the turn of the century

from near Carabet (8 miles distant by sea). They lived in a

cave (kay rosh, literally rock house) on the mountain

above Kaypaul (kay Paul, or Paul's house). There are

many of these caves in the limestone on the northern slopes

of this region, and some are inhabited today by families of


Etienne Abis, whose place of origin has been lost to

history, came to live with the Pauls in the early days of

their residence in Kaypaul. He took Simedar's daughter,

Roselaire, as wife and she bore Antoine and Lescat Abis in

their cave home.

While Simedar and his family were establishing

themselves in Kaypaul, Doremisse Bernard moved with his

wife, Rose Phillipe, and family from Port-de-Paix (7 miles

distant by sea) to join Lucner Lamour in Lucner. What the

relationship between Lucner and Doremisse was is impossible

to know. Some of the old folks say that Lucner invited his

friend Doremisse to join him and share the new locale with

him. Others say that the hostility that now exists between

the families was there from the start but since neither of

them had title to the land, neither would have had the legal

power to evict the other.

Doremisse's two young daughters, Erzilirre and Mezulir,

became very ill in their new environment. Doremisse sent

for the renowned healer, Simon Magloire, of Carabet. Simon

did not reply until after Doremisse had sent for him a third

time. After the third request, Simon traveled by sea to

Plage-Boutou. Upon arriving, Simon insisted that he was not

a bokor (sorcerer) but a dokte fey (herb doctor). Doremisse

accepted this but told Simon that his reputation as a healer

was great and if he would effect a cure, Doremisse would

give him the area known today as the village of


Simon agreed to try to cure the two girls. He

collected a variety of leaves and roots which he steeped.

When the preparation was complete, he walked upon the beach,

held the pot of medicine to the sky and said an incantation

for the purpose of invoking Saint Guinin's blessing. The

treatment was efficacious and Doremisse gave the land to

Simon as payment for his services. After the girls were

well, Simon left for Carabet, not to return to Plage-Boutou

for several years.

Doremisse and Rose produced five other children, all

raised in Lucner. His third daughter, Elizabet, set up

residence with Antoine Abis in his newly built house at Hugo

(the people believe this is a French colonial name). His

son Dorestill, became the second husband of Lescat Abis.

The most powerful of Doremisse's children was Julle who

became chef-de-section, the local civic and military

leader of the section which included Plage-Boutou.

It was this office which allowed him to exploit the

anti-Syrian prejudice of the Haitian elite for his own


He was able to do this because Monsieur Laguerre, a

Syrian, entrusted his landholdings at Plage-Boutou to Julle

Bernard.7 Julle promptly began to sell off the land

to migrants from Carabet. On several occasions Julle

demanded payment for land for which people had already paid.

After Clodomy Daphnis of Carabet had bought several plots of

Plage-Boutou land from Laguerre, Julle refused to let him

occupy it, saying that Arabs couldn't own or sell land in

Haiti. Clodomy was forced to pay for the land a second

time, delaying his move to Plage-Boutou for several years.

Another time, Julle extracted payment for land when Simon

Magloire moved from Carabet with his grown sons to claim the

land that Doremisse had given him in exchange for his

services as a dokte fey. The Magloires met the extra

price and built the first house in the village and

neighborhood of Plage-Boutou.

By approximately 1920, when the Laurent and Josmar

families were established in Plage-Boutou, it was no longer

possible to claim land through squatting. The two available

mechanisms for acquiring land were either marriage or

purchase. Agocy Josmar from Gros Morne (18 miles distant by

land and sea) took Lescat Abis for his wife and built a

house on land she had inherited in Kaypaul. Lescat

eventually left Agocy for Dorestille Bernard but Agocy

remained in Kaypaul. Sintille Laurent (Carabet) and his

wife Dorsine Cherie came with some of their children to

Plage-Boutou after purchasing land from Julle Bernard.

Plage-Boutou's original squatter, Lucner Lamour, had

staked out yet another claim to land in Les Trois Rivereres

where most of his descendants then lived. Owning separate

abitasy5 in two communes allowed many of the Lamour

males to maintain two houses, two wives, two sets of gardens

and a large number of non-kin dependants.8 Land

ownership and polygamy are traditional means of gaining and

maintaining prestige and wealth in rural Haiti.

When the first settler arrived, Plage-Boutou was

uninhabited with most of it claimed by the government. The

earliest settlers did not set out to create a new community

but were simply establishing their families on new land and

less heavily fished waters. The squatters were all from

marine fishing villages or towns. They established widely

separated independent laku--the usual form of rural

settlement in Haiti. A laku is a bilateral extended family

housing compound ruled by the family elder, usually a male.

Only in areas where the laku were concentrated rather than

dispersed did village life develop.

By 1930 the community was composed of seven family

groups, living in 10 houses in six laku.

Table 3: Plage-Boutou Lakous In 1930


Kaypaul Paul Antoine Abis
Etienne Paul
Tinesse Paul
Agocy Josmar
Plage-Boutou Magloire Simon Magloire
Oguste Magloire
Laurent Simon Laurent
Bernard Dorestille Bernard
Lucner Madame Doremisse
Lamour Lucner Lamour

Plage-Boutou was founded by different individuals

acting on their own initiative. It took at least 30 years

for the population to establish six laku. Intermarriage

had created definite links between the Paul, Abis and

Bernard families which formed the basis for the founding of

the village. The formation of real community life was

boosted by the appointment of Julle Bernard to

chef-de-section which linked Plage-Boutou with the national

government. By 1930, an incipient community had emerged.

Undoubtedly, some of the patterns of social behavior that

emerged in the first 30 years were present in the founding

fathers' communities of origin. Some of these behavioral

patterns were elaborated and in time became traditional.

The Stabilization Of An Amorphous Community--1930-1970

In the forty years from 1930-1970 the community of

Plage-Boutou stabilized, i.e. stabilized as much as the

average amorphous rural community of Haiti ever does. A

class structure emerged, churches were founded, and

political institutions formalized. The people had come to

think of themselves as Plage-Boutouians, as part of a

community in which they belonged. After 1940, the community

land had been divided and migration of new immigrants had

slowed considerably. I will consider'the development of

each neighborhood in turn.


By the mid-1940's, Lucner was completely controlled by

Lucner Lamour's son Peydesse and his grand-daughter

Engeluque. The rest of Lucner's children lived in Les Trois

Rivereres and Peydesse maintained his second wife there.

All the Bernards had moved to Plage-Boutou or returned to

Port-de-Paix. Though other unrelated peoples--mostly from

Les Trois Rivereres--had built houses in Lucner, Peydesse

assumed full ownership and control of Lucner. Throughout

this period, the descendents of Peydesse Lamour found mates

outside the community.


During this time, several new families settled in

Plage-Boutou. The Viel family established itself on

Plage-Boutou land purchased by Sufrinne Viel from Julle

Bernard in the 1930's. Another Josmar, Macselar Josmar, not

from Gros Morne had bought land and settled in Plage-Boutou.

The Josmar, Viel, Magloire and Laurent families--all

originating in Carabet and inter-marrying extensively in

Plage-Boutou--formed the core population of the village.

The core group of landowners was expanded about 1940.

Clodomy Daphnis, his sister Clenure, his wife MariLouise

Caze and her orphaned younger siblings, arrived from Carabet

to settle on the land that Clodomy had finally been able to

finish buying from Julle Bernard.

