By Fabiola Jean
Historically, the Haitian Diaspora has been concentrated in New York, Miami, Canada and Philadelphia. However, in recent years, studies show Haitian migrants are increasingly travelling to the Bahamas for better opportunities. With this migration shift comes discrimination against Haitians stemming from preconceived notions and stereotypes – specifically in the realm of religious identity.
“There’s a big shift in Haitian identity in Haiti and the Diaspora,” Dr. Bertin M. Louis, Jr., author of My Soul Is In Haiti; Protestantism in the Haitian Diaspora of the Bahamas, said. Louis is an Anthropology and Africana Studies professor at the University of Tennessee.
“Many, particularly in the Bahamas have a misconception as to what the average Haitian practices when it comes to religion,” he said. “It usually falls under the typical stereotype of voodoo and things of that nature.”
In his book, Louis combines data collected through research in the United States, Haiti, and the Bahamas with a transnational framework to analyze why Protestantism has appealed to the Haitian Diaspora community in the Bahamas. He also uncovers how their religious faith ties in to their belief in their need to “save” their homeland, as they reimagine Haiti politically and morally as a Protestant Christian nation. As the book unfolds, Louis dissects the different spiritual interpretations and transformations in Haiti relative to the Bahamas.
How does this book speak to the Haitian migrant experience in the Bahamas?
This book renders an important part of the Haitian migrant experience in the Bahamas visible to Bahamians, Americans and Haitians – specifically that many Haitians are devout Protestant Christians. This is the first book written in English by someone of Haitian descent to deal with this important issue in our diaspora. The majority of Haitians in the Bahamas are Protestant Christians but we never hear about this important part of their identity in the news. This information may change many longstanding negative views of Haitians and I hope it spurs more scholarship on the subject.
What do you want readers to take away from this book?
There is a large shift in religious practice by Haitians towards Protestantism. I want readers to think about the possible political implications of this shift, which I expand on in the text. I also hope that My Soul Is in Haiti will raise more awareness about the conditions that Haitians in the Bahamas are experiencing – conditions that are similar to what other Haitians experience in places like the Dominican Republic, Martinique and Turks and Caicos.
Who is this book for?
This book is for a wide audience which includes Haitians, Bahamians, anthropologists, religious studies scholars and anyone who wants to learn more about the lives of Haitians in the Bahamas, and why more Haitians are practicing Protestantism instead of the traditional religions of Catholicism and Vodou.