I am a humble traveler and artist, not an expert on Caribbean art and music. Before I traveled to the Caribbean, I only knew about the islands through reggae music and popular lyrics by Bob Marley, such as in the wonderful song, One Love, One Heart…
“There is one question I’d really love to ask
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?
One love, one heart,
Let’s get together and feel all right.”
When I hear this wonderful song, I feel transported into peace. I wonder now, who is that hopeless sinner, that Bob Marley was referring to? Marley brings up some heartaches (here and in other songs) and yet speaks of finding peace. He sings if we’re together, either in partnership or community, it will “feel all right”. Now there’s some Island wisdom about finding peace!
Here are lyrics from another Marley song “I Know a Place”. with a similar message:
“When the whole world lets you down
And there’s nowhere for you to turn
Cause all of your best friends let you down
And you tried to accumulate
But the world is full of hate
So all of your best thoughts, just adrift through space
I know a place where we can carry on.
I know a place where we can carry on.”
About Art from Haiti…
While in the Dominican Republic, I picked up this carved fish platter from a Haitian storekeeper. I like how tough and lovely the wood grain is. This wooden fish is carved out of the Caribbean’s hibiscus wood or Mahogany (or did they say Malvaceae?).
I love the folk art fish carving, because in Christian texts, the fish is a symbol of God providing enough food for a whole community, in a miraculous way.
About Patience and Trust…
Haiti was only an hour or two away across the border from where I was vacationing in Puerto Plata. We hear that Haiti’s economy has been in shambles ever since the earthquake of 2010. We can’t even begin to imagination the poverty. Because of the suffering, many Haitans have migrated across their eastern border, looking for work and a better life in the Dominican Republic.
Indeed some Haitans spent their days on the fringes of our Puerto Platan beach resort, trying to wave us over the line in the resort sand. They were handsome guys and friendly as they could be, urging us to come shopping. I learned they had to stay behind a line in the sand, because street venders were not allowed into the resort. (Can you say “marginalized”?)
Now when they called, I was already tired of people trying to sell me things all day long, and naturally wary of being called out of a safe place into back alleys. So I refused the invitation. I mean I’d been robbed before. Back in California I’d know what was safe, but here the beaches were different and I was disoriented.
On the third day, with my boyfriend to be my bodyguard, I finally left the resort to check out what these guys were selling.
Their beach shacks were just a stone’s throw away, on a cliff over the ocean, numbered 1 through 8. Men stood outside each store wearing numbered t-shirts, 1 through 8. Because of that, they looked more like a soccer team, not storekeepers, and had rules about how to work together like a team.
“Storekeeper 5” was a very tall and handsome Haitian man, who spoke English perfectly. I wish I still remembered his real name, because he was very nice.
We picked out some treasures, including the fish platter, but we did not have money on us. The storekeeper said cheerfully he can wait, for as long as it takes. We went to get some money from the ATM to pay him, but to our dismay the ATM was broken that day. To make a long story short, the storekeeper was ready and willing to borrow a car, to drive us to the next town where there was a working ATM. This level of help is unheard of back at home! That is how we ended up spending a few hours talking with a Haitian immigrant.
The storekeeper told us how sad it has been in Haiti since the earthquake of 2010. We heard about Haiti on the news for its pure desparation. Like many Haitians, this fellow went across the border to the Dominican Republic just to find work. He says the Dominicans sometimes resent the Haitian immigrants. He is far from his family. All he has to live on comes from what he can sell in Store Five. He said:
“Even so, it is better here than back home in Haiti.”
He has been waiting for the Amber Cove port to be finished, to bring more tourists into Puerto Plata. You see, his store is a stone’s throw from the new port. He only had six more months to wait because it would open in October. And now that it is open, I wonder how he is doing!
The fact is he was friendly and fun, and laughed a lot. He seems a good family man. It was a nice sunny day after all. As the song goes, “Let’s get together and feel all right.”