La Sousse

La Sousse, above Plage-Boutou, is a gullied area on the

side of the mountain where rain water drains down the hollow

into the village. It was settled in the late 1920's or

early 1930's by Prezine Charles and his two wives and five

children, all from Gros Morne. The Charleses of La Sousse

have never fished but have subsisted completely on

gardening, livestock raising and marketing. Nevertheless,

there exists to this day a symbiotic relationship between

the people of the dispersed houses of La Sousse and the

fishing folk on the beach. All of Prezine's children have

remained in La Sousse except Desiys. In 1984 only

descendants of Prezine and their mates lived in this


Nan Jerome
Nan Jerome (at Jerome), a neighborhood which

connects Plage-Boutou and La Sousse, is now the largest

neighborhood in the community. It was named for its first

inhabitant, Sintulere Jerome, who moved there with his wife

Loruliarre Mondezure from Carabet about 1937. The Jeromes

were prolific and inter-married especially with the Laurents

and Viels from the next neighborhood, Plage-Boutou. The

present population of Nan Jerome is primarily made up of

people with these three surnames. By 1984, there were no

longer any Laurents in the neighborhood of Plage-Boutou--the

family was completely confined to Nan Jerome.

Nan Dlo Plage-Boutou

In 1952, the grand-daughter of Simon Magloire,

Ennarantte Magloire, took her land inheritance and built a

house with her husband at Nan Dlo Plage-Boutou (at the water

of Plage-Boutou). This neighborhood was named thus because

it is where the stream descends from the mountain into the

plain. Ennarantte's house remained the sole building in

this isolated neighborhood until her niece, Camene Jeune

(great grand-daughter of Simon Magloire), built a house

there with her husband Ludiarre Lescot (Carabet) in 1966.

In 1970, there were only these two houses at Nan Dlo



In the 1930's, Paul Lundy (Gros Morne) and his two

wives (Carabet and Belair) bought house sites at Hugo and

garden land in the mountains from Antoine Abis. The Lundy

family, like the Gros Morne Charleses, originally did not

fish but only gardened. Unlike the Charleses of La Sousse,

the Lundy of Hugo had began to fish by the end of this

period. In 1970, only Paul Lundy's descendants lived at



East of Hugo below the cave home of Simedar Paul is

Kaypaul. By 1930, the Abises had gained control of this

area. Today Pauls still live in Kaypaul but they own

nothing more than their house sites. Bitterness exists

among the Pauls about their loss of legacy. Yet the

circumstances of this change in land ownership are not

known. Today, Kaypaul is divided between Ernest Abis (son

of Antoine) and Elizarre Josmar (son of Agocy Josmar and

Lescat Abis). Other families, especially the descendants of

Paul Lundy (Hugo) had houses in Kaypaul by 1970. Desiys

Charles (La Sousse) had settled on land he purchased at the

eastern end of the neighborhood where he and his descendants

became fishermen.10

After 1940, the land at Plage-Boutou was divided among

the founding settler families: Lamour, Bernard, Laurent,

Magloire, Viel, Jerome, Daphnis, Charles, Abis, Josmar and

Lundy. Few new settlers came to Plage-Boutou. The ones who

did come were not as fortunate as their predecessors because

there was no land larger than a house site available for

purchase or for squatting. The Toto, Roland, and Gamier

families in Plage-Boutou, the Mignon family in Nan Jerome,

and the Rouzier family in Lucner settled in the community

and worked as share-croppers for the earlier settlers. Thus

a class-structure developed between the landed

(gr6 mun--big man) and landless (ti mun--little

man) Plage-Boutouians.1 Pi gr6 mun (bigger

man)--the largest landholders and those in political

control--were the Bernards and Abises.

After Julle Bernard's death, his brother Dorestille

became "Commandant" of the community. When Dorestille died

in 1952, his nephew, Ernest Abis, became Commandant. After

the 1957 election of Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier as

President of Haiti, mayors were elected in each community.

The Duvalier government also appointed a chef milis (local

Volunteers for National Security--better known as ton ton

machoutes) to each community.12 Ernest Abis was

appointed chef milis and subsequently elected mayor, thus

concentrating all local power in his hands.

In 1934, the Catholic Church built a chapel at the

upper end of Nan Jerome to serve the community. In 1943, a

Baptist church was organized, and their first chapel was

built in 1960. Both the Baptist and Catholic churches were

administered by religious officials from the closest urban

area and both had a local predicatuer or lay cleric.

The neighborhoods were primarily composed of people

from the same village or section of origin. Friends, family

and in-laws migrated to Plage-Boutou and settled in their

kinspeople's laku or created new laku nearby. The pattern

of settlement, once established, was maintained by frequent

visits and inter-marriage between the people from the

communities of origin and the neighborhoods of Plage-Boutou.

This tendency is reinforced by the rural Haitians' distrust

of people they don't know or to whom they are not kin.

Therefore, they usually do not visit, trade or marry in

communities in which they have no family links.13

Table 4: Community Of Origin Of The Majority Of Inhabitants
In Each Neighborhood Of Plage-Boutou


Lucner Les Trois Rivereres
Plage-Boutou Carabet
Nan Jerome Carabet
Nan Dlo Plage-Boutou Plage-Boutou
La Sousse Gros Morne
Hugo Gros Morne
Kaypaul Gros Morne/Carabet

The core population group of the settlement was

composed of the Plage-Boutou/Nan Jerome/Nan Dlo Plage-Boutou

inhabitants who primarily originated in Carabet. Most of

the people who came from Gros Morne lived in two isolated

laku--La Sousse and Hugo. Lucner had become a frontier

outpost of Les Trois Rivereres. Political control was in

the hands of the richest family--the Bernard/Abises--the

only family with an urban origin.

In 1970, Plage-Boutou was a typical Haitian fishing

village. Making a living was accomplished through

agriculture, fishing and marketing. The community--like

most rural communities in Haiti and the Caribbean--was

amorphous. Although its population changed almost daily,

it was changed in predictable ways, and with a limited

number of individual alternatives available. The

formalization of religious and political institutions has

followed the same pattern as elsewhere in rural Haiti. As

in most of Haiti, the majority of the peasants were owners

of small landholdings, with only a few landless

sharecroppers and even fewer large landowners. The only

distinguishing characteristic of Plage-Boutou was its

isolation from any other area of dense population. It is

this characteristic which, in large part, made possible the

development of tourism.

As used in this dissertation, the meaning of

amorphousness includes such standard dictionary definitions

as without definite form, flexible and variable. Because

these aspects-of amorphousness are static, the term is also

intended to imply an added dynamic quality of fluctuation

and change. The use of cultural amorphousness is a creative

act on the part of individual Afro-Americans. As a central

organizing principle of Afro-American culture and society,

cultural amorphousness functions as an adaptation to the

oppression and poverty which are the legacy of Plantation


The Advent Of Tourism and Its Impact--1970-Present

Tourism at Plage-Boutou began about 1970 with the

arrival of a foreign entrepreneur, Jean Leclerc (a tourist

goods dealer in Port-de-Paix). It has increased steadily in

the past decade and a half. The greatest period of

community involvement in tourist related enterprises was

from 1978 to 1980. Tourism either directly or indirectly

caused vast changes in nearly every aspect of community

life. In-migration increased sharply and Plage-Boutou's

population more than doubled in a few years. There were

changes in land tenure, religious life, fishing techniques

and subsistence strategies. The introduction of new wealth

and closer links with the outside world, as well as these

other changes, necessitated a re-ordering of the social

class system of the community. The average

Plage-Boutouians' world-view changed considerably. The

people's hopes for the future are now founded on the

possible improvement in the quality of their lives that

tourism may bring.

Leclerc has been involved in the growth of tourism in

Plage-Boutou since its inception. This Frenchman

established a tourist shop in Port-de-Paix in the late

1960's. Recognizing the commercial potential of the Plage-

Boutou area he built himself a small beach house in Kaypaul

and proceeded to get acquainted with the community. He was

the first white, non-Haitian and non-peasant person to own a

house in Plage-Boutou.

