Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith

Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith: Haitian Religion in Miami

Terry Rey
Alex Stepick
WITH A FOREWORD BY Archbishop Thomas Wenski
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith
    Book Description:

    Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, significant numbers of Haitian immigrants began to arrive and settle in Miami. Overcoming some of the most foreboding obstacles ever to face immigrants in America, they have diversified socioeconomically. Together, they have made South Florida home to the largest population of native-born Haitians and diasporic Haitians outside of the Caribbean and one of the most significant Caribbean immigrant communities in the world. Religion has played a central role in making all of this happen. Crossing the Water and Keeping the Faith is a historical and ethnographic study of Haitian religion in immigrant communities, based on fieldwork in both Miami and Haiti, as well as extensive archival research. Where many studies of Haitian religion limit themselves to one faith, Rey and Stepick explore Catholicism, Protestantism, and Vodou in conversation with one another, suggesting that despite the differences between these practices, the three faiths ultimately create a sense of unity, fulfillment, and self-worth in Haitian communities. This meticulously researched and vibrantly written book contributes to the growing body of literature on religion among new immigrants.Terry Reyis Associate Professor of Religion at Temple University. He is the coeditor (with Alex Stepick and Sarah Mahler) ofChurches and Charity in the Immigrant City: Religion, Immigration, and Civic Engagement in Miami.Alex Stepickis Professor of Sociology at Portland State University and Professor of Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University. He is coauthor (with Alejandro Portes) ofCity on the Edge: The Transformation of Miami.In theNorth American Religionsseries

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-0267-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Archbishop Thomas Wenski

    I welcome this book on the religious faith of Miami’s Haitian community, which features Little Haiti’s Notre Dame d’Haiti Mission, where I served for eighteen years as a parish priest. The authors are not theologians but social scientists, but their research and their insights derived from that research helps illustrate how religious institutions, which are usually regarded as “conservative,” can creatively and imaginatively respond to new challenges and create new opportunities for marginalized people.

    In the 1960s, Operation Pedro Pan, during which the Roman Catholic Church helped some 14,000 unaccompanied minors from Cuba to resettle in the United States, the...

    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. INTRODUCTION: Haitian Religion in Miami
    (pp. 1-32)

    Spiritually, poetically, and politically it is altogether fitting that the heart of Haitian life in Miami beats precisely at the intersection of streets named for the great Haitian poet Félix Morisseau-Leroy and the great African American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. Félix Morisseau-Leroy was the first major writer to compose plays and poetry in Haitian Creole, the language of the Haitian masses, a language whose official recognition by the Haitian government—a status previously reserved for the French of the Haitian elite—was in large part the result of the bard’s advocacy and international acclaim. Like so many...

  7. 1 The Haitian Catholic Church in Miami: When the Saints Go Sailing In
    (pp. 33-58)

    A colorful mural adorns the northern interior wall of Miami’s Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church (see fig. 1.1). It depicts bright skies over the shimmering blue waters and the high green mountains of the Caribbean nation of Haiti. Soaring through the skies is an Air d’Haïti passenger jet, while plying the waters is an overcrowded wooden sailboat. They are both departing and they are both watched over maternally by Our Lady of Perpetual Help. For those aboard the plane with intentions to emigrate, voyagers who could afford an airline ticket and possessed the required valid passport and visa to board...

  8. 2 Immigrant Faith and Class Distinctions: Haitian Catholics beyond Little Haiti
    (pp. 59-82)

    Many Haitians in recent years have experienced migration to and settlement in Miami in quite different ways than the throngs ofbotpipelwho came in the late 1970s and early 1980s and in ensuing intermittent waves spurned by political upheaval and poverty in the homeland. There is a growing number of Haitians in South Florida who have either moved up and out of the poverty of Little Haiti or who migrated with the means to settle in the United States without the trademark daunting struggles of Haitian refugees. Some of them are lighter-skinned members of the Haitian bourgeoisie, wealthy immigrants...

  9. 3 Feting Haiti’s Patron Saint in Little Haiti: The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
    (pp. 83-112)

    Key features of the Haitian religious collusio, such as service to invisible spirits and/or saints, the quest for healing from maladies and protection from evil forces, and pneumacentric spiritual embodiment, are nowhere more richly on display than during Roman Catholic feast-day celebrations. Dating to the early eighteenth century and taking place throughout the country, they are among the most storied and largest religious gatherings in Haiti, surpassed today in size only by the annual National Convention of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, which draws upwards to 100,000 people during a three-day revival in Port-au-Prince. Even this convention is in some respects...

  10. 4 Vodou in the Magic City: Serving the Spirits across the Sea
    (pp. 113-150)

    Woody Marc Edouard followed the news from Port-au-Prince with keen interest as jubilant crowds in Miami greeted Cuban pilot Carlos Cancio Porcel as a hero. In December 1992, Cancio executed “a very complex maneuver, a year in the planning,” drugging a co-pilot and commandeering a domestic flight out of Havana bound for the Cuban beach resort town of Varadero, and successfully diverting it to Miami. After being questioned by U.S. authorities, “Mr. Cancio later emerged from the customs office to inspect the plane and raised his arms in triumph.” Despite having committed a blatant act of air piracy, Cancio was...

  11. 5 Storefront and Transnational Protestantism in Little Haiti: Harvesting the Gospel in the Haitian Church of the Open Door
    (pp. 151-188)

    By the mid-1980s, already 40 percent of all Haitian immigrants in Miami were Protestant, sparking an impressive proliferation of storefront churches in Little Haiti. It is likely that today the majority of people in the Haitian diaspora in general are Protestant. Because the religion incorporates far less ritual paraphernalia than either Catholicism or Vodou, and because it venerates far fewer spiritual beings than the other sides of the Haitian religious triangle of forces, the Haitian religious collusio might seem less pronounced among Protestants than Catholics or Vodouists. Upon more careful investigation, however, Haitian Protestantism is every bit as concerned with...

  12. CONCLUSION: Beasts, Gods, and Transnational Transubstantiation
    (pp. 189-202)

    It is the summer of 1994, somewhere at sea between Haiti and Cuba, in the Windward Passage. A young officer of the U.S. Coast Guard stands atop the bridge of his vessel, the USCGCHamilton, and reflects aloud on the scene unfolding on the deck below. There, more than one thousand Haitianbotpipel, migrants that his crew had detained over the course of the previous three days, are patiently awaiting their arrival at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: “Just think of all of the man power, ingenuity, and future that Haiti is losing on this boat alone.”...

  13. Appendices
    (pp. 203-226)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 227-236)
    (pp. 237-252)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 253-265)
    (pp. 266-266)