Plage-Boutou's development as a tourist attraction

progressed slowly until the Latortue Beach project began at

nearby Grand Latortue in 1978. This multi-million dollar

project was a joint-venture of the Haitian and French

governments and of Haitian and French private business

sectors. The investors intended to build the Caribbean's

largest resort complex in this sparsely populated rural

section, isolated and protected from the overcrowding,

misery and poverty of the rest of Haiti.

Before the project construction was halted in June of

1980, it gave many Plage-Boutouians their first experience

at wage labor. The attraction of cash payment took many of

the younger men out of the mountain fields and small fishing

boats. Today many of these men are still dependent on

wage-labor, tourist hustling or family charity. They do not

know the traditional subsistence skills and are unwilling to

return to the lifestyle of their parents and of the majority

of the Haitian peasantry. Of those young men who continued

to fish or returned to fishing, few use the labor-intensive

traditional technologies of pane, line and hook or

net. Instead they fish the shallow reefs with spear-guns

for roma (lobster) to sell to tourists or to the middleman

who supplies the hotels in Port-de-Paix.

The development of Latortue Beach attracted many new

people to Plage-Boutou, altering the demographic situation

tremendously. The new job opportunities brought in not only

many foreigners but also people from neighboring sections,

especially from Carabet. The foreigners left when the

project failed but the Haitian immigrants stayed,

effectively doubling the permanent population of

Plage-Boutou in less than two years. Four new neighborhoods

have been founded since 1978, Nan Bouche (at the creek), Nan

Dlo Plage-Boutou Anro (above at the water of Plage-Boutou),

Nan Morne Kaypaul (on the mountain in Kaypaul) and Bout

Roche (rocky end).

Plage-Boutou experienced increasing strain on its

limited land resources due to the natural population

increase of the original inhabitants and the increased

in-migration that began in the late 1970's. In addition,

many of the descendants of the early settlers had sold their

land to speculators for ready cash. Without land to work or

parcel out to tenants, and with their meager cash return on

their land soon gone, these families were reduced to tenants

themselves. This depleted the gr6 mun class while

increasing the class of ti mun.

The church was able to benefit from this new government

and business interest in Plage-Boutou. Both the Catholic

and Baptist Churches established primary schools to educate

their young. This involved the construction of three new

buildings for the Catholic school and a new church/school

building for the Baptists. The money for the construction

of the new buildings and the pay for teachers came from both

inside and outside the community.

The introduction of tourism in Plage-Boutou created a

new subsistence base. The increased economic opportunity

encouraged new in-migration and the population soared. The

changes in land tenure (due to increased land value), the

new inequalities in the relative affluence of the members of

the community, the influx of many new people to the

community and the increased communication and dependency on

the outside world (due to the new national and international

importance of Plage-Boutou) necessitated a re-ordering of

inter-personal relations. Consequently, the pattern of

social stratification was altered.

There have been many modifications in the manifest

cultural and economic circumstances of Plage-Boutou since

the advent of tourism. The less tangible attitudinal

transformation has been significant as is illustrated in the

following observation of child-play. In 1970, after the

young boys would swim and play in the water, they would roll

their naked, wet bodies on the beach until they were covered

with white sand from head to foot. They would then refer to

themselves and each other as pere--the Catholic priest and

the only white man with whom they were familiar. Today,

boys still cover their wet bodies with sand but call

themselves and each other mun American, mun Francais,

mun Canadian, mun Dominican, mun Anglais, mun

Allemande, or simply blik.


The history of Plage-Boutou, from its founding in

approximately 1900 to 1984, is an example of one way in

which a post-Emancipation, Plantation America community was

founded and evolved. The settlement was originally a

scattering of unrelated laku, the people of which

originated in different localities. As in-migration

increased--the majority of it originating from one commune

--the laku became more numerous and were spaced closer

together. The settlers located their new laku in the

neighborhoods where laku of other members of their original

community had re-located.

As diverse kinship links were established through

marriage between the different laku, a community-

mindedness developed. This community-mindedness was

formalized through the development of a social-class

heirarchy and the institutionalization of power and


In seventy years' time, Plage-Boutou had become a

typical north coast village. What was untypical about this

community is that it was new and was created through

internal migration. The literature on Haiti asserts that

internal migration is rarely from one rural area to another

(Marshall 1979, Weil, et al 1973, Wood 1963, Simpson 1940a,

Wingfield 1966, Ahlers 1979). This claimed "spatial

immobility of the population" (Simpson 1940:499) is

supported by data from the official census of 1950. Wood

states that 92% of the total population of the Departement

du Nord live within the communes in which they were born

(Wood 1963:21). At no time since the first settler arrived

in Plage-Boutou were more than 50% of its residents born

within the commune which includes Plage-Boutou.

Perhaps this claim about Haitian internal migration is

an over-generalization based on a less than comprehensive

coverage of rural Haiti. Most social scientists and

government officials have done their research in

long-established settlements, the majority very close to

Port-au-Prince. Consequently, the more isolated and

sparsely populated areas, where newer settlements are more

likely to be found, have not been studied intensely by

social scientists.

Plage-Boutou since 1970, is also untypical of a Haitian

rural community because of the introduction of tourism. The

impact of tourism on the community has been tremendous.

Since there is no comparative data from elsewhere in rural

Haiti, I devote a full chapter of this dissertation to

tourism, and the changes it has promoted in the community of


In just 80 years Plage-Boutou has evolved from a

scattering of isolated family compounds to a typical Haitian

fishing village to a very untypical tourist-oriented

settlement. Yet in spite of the changes, Plage-Boutou is

still recognizable in most of its features, as an Haitian

peasant community.


1. The section is the smallest of the geographic units
recognized for administrative purposes by the Haitian civic
and military authorities. A commune is composed of two or
more sections, an arrondisement of two communes, a
department of a number of arrondisements. There are
currently nine departments in Haiti.

2. see appendix 1, map 1.

3. Patterson's description of the huts in the slave
quarters of Jamaican plantations is striking in its aptness
as a description of the situation in Plage-Boutou:

"Seen from afar, they sometimes appeared very picturesque,
'resembling' at that distance, 'so many villages of
bee-hives, thatched almost to the ground, and over-shadowed
by groves of tall cocoa-nut trees, whose tops, like branches
of ostrich feathers, appeared like umbrellas above them'.
But while pleasant from afar, they turned out to be quite
miserable hovels on closer inspection . The huts were
built on the African pattern. In the words of one
pro-slavery writer, 'The groundwork of all Negro habitations
in Jamaica was as in Sierra Leone, the Negro huts of
Africa...' These huts, which had not floors, were made of
wattle and daub; were between fifteen and twenty feet in
length; and from about fourteen feet wide; the roof was
covered either with dried guinea grass or palmetto thatch or
the long-mountain thatch or, occasionally with cane tops.
Most of these huts were divided into two rooms, although
many remained undivided and a few divided into as many as
three rooms; the number of rooms being usually an index of
the prosperity and status of the slaves" (Patterson

4. The north coast of Haiti is a reminder of that great
disaster. Hesketh Prichard wrote in 1900 that "Cap Haytien
is a mushroom town of wood, built among imposing stone ruins
. . She bears upon her the indelible impress of the
tremendous earthquake of 1842" (Prichard 1900:172).
Prichard's observations are as true today for the north
coast of Haiti as they were in 1900.

5. For more information on the chef-de-section in Haiti,
see Comhaire 1955:620-623.

6. From the time of Haitian Independence in 1804 until 1889
no foreigners except those of African or Indian descent
could become naturalized citizens of Haiti. By 1903, so
many Syrian traders had migrated and become citizens of
Haiti that a special law was amended to the constitution

prohibiting Syrians to enter Haitian territory and placing
special eligibility restrictions for gaining citizenship on
those Syrians already in Haiti (Leger 1907:290, Simpson
1941). Until Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote the new
Haitian Constitution of 1919, during the United States
Occupation, only Haitian citizens were allowed to own land
in Haiti (Nicholls 1979). (For a fascinating history of
Syrians in Haiti and their role in United States economic
policy, see Plummer 1981.)

7. One of the many Syrian traders who had entered Haiti in
the late 19th and early 20th centuries had obtained legal
title to the land of Plage-Boutou. This man changed his
name to the French Laguerre, married an Haitian woman and
made a family. His brick making business near Port-de-Paix
was left to his sons, who have since expanded their
businesses to include hardware and other construction
supplies and a grocery store. They have no legal recourse
for reclaiming the land at Plage-Boutou due to the
squatter's rights laws which specify that if a person
occupies previously unoccupied land for twenty years without
it being contested, it legally becomes theirs.

8. Abitasy5 does not have an exact meaning in rural
Haiti. I use the term here to denote a settlement area and
surrounding garden land.

9. The Haitian Creole word n3 (nan) is a preposition
meaning at, in, to, of, depending upon the usage context.

10. Records show that Antoine Abis rented Kaypaul from the
government in 1934, thus assuming full control of the land.
He did not pay the annual rent for any year after 1934. The
people of Plage-Boutou including the Abises, assume that
Antoine's son Ernest has legal title to Kaypaul. This sort
of confusion in land rights is quite common in Haiti; e.g.
in 1938 the government rented land to 22,445 people, of
these tenants, 11,859 were located in undetermined areas (de
Young 1958:42).

11. The terms gr6 mun and ti mun refer to relative
economic position, physical size and age (i.e. child or
adult). In a country as poor as Haiti only rich people can
afford to be physically large. The metaphor likening the
dependency of children on their parents to the relationship
between the social classes is quite telling of the way
Haitian peasants view social stratification.

12. Volunteers for National Service are called the ton ton
machoutes--a kind of bogeyman in Haitian folK belief--by
the public. The VSN is a "militia made up of civil servants
(at the senior staff level), lower middle-class citizens,
social undesirables and apprentice criminals (to handle the


more distasteful tasks). To these persons, he
proposed, not so much financial reward (except for certain
individuals) as the heady power of terrifying and subduing,
the indescribable double glory of wearing a 'uniform'
(though ill-assorted, to placate the army), and carrying a
revolver-symbol and instrument of power; and above all, the
assurance of total impunity" (Hippolyte-Manigat 1980:211).

13. This feeling of mutual distrust and vulnerability seems
to be a common feature of peasant culture. See especially
"Peasant Personalities", pp. 296-375, in Potter, Diaz and
Foster 1967.


The word "family" as employed in Haiti can be
understood only in terms of a broader meaning than is
given it in Europe and America, where it describes only
the most immediate relationship group (Herskovits

Family life in the Caribbean has been the subject of

more anthropological articles and monographs than any other

feature of Caribbean society.1 The instability of the

Caribbean family, so unlike the family in most communities

studied by anthropologists, has been described as a central

feature of local community organization. Though the history

and culture of Haiti are in many respects unique in

Plantation America, this characteristic of the Afro-American

family is as true for rural Haiti as it is for the rest of

the Caribbean.

This chapter examines the diverse forms of the

contemporary Plage-Boutouian family and the ways in which

they have evolved. The laku, kindred, forms of mating and

household composition are described and their developmental

cycles elucidated. The formation and evolution of the

family in Plage-Boutou is interpreted in terms of the growth

and decline of plantation society.

The Life Cycle Of The Laku In Plage-Boutou

The traditional settlement institution in rural Haiti

was the laku. Ideally a laku is a patrilineal housing

compound containing a father and his spouse, his male

children, their spouses and children. New laku were created

when land became scarce. As a result, a son would move to a

less populated area to begin a new family compound

(Herskovits 1971:124).

Though we lack detailed information about the origins

of the laku system, there appears to be some truth in both

the interpretations that have been proposed: the form of

the post-Emancipation housing compound was determined by

either the tenacity of African culture or the conditions of

slavery. Montilus has described parallels between the

Haitian laku and the Dahomean family settlement (Laguerre

1978:441). If the Haitian extended family was an extension

of ancestral African practice, it has also been shaped by

the exigencies of plantation life. M.G. Smith observed of

the British Caribbean that new "mating forms" and "diverse

definitions of parenthood" resulted from the "fragmentation

of elementary families was endemic in this slave

society" (Smith 1962:263). The new mating forms and diverse

definitions of parenthood--a common legacy throughout

Plantation America--have modified the possible reinstitution

of African familial settlement patterns in Haiti.

There is no evidence that the laku, understood as a

patrilineal housing compound which Montilus compares with

the Dahomean pattern, was ever common in post-Emancipation

Haiti. Today, as in 1934 when Herskovits studied the

community of Mirebalais, the black extended family in rural

Haiti is amorphous and bilateral (Herskovits 1971). Today,

as in 1948 when Metraux, et al. studied life in the Marbial

Valley, the old folks talk of the decline of the ideal

pattern of the laku which they say existed in their fathers'

or grandfathers' times (Metraux, et al. 1951, Metraux 1951).

It is very possible--based on comparative and historical

data from other regions of Plantation America--that the

ideal laku existed only as a cognitive model but not as a


The pioneer laku in Plage-Boutou were not of the ideal

type. They were formed--in accordance with the process that

Herskovits describes--when a male member of a distant laku

removed himself, his spouse and children to the abundant

lands (and less fished waters) of the new settlement.

Because of the ample resources in Plage-Boutou in its early

days, most of the male and female children of the founding

fathers stayed in their laku of birth when they took mates

from outside the settlement.

The population of the laku was able to grow due to

Haitian inheritance customs. In Haiti, a person's children

of both sexes inherit equally (with some exceptions) from

both parents. All natural, recognized children inherit an

equal share of land and possessions; legitimate children

inherit an increased share.2 This inheritance system is

complicated by polygyny, the co-existence of marriage and

plasazh (consenual union), the father's recognition or

non-recogniton of his natural children and the practice of

adoption. Disagreements over inheritance, with lawsuits and

accusations and counter-accusations of magic, often break up

families. The fluidity of this system of inheritance made

it adaptable to either the extension or the disintegration

of the laku.

Eventually three or four generations, bilaterally

descended from one common male ancestor or spouses of these

descendants, lived together in a distinct and separate

housing compound. The oldest male living in the compound

was shef of the laku and its residents. In time, most of

these laku fragmented and dispersed due to the introduction

of new families into the compound through intermarriage

between laku, marriage with people from outside the

community and the setting-up of single households on

uninhabited Plage-Boutou land.

Today,the use of the term laku in Plage-Boutou refers

to a variety of settlement types: 1) a section of land

owned by one family with kin and non-kin residents and a

shef (the Lamour laku, coterminous with Lucner and

composed of 98 people in 17 houses); 2) an isolated

neighborhood where the residents of all the houses are kin

but with no shef (the Charles laku of La Sousse with 37

people in 7 houses and the Lundy laku of Hugo with 20 people

in 5 houses); 3) a cluster of houses of collaterally related

kinsmen with no shef (the Magloire, Daphins, Caze, Josmar

house cluster in Plage-Boutou composed of 206 people in 35

houses); 4) a small neighborhood which contains both kin and

non-kin residents with no shef (Nan Dlo Plage-Boutou with 33

people in 7 houses); 5) a cluster of houses within a

neighborhood whose inhabitants are all descended from one

man and under the control of the ancestor's eldest male

descendant (the newly forming Abis laku in Kaypaul with 25

people in 5 houses); or 6) a single dwelling and its

surrounding yard (various locations with from 1 to 15


The various definitions of laku reflect the reality

that the laku, except the emergent Abis compound, are in

decline: the family members are dispersed, they contain a

large number of residents who are not considered kin and

they usually lack a shef. Although the Lamour laku has

been able to maintain a shef by virtue of their control of

all the land in the neighborhood, the ownership of the land

and Narva Lamour's authority as shef are being contested in

the Haitian courts.

As Ernest Abis consolidates his power and wealth, the

Abis laku in Kaypaul is growing. The first house was built

by Antoine Abis nearly 50 years ago and is now owned by his

son Ernest. In 1974, Archil Abis, a natural son of Ernest

Abis, built a house behind that of his father's. Since

then, two children (both natural, but by different mothers)

and one widow of Ernest's brother have built houses

surrounding Ernest's. In June 1984, Ernest started

construction on a house for another of his natural sons,

Toussaint, who works on a cruise liner. In the last ten

years, a one-house family residence has grown into a

six-house Abis laku.

The ideal family settlement pattern which the slaves

brought with them from Africa could not be re-created under

the conditions of slavery. This pattern remained a

cognitive focus, but not a common practice, into

twentieth-century Haiti. The laku combined the ideal

African pattern with the new mating forms, new ideas of

parenthood and bilaterality which were adaptations to

plantation and subsequent peasant life.

Inherent in the bilaterality of the laku was its own

demise. Researchers who have worked in long-established

Haitian settlements have frequently commented on the decline

of the laku (Metraux, et al. 1951, Metraux 1951, Bastien

1961, Comhaire-Sylvain 1961, Simpson 1942, Laguerre 1978,

1982). The natural life cycle of the laku follows this

pattern: 1) the establishment of a single family dwelling

on new land; 2) the bilateral generational extension of

membership and consequent houses; 3) the fragmentation and

decline of the laku as land becomes scarce and the member

households disperse.

This process is the common developmental sequence, but

variations are possible as when the Abis family, after

accumulating increased wealth, power and land, regrouped and

created a new laku. Since very little land is available

for squatters in Haiti, only in the rare case where upward

economic mobility occurs in the peasant population can new

laku be founded today.

The Life Cycle Of The Famni In Plage-Boutou

Early work on the Caribbean family suffered from the

confusion of kinship with residence (Gonzales 1969). In

Haiti, we need not only to distinguish family and household

but by extension the kindred and the housing compound. The

kindred has not been previously reported in the literature

on the Haitian family, though Laguerre's discussion of the

black extended family presents a picture similar to the

Plage-Boutou kindred (Laguerre 1978). For the Caribbean

region as a whole, the descent group has been described only

for Carriacou (the patrilineal "bloods," Smith 1961) and

Surinam (the much more formalized and ritualized lineages of

the Bush Maroons, Price 1974).

The laku established by the original settlers were the

birth places of most of Plage-Boutou's kindreds, but neither

did all the original laku evolve into kindreds nor did each

kindred originate in a Plage-Boutou laku. Some of the

original laku formed the basis for loosely associated,

cognatic kindreds, referred to by the Plage-Boutouians as

famni. Other laku dispersed to such an extent that they

did not function as kindred associations. The Viel, Paul

and Laurent families are examples of the latter process

where--due to out-migration (Laurent, Paul and Viel) or

internal strife and accusations of witchcraft (Viel)--the

original laku organization disintegrated. In these cases

the dispersed members of the Viel and Laurent families

either associated themselves through conjugal union with

other laku or set-up households not associated with any of

the kindreds.

These kindreds, referred to as "dispersed" laku as

distinct from "geographic" laku (Laguerrre 1978) function as

economic, religious and friendship solidarities. Ideally, a

kindred member's first responsibility is to his immediate

family and to a progressively lesser extent to other

relatives as the kinship ties become more distant (i.e.

delimited by genealogical distance). In practice, they are

very elastic, allowing their members to incorporate famni

lw6 (distant kin) and to exclude close kin by

manipulation of kinship terms. Kinship in rural Haiti is,

indeed, defined situationally.3

Like the laku the kindred is bilateral with a

patrilineal bias. Although a person can expect reciprocity

and aid from her/his mother's or spouse's kindred (sometimes

even exclusively), the usual tendency is to associate and

cooperate primarily with the father's kindred.

Today, the families of Magloire, Caze, Jerome,

Abis-Bernard, Lamour, Lundy and Charles still function as

flexible kindred associations. These kindreds are at

different stages of development and have evolved in diverse

ways. Each of the surviving kindreds will be briefly

described and the kindred developmental cycle explicated.

The largest family in Plage-Boutou is composed of the

descendants of Simon MAGLOIRE. Though they are dispersed in

the three villages of the community, in Port-de-Paix,

Port-au-Prince, the Bahamas, Martinique and the United

States, they recognize their common descent from Simon

Magloire and the authority of Andre Magloire. While Andre

is not the oldest, he is the wealthiest of the male

descendants of Simon Magloire. In recent years, his power

over family members has declined as the kindred has

dispersed geographically and its members have reduced the

size of their land holdings.

The richest but smallest kindred is the ABIS-BERNARD

family which includes all the direct descendants of

Doremisse Bernard. During most of its history, the shef of

this family has also been the Commandant of Plage-Boutou.

This office passed from brother to brother (Julle Bernard to

Dorestill Bernard) and from brother to his sister's son

(Dorestill Bernard to Ernest Abis).

This kindred started in the Bernard laku and expanded

beyond the housing compound by inter-marriage with the

Abises. Through this process, the Abises were able to

accumulate land and prestige (as they had done in the

previous generation through inter-marriage with the Paul

family) and inherit political office. Today, though still

operating as one kindred incorporating two primary surname

groups, the family is dividing. Many of the Bernards have

migrated, made conjugal unions with persons from lower

status families, divested themselves of most of their land

and consequently have become second-class members of the

kindred. The Abises, on the other hand, have gained wealth,

land, prestige and power and have created a new Abis laku

around the Commandant's house in Kaypaul. This laku, and

the newly delimited kindred it establishes, contains only

the descendants (their spouses and adopted non-kin) from the

union of Antoine Abis and Elizabet Bernard.

The descendants of Lucner LAMOUR form a kindred under

the shef Narva Lamour. This kindred is residentally divided

between Lucner and Les Trois Rivereres, and its members move

between the two localities with great frequency, keeping

gardens and spouses in both locations.

The JEROME famni is almost completely confined to Nan

Jerome and is in a state of decline with no apparent shef.

The kindred has kept its viability primarily because few of

the descendants of Sintulere Jerome have re-located in other


The orphaned CAZE siblings present a picture of an

emergent kindred. Anna (daughter of Dalusse) is the legal

wife of tne Commandant who therefore treats her siblings

with favor. Three of her brothers work for a Frenchman who

owns a luxury hotel and a great deal of land in the

Plage-Boutou area. The emergent shef of this kindred is

Jean Luis Caze, manager of the extensive landholdings of an

American absentee landlord.

The CHARLES and LUNDY kindreds lack headmen. These

families are dispersed through the community but the

neighborhoods of their origin still function as family

laku. The descendents of Prezine Charles living in La

Sousse, the most isolated neighborhood, have for the most

part remained aloof from the rest of the community; they

work at agriculture in the mountains rather than fish. The

descendents of Paul Lundy reside throughout the community,

except in Lucner. As the best represented famni in the

Baptist Church, the Lundy kindred has also made itself

distant from many forms of community interaction.

Just as there is an hierarchy within the

household--based on ownership, age and sex--and between

households within the laku--based on the inhabitants' age,

sex, wealth and genealogical closeness to the original

settler--there is an hierarchy between famni. The kindred

ranking is based on wealth, extent of landholdings and

political power. The Abis kindred is the most prestigious

and powerful one in this hierarchy, followed by the large

but declining Magloire famni. The newly emergent Caze

kindred is rapidly moving upward in the estimation of their

fellow Plage-Boutouians. Because of the Lamours'

involvement with voodoo, they are generally considered a

lower status famni in spite of their large landholdings.

The aloof and sometimes hostile Charleses are regarded with

suspicion. The Lundy and Jerome kindreds are in such a

state of decline that they are seldom thought of in

corporate terms, except when an argument or fight erupts

between one of their members and someone not of their


Kinship groups in Plage-Boutou operate as a "personal

kindred" with a "focal kinsperson," the famni shef. At

the same time, the famni is percieved of, in terms of the

ideal pattern, as a descent group that includes all known

relatives, both living and dead. (What Goodenough describes

as a kindred whose referent is a descent group rather than

an individual). Thus, the two inter-related systems (the

ideal and the actual) of the Plage-Boutou famni may be

subsumed under the term "ancestor-oriented" kindred

(Goodenough 1970).

Inter-related and sometimes comprised of the same

people, the laku and the famni nevertheless are organized in

terms of different principles and have different

developmental cycles. The famni was usually born in a laku

setting. As the kindred out-grew the residential compound,

it began to disperse. With the growth of the famni, the

feelings of kinship and solidarity weakened between the more

distant kin. This structural feature of the kindred

combined with its bilaterality acted as an inherent

mechanism for kindred fission and/or dispersal. In Haiti,

with its increasing minifundia and declining prosperity, few

famni have the resources, after fission, to establish a new

kindred association.

Marriage, Plasazh And Polygamy

The famni is exogamous and bilateral. These two

structural features allow for the kindred's growth or

dispersal according to its circumstances. The mechanisms,

by which the famni's inherent potential for extension or

fisson is actualized, are the various forms of sexual

arrangements practiced in the community. The variety of

sexual relationships which make the kindred and even the

laku appear amorphous also affect the community as a whole,

allowing great mobility of adults between a number of

northern Haitian communities.

An adolescent's first sexual experience is usually

arranged clandestinely with a member of the opposite sex of

similar age. The first experiences with sex are had in the

parental house of either partner while no one else is at

home. Sexual experimentation by 14 to 20 year-olds is

vainly discouraged by parents, who admonish their children

to postpone sexual relations, and thus parenthood, for as

long as possible.

A young person's early experiences with sex may be with

various mates or may lead to a stable monogamous

relationship. The community generally does not recognize

the relationship until the woman becomes pregnant. If the

pregnant woman's parents refuse to allow the young couple to

co-reside or to establish a recognized visiting arrangement,

the woman becomes pu tut mun (for all men)--a low status

mating category which allows any man to openly pursue sexual

liaison with her.

There are two kinds of stable conjugal unions

acknowledged in rural Haiti, marriage and plasazh.

Marriage, as practiced in Plage-Boutou, is both a religious

and a civil act. Plasazh is a form of common-law

co-residence or a socially recognized visiting relationship.

Marriage and plasazh are not mutually exclusive union types

and, in practice, allow for diverse forms of polygamy and

extra-union sexual relations.

Marriage, the more prestigious form of union, is also

very expensive and therefore impossible for the majority of

Plage-Boutouians. When a couple chooses to get married, the

man or his family must furnish a house, bed, table, new

clothes and a feast. Local estimates of the cost of

acquiring the material prerequisites for marriage vary

between $800 and $1500. Thus, only gr6 mun marry. Not

only does the couple gain an increase in status by marriage

but also an extended, mutually obligatory social network

through the addition of the wedding's godparents.

According to the residents of Plage-Boutou, marriage

was much more common in the past than it is today. The

informants, in genealogical interviews, unanimously agreed

that all the original settlers were married and that most of

their sons were similarly established. Whether the

Plage-Boutouians are idealizing their ancestry or not, the

fact remains that the pioneer settlers were gr6 mun with

large landholdings while the majority of their descendants

are landless sharecroppers with no possibility of acquiring

land or other wealth.

The more common and lower-status form of conjugal union

in Plage-Boutou is plasazh. In former times, a letter

requesting a woman's hand was sent to her parents by her

suitor but today this extravagance has disappeared. In

contemporary Plage-Boutou, if the parents of a potential

plasazh mate are alive, they must be given small presents

and their approval must be sought.

Most young couples who become plase establish a

visiting relationship or co-reside in one of the spouse's

parental homes. These arrangements are understood to be

temporary and as soon as the couple is financially able they

are expected to establish a separate residence, no matter

how humble. This is especially difficult as there are only

five rental properties, all continuously occupied, in the


The middle-aged man or woman of Plage-Boutou who has

had only one mate and children by just one sexual partner

are the exception. Fleeting sexual contact between a person

in a stable union and one who is not of that union are

common. The more casual contacts are facilitated by the

temporary separation of the conjugal pair by migration and

fishing or marketing trips.

Some plasazh unions are stable and monogamous for years

but the tendency is for these relationships to falter and

dissolve. This is especially true of the first plasazh

unions in which the young participate. The more stable

unions have generally been those in which both partners are

older and have participated in earlier plasazh


Serial polygamy is a common mating form for both sexes

but simultaneous polygamy is usually a male-only option.

Simultaneous polygamy, in Haiti, refers to a male having two

or more socially recognized conjugal unions at the same


The polygynous housing compound (West African type) is

reported rarely in Haiti. Comhaire-Sylvain stated that the

co-residence of co-wives had been more common in the past in

the Kenscoff area but in 1956-57 she found only two such

polygynous housing compounds (Comhaire-Sylvain

1961:208-209). The disappearance of this residential pattern

has also been true for the domestic group cycle in

Plage-Boutou. The original Charles and Lundy laku (at La

Sousse and Hugo, respectively) were of this settlement type.

Today, the polygynous housing compound is unknown in


A special case of polygamy is that of Narva Lamour. In

Lucner, Narva lives with Muzar Santos while in Les Trois

Rivereres, his other wife Auliare Dessalines, a mamb6

(female voodoo leader), lives with another man. When Narva

visits Les Trois Rivereres, Auliare co-resides with Narva in

his Les Trois Rivereres house. When Auliare visits Lucner,

she lives with Narva and Muzar in their house in a

harmonius co-wife relationship. Today, in Plage-Boutou, a

congenial relationship and co-residence of a man's wives is

considered unnatural: Narva' polygamous arrangements are

sometimes the butt of joking and condescension among his

fellow Plage-Boutouians. This case of dual plural union

(polyandry/polygyny) is unique in Plage-Boutou and in the

literature on Haiti. That the relationships are stable,

socially recognized and continuing is an example of the

extreme flexibility of Haitian family organization.

The most common polygynous settlement pattern today is

for the male to establish separate households for his

different mates in various locations. The spouses of the

seven Plage-Boutou men (excluding the unique case of Narva

Lamour), who in 1984 were living in stable and socially

recognized polygynous unions, resided in separate houses.

In five of these cases, the two wives live in different

villages of Plage-Boutou; and in two cases, one mate lives

in Plage-Boutou and one in Port-de-Paix. In all seven

cases, there is animosity and bickering between the


Plage-Boutouians claim that simultaneous polygamy was

more common among their ancestors than it is today. The

scarcity of land and the general impoverishment of

contemporary Plage-Boutouians, as compared to the first

generations of Plage-Boutou residents, is cited as the cause

for this decline. Multiple wives and multitudinous

offspring are still a symbol of prestige in Plage-Boutou but

the financial obligations of polygamy and large families is

beyond the means of the majority of the peasants. Today,

one often hears the young men of Plage-Boutou say "d6

madam--apil problem" (two wives--many problems).

Conjugal unions in Plage-Boutou are made either in the

community itself or in other communities that

Plage-Boutouians visit. These other communities are usually

ones in which a person has kin relations, often the

community of his/her birth or parents' birth. The couple

may reside in either community or alternately in several

communities. Ambilocal and multilocal residence combined

with frequent visits and trading among geographically

distant settlements has created a community extended beyond

the discrete geographical boundaries of Plage-Boutou.

The diversity of Haitian mating forms allows for easy

change of partners) and residencess. Plage-Boutou has

changed from having more to less "legitimate" marriages and

from more to less plural unions. These are both adaptations

to the scarcity of essential resources.

This decline of the polygynous housing compound is at

least partially due to the land tenure system. The original

settlers owned large tracts of undivided land. With each

new generation's inheritance this land was divided into

smaller plots, often at some distance from one another. It

was an economic advantage to have households and working

spouses on these distant plots. As minifundia continued and

many Plage-Boutouians became completely disenfranchised,

simultaneous polygamy, for most, became a liability.

The ideal African pattern of the laku--as a

polygynous housing compound containing all of the shef's

(eldest male) patrilineal descendants--appears to have never

been a common reality in Haiti. Without abundant land even

an approximation of the ideal is impossible. The polygynous

housing compound, simultaneous polygyny and patrilineal

descent were the combined features of an ideal but

unattainable model for the majority. For the fortunate few,

the realization of the ideal model is nothing more than a

transitional stage in the laku and famni cycles which are,

themselves, stages in the larger cycle of plantation


The Household As Microcosm Of The Community: A Case-Study
Of Fluctuation In Household Composition In Contemporary

The forms of parenthood and mating practiced in

Plage-Boutou are not only numerous but, as a rule, in

constant flux. This is also true for household composition.

Not only does the personnel of most households change

frequently but the types of familial organization

(matrifocal, nuclear and so forth) are often transitory.

This section is devoted to a study of short-term fluctuation

in household composition in the village of Lucner.

Lucner was originally the Lamour laku. In accordance

with the natural life-cycle of the laku (described above)

the member households began to disperse and new people, both

distant kin and non-kin, constructed residences in Lucner.

Today, Narva Lamour, shef of the village, claims ownership

of all of Lucner. For a fee, Narva allows interested

parties to construct houses in Lucner but he does not give

legal title to the land, on which houses are built, to

anyone. Therefore, by keeping control of the land, he

maintains his position as shef.

The first family to establish itself on the Lamour

lands (with the exception of the Bernards who no longer

reside in Lucner) was the Rouzier family from Carabet. The

Lamours and the Rouziers are still (1984) the largest

families in the village, with Lamours living in six and the

Rouziers living in four of Lucner's seventeen houses.

As important as kinship in the organization of

inter-personal relations in the village is the institution

of co-parenthood. The people of Lucner, as elsewhere in

Plage-Boutou, incorporate new members of the community into

a ritual kinship network through godparenthood. By

accepting the honor of godparenthood, a person is

responsible not only for funding the baptismal celebration,

helping the godchild as it grows but also for helping and

defending his or her four new k6pe and k6me.

Once the co-parent relationship is established with a

person, there is an automatic extension of this relationship

to one's k6pe/k6me's spouses. Therefore, it is

unusual for couples to be selected as coparents, since this

would reduce the number of coparents in one's network.

Kinspeople are also rarely selected for the same reason.

The new alliances formed by the coparenthood relationship

are mutually exclusive--through extension of incest

prohibitions--with alliances founded on sexual


Amos Magloire's brief residence in Lucner is an example

of how kinship and co-parenthood function for the social and

economic integration of village residents. In 1982, when

Amos was nineteen years-old, he moved from his aunt's house

at Nan Bouche to the house of Narva Lamour in Lucner to

establish a plasazh relationship with Marilude Romain (28).

Marilude was born in Carabet and had come to Lucner as the

plas4 of Liznare Roosevelt with whom she had two

children. When Marilude discovered that Liznare had another

plans& mate in Ti Morne, she deserted him and went to

live in the house of her brother-in-law Narva Lamour.

(Marilude is half-sister to Auliare Dessalines, Narva's Les

Trois Rivereres wife.)

When Marilude became pregnant with her third child, she

and Amos moved into the house of Narva's half-brother Archil

(82). Archil gladly accepted the young couple because,

after recent changes in the membership of his household, he

needed their services for the procurement and preparation of

food. Archil's daughter Virginar (35) had recently left his

house to become the second wife of Renold Caze in his newly

constructed house in Nan Jerome. This left only Archil,

Roselle Mars (89--no kin) and Marilude's two small children

by Liznare Roosevelt, who had been residing in Archil's

house since their mother's break with Liznare.

By the time of Amosier's (Marilude and Amos's daughter)

birth, Amos had already become the godfather of two infants

in Lucner. Six months after Amosier was born, she was

baptized thus giving Amos a total of twelve k6pe and

k6me in Lucner. In the Spring of 1984, Amos became the

godfather of yet another child, bringing his total

coparenthood network in Lucner up to sixteen persons.

Amos's coparent relations functioned in various ways.

His k6pe Ernest Rouzier became his fishing partner (Amos

had a boat and Ernest did not) and in return Ernest helped

Amos prepare his new garden. When Amos was under pressure

from his patron--a tourist visiting in Plage-Boutou--for a

woman, his k6me Yolande Josmar supplied the need and

Amos shared his earnings with her.

When Marilude returned to Liznare, Archil kicked Amos

out of his house. Amos then began to sleep at his mother's

house in Plage-Boutou. Meanwhile, he negotiated with Narva

for a house-site in Lucner. Narva deferred payment because

Amos was k6pe for his daughter Helene. Another of Amos'

k6me, Elliete Viel, invited Amos to make his new house

next to hers where he could sleep until his house was


This example illustrates the role of kinship, plasazh

relationships, adoption, and coparenthood in economic

activities and household makeup. It also demonstrates how

these kinship and quasi-kinship links function to

incorporate new members into the village. This latter

function is especially important since of the 59 people,

over 20 years of age, who resided in Lucner in May, 1984, 38

were born outside of the commune (fifteen from Plage-Boutou

contrasted with eighteen from Les Trois Rivereres, thirteen

from Carabet, five from Gros Morne, two from Ti Morne, with

six non-determined cases).

Two household surveys were conducted in Lucner, the

first in the Spring of 1983 and again in the Spring of 1984.

The basic demographic data is summarized in Table 5.

Table 5: Population And Households In Lucner In 1983 And

1983 1984



During this one-year period, four houses kraz4 (fell

down) and four new houses were built. One house, which had

been used for habitation, was converted into a kitchen.

Thus Lucner had a net-loss of one house and a net-gain of

seven people during the year.

All of the houses, except one, had a change in

composition during the year. The change in personnel

resulted in an increase of people in five houses, a loss of

people in three houses, while five houses kept a constant

number of inhabitants. The destination of people who moved

from their 1983 Lucner residence is summarized in Table 6.

Table 7 is a summation of the provenience of each individual

resident in Lucner in 1984. Most of the people who changed

houses already lived in Lucner in 1983. Nevertheless, there

was significant in-migration and out-migration of people to

other communities, the majority of which were in other


Table 6: New Location (1984) Of 1983 Lucner Residents


Lucner 21
Plage-Boutou 3
Port-de-Paix 2
Pacot 1
Les Trois Rivereres 1
Ti Morne 2
Saint Victor 1
Non-determined 5

Table 7: Provenience of 1984 Lucner Residents


Lucner 32
Plage-Boutou 3
Kaypaul 2
Les Trois Rivereres 3
Carabet 2
Ti Morne 1
Gros Morne 2
Non-determined 8

The types of familial unit, resident in Lucner's

houses, in both years, are diverse. By isolating family

units in each household and ignoring other kin and non-kin

persons, five household family types have been discovered in

the Lucner surveys. Table 8 summarizes this data for both


Table 8: Type Of Domestic-Family Group In Lucner, 1983
And 1984

TYPE 1983 1984

Nuclear 6 6
Patrifocal 1
Matrifocal 6 10
Sibling Group 2 1
Single Couple 2
Single Female 1
TOTAL 18 17

Table 8 is misleading because almost every house has

resident kin who do not fit into any of these

classifications and because the majority of houses have

resident non-kin (nine out of eighteen houses in 1983 and

eight out of seventeen houses in 1984). This table

does, however, demonstrate that household composition and

familial organization are of a transitory nature in Lucner.

The houses themselves endure scarcely longer than the

living arrangements of their inhabitants (Table 9). The

groups of people and their physical environments fragment

and disperse, only for the people and pieces to recombine in

new ways.

Table 9: House Age In Lucner, 1984

AGE (in years) FREQUENCY

1 4
2 2
4 3
5 2
6 1
7 1
23 1
26 1
42 1
Non-determined 1

In recent years, the theory of domestic group or

household composition development-cycle, proposed by Fortes,

has been a tremendous influence on Caribbean family

studies.10 The household cycle, though variable

cross-culturally, has three universal phases--expansion,

dispersal and replacement (Fortes 1958). There are several

problems with the ways these domestic cycle studies have

been conducted. The first problem arose when Fortes tied

the household cycle to the life-cycle of an individual or

individuals; thus, the developmental phases of the cycle

were forced to correspond, in number of years, to human

generations. Secondly, these phases have been elicted from

synchronic rather than diachronic data (Laguerre 1978 is a

notable exception), an error well recognized in the

anthropological literature.

The changes in household composition, during one year

in the history of Lucner, include all three phases of

expansion, dispersal and replacement for many of the

village's domestic groups. Futhermore, ideal-type analysis

of household composition in Lucner is not useful for

delineating processual phases of domestic life. This brief

examination of household change in Lucner demonstates that

the domestic group--like the kindred, the housing compound,

the family and the community--is open to many and various

kinds of changes in its continuing adaptation to the

oppressive social and economic conditions of rural Haitian



The Haitian kindred has not previously been described.

This is directly attributable to the failure to distinguish

between residence and kinship in Haitian family studies.

Once this distinction is made, the outlines of the

developmental cycles of the kindred, the housing compound,

the domestic group and the plasazh arrangements become

clear. The realities of plantation society has in

Plage-Boutou, as elsewhere in Haiti, spawned a continuing

dialectic of the ideal African model and actual practice in

familial and domestic organization.

Roger Bastide stated that in some rural areas of

Plantation America a "precise copy" of the African

residential compound and family organization has survived.

But in urban areas, the Afro-American family has changed

considerably from its African predessor.

There can be no doubt, I would submit, that the urban
Negro family derives its structure, originally, from
African models; but at the same time these models have
been subjected to a steady process of disintegration
S(Bastide 1971:39).

It is unlikely that a precise copy of the African

family and residence patterns has ever existed in rural

Haiti. Yet, in the history of Plage-Boutou there has been a

change in actual practice from a closer adherence to the

African model to a continuing disintegration of that model,

a process similar to that described by Bastide for the

urban Afro-American family.

Due to the exigencies of plantation life, the slaves

and their peasant descendants reinterpreted the ideal

African model to fit the new circumstances of an

impoverished and powerless existence. Charles S. Johnson

described this process in the context of the Afro-American

family in the southern United States, but his description is

appropriate to Haiti as well as to other areas of Plantation


Despite the uneveness of life, the amount of sexual
freedom, the frequency of separation and realignment of
families, the number of children born out of formal
wedlock and the customary provisions for them, codes
and conventions consistent with the essential routine
of their lives do arise which represent a form of
organization adapted to the total environment. Where
social processes such as these proceed largely
unconsciously, the surviving folk ways may reasonably
be presumed to have a foundation in the fundamental
needs of community and human nature (Johnson 1934:90).

Like the Afro-American family of Macon Co., Alabama (to

which Johnson refers in the above), the Afro-American family

in Plage-Boutou has in the past and continues to adapt

"largely unconsciously" to the total environment. The

Plage-Boutouian family form has changed from its earlier

adherence to the ancestral model in its continuing

adaptation to the plantation heritage of minifundia,

impoverishment, endemic disease and political repression.

Charles Wagley has presented a picture of the

"amorphous and weakly organized local community without

clear boundaries in space or membership

characteristic of most island societies of the Caribbean"

(Wagley 1959:199). In his analysis of the Caribbean local

community, Wagley pointed out that the family is the most

important organizational feature of rural Caribbean life;

yet, the Caribbean family is unstable. In this

situation--where an elastic and fluctuating family is the

chief building block of the local community

organization--the community will also be "amorphous and

weakly organized." This is a common characteristic of the

post-Emancipation plantation society and it is certainly the

case in Plage-Boutou.


1. Several review articles of the literature on the
Caribbean family have been published. See especially Wagley
1958, Solien (Gonzalez) 1960, Davenport 1961, and Smith
1957, 1978.

2. In Haitian nomenclature a natural child refers to a
child born outside of wedlock. If the child is to inherit
from his/her father, he/she must also be recognized by the
father and thus assume his/her father's surname.

3. For a more detailed examination of the amorphous quality
of the Haitian family, see Rhoda Metraux's study of the
Maribial Valley UNESCO data (Metraux 1951).

4. The practice of sending a letter to an intended plasazh
mate's parents was apparently quite common in Haiti. It is
reported by Herskovits (1971), Simpson (1942), Bastien
(1961), Comhaire-Sylvain (1958) and others. It is an
extravagant practice, since the young man had to travel to
the nearest town and employ a letter-writer.

5. This count of rental properties does not include the
properties built for visiting tourists, which are
considerably beyond the means of most Plage-Boutouians.

6. In the Artibonite, public health researchers found a
similar situation, where plasazh unions between people
younger than 25 and older than 44 years of age are less
stable than those unions whose participants are in-between
these ages (Williams, Murthy and Berggren 1975:1028).

7. A similar situation was described by W.E.B. Dubois for
the Afro-American family in the Southern United States in
the early twentieth-century. He concludes:

"Careful research would doubtless reveal many other traces
of the African family in America. They would, however, be
traces only, for the effectiveness of the slave system meant
the practically complete crushing out of the African clan
and family life. No more complete method of reducing a
barbarous people to subjection can be devised" (Dubois

8. Plage-Boutouians gain four new coparents for each child
born in contrast to the custom in most of Latin America of
choosing a couple to be godparents for a gain of only two
coparents per baptism.

9. Reducing the domestic group organizations to this sort
of ideal-type analyses, requires that one ignore the
majority of the data on this phenomenon. This kind of
analysis, so common in Caribbean studies, is neither good
anthropology nor good science but blatant scientism.

10. The scholar most often cited for this Fortesian
analysis of the Caribbean domestic group is R.T. Smith. See
especially Smith 1956. Carol Stack's (1974) small monograph
on Afro-American family organization and domestic group in a
midwestern United States community is a refreshing antidote
to the limitations and misrepresentations inherent in
Fortesian analysis.


Work, of course, is a preeminent form of social
activity. Like other forms of social activity it must
be analyzed in terms of its mesh with other social
actions. It is also institutionalized, embedded with
values, and integrated with the rest of the
institutional system of the society (Murphy 1971:34).

Julian Steward based his typological stages of the New

World plantation cycle on a study of the mode and

organization of its production. Murphy referred to

Steward's method of research as the "sociology of work--its

tools, its organization and its cycle" (Murphy 1971:34).

This chapter is an attempt to analyse Plage-Boutou's

subsistence activities from this perspective.

The Fishing Village In Plantation America

The sociological distinction between modern fishermen
and their island nothing new in the
Caribbean. From the first, fishing slaves--first
Indians, then Negroes--received special treatment, and
from the first they exercised potentially important
economic skills that stressed independence.
Emancipation offered the opportunity for a new way of
life to the enterprising freedman who had admired the
success and prestige of his fishing colleagues during
slavery...the heritage of today's Negro fishermen is
firmly anchored in plantation life (Price 1966:1379).