Loading... Please wait...

Easter in Haiti

SM182 Cross by Michee Remy

SM182 Cross by Michee Remy

Easter week is a time of great celebration in Haiti and, as in so many other aspects of Haitian life; it is a combination of Catholic and Voodoo tradition.  Along with personal reflection and attending worship services focused on the last days of Christ on earth, Haitian Easter observances also include processions in which rara bands play a central role.  During the Lenten period, and continuing through Holy Week, these processions are loosely organized assemblies of musicians playing homemade drums, trumpets, maracas, bells, and whistles.  Dancers and singers perform as they follow along, clad in flamboyant, free-wheeling costumes.  These processions often grow and diminish during their course, and may carry political nuance as well as religious significance. Click here for a video portrayal of both Catholic observance and rara performance. http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=A0oGdW4LZFBRmQ8AVtul87UF?p=easter%20celebration%20in%20haiti&fr=ush-mailn&fr2=sfp

Specialty foods for  Haitian Easter include cooked chicken, beets, rice, and black beans such as those prepared following the recipe below.   As they say in Haitian Creole, “Bonn fet Pak!”  (Happy Easter!)


2 cups dried black beans, picked through, rinsed, and soaked overnight

Hand-made trumpet used by rara band muscians.

Hand-made trumpet used by rara band muscians.

4 cups water

1 large onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

5 cloves minced garlic

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1-4 oz. jar pimentos, drained and chopped

1/2 c. cider vinegar

1/2 c. vegetable oil

Drain soaked beans and add them to 4 c. water in a large saucepan. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for 30 minutes. Add onions, green pepper, garlic, bay leaves, salt, pepper, thyme and simmer the ingredients 1 hour longer, checking periodically and adding more water as necessary. Stir in vinegar, pimentos, and oil and remove bay leaves. Heat through and serve.

Contributed by Linda for Beyond Borders/It’s Cactus


Public Transportation, Haitian-Style

tap-tap 5 (640x426)The bright, wildly painted tap-tap buses that fill the roads of Port-au-Prince are a sure bet to be in any photographic record of a trip to Haiti.  They are the basic mode of transportation for the populace, a form of organized chaos that moves people from Point A to Point B.

As Amy Wilenz describes it in her book, Farewell Fred Voodoo, “Being in a tap-tap is like being in an open human sardine can.  As many people as possible are stuffed inside to make the ride more economically profitable; like the Tokyo subway or a bus in New York at rush hour, buttap-tap 7 (640x474) twice as crowded.  The seats, should you get one, are not exactly cushioned.  And then, of course, it’s very hot in Haiti.  And then, of course, the shock absorbers are not so good.  And then, of course, the exhaust from the engine comes right back into the passenger area, making everyone slightly nauseated.  Also, there is your neighbor on one side who is someone whose generous lap extends pretty much onto yours, and there’s her teenaged daughter who’s sitting on her lap and yours, and there’s an old-fashioned gentleman on the other side trying without success not to make any body contact.  And then, of course, there are the animals tied to the vehicle’s sides, usually goats and chickens.  Sometimes on top, there are several charcoal ladies with their giant silvery-gray bags of charcoal pushing down on the roof.  And then of course, there are the little street boys who attach themselves to the grillwork at the back and cut off any breeze there might be, should the tap-tap actually move.”  At best, she Jean Eugene Remy 3 (480x640)claims, tap-taps motor through the traffic of Port-au-Prince, “at the pace of sludge.

Tap-tap bus (HT1381) One of a Kind sculpture by Jean Eugene Remy

Tap-tap bus (HT1381) One of a Kind sculpture by Jean Eugene Remy

Jean Eugene Remy re-creates the quirky utility of tap-tap in steel.  Using bits of wire, he embellishes the wheels and gives character and dimension to his finished product.  In his version, the ride becomes a pleasure.



One of the many eye-popping floral displays, this one depicting the "Mad Hatter's Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland.

One of the many eye-popping floral displays, this one depicting the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland.


The184th Philadelphia Flower and Garden Show was as always, a sensational event, with horticultural splendors and retail opportunity in great abundance. Living up to its theme “Brilliant” the show was a tribute to the grace and beauty of traditional English gardens. Click here for a recap on their official website: http://theflowershow.com/

And Beyond Borders was there! The enthusiasm of the shoppers we encountered and their appreciation for hand-crafted original art reminded us how fortunate we are to represent such talented craftsmen and help them provide for their families through fair trade.

Shoppers wearing floral "facinators" were fun and colorful additions to the retail experience!

Shoppers wearing floral “facinators” were fun and colorful additions to the retail experience!

Jaime was one of the local gals who worked with us to tell the Beyond Borders story at the show.

Jaime was one of the local gals who worked with us to tell the Beyond Borders story at the show.

Fast-action Casey kept the booth constantly supplied with fresh metal.

Fast-action Casey kept the booth constantly supplied with fresh metal.

"Holy Night" SM415

“Holy Night” SM415

Shelove Vilsant’s nativitie’s and Gary Pierre’s sunfaces were great hits, among many others.  Thank you Philly, for your support – See you next year!

"Ray" RND 350

“Ray” RND 350



Mermaid Metamorphosis


Tidepool’s Mermaid REC455 by Bernard Excellent

Ever wonder how the form of the mermaid – half fish and half woman – came to be?  Known in Haiti and other parts of the world as “La Sirene,” the original Sirens had at one time been part bird and part woman.  How and why did the change take place?


Design element on an Ancient Greek red figure krater

The story of La Sirene begins, as so many stories do, in Ancient Greece. As Homer tells it, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. One day, in the blossom of her youth; lovely, virginal and trim-ankled, (I did not make that up.  He specifically described her as “trim-ankled.”) Persephone was out in a meadow picking flowers, blissfully unaware of the ill-intended approach of Hades. Enraptured by her beauty, the Lord of the Underworld abducted her and spirited her off to his kingdom, leaving not a trace. Utterly distraught, Demeter searched far and wide for her darling daughter and summoned Persephone’s handmaidens, The Sirens, to go looking for her.  In frantic desperation, she and gave them wings and bird bottoms to speed them along in their search. (Either that, or she punished them for not finding her by giving them bird wings and bottoms. There exists a bit of discrepancy on that point.)  Persephone did eventually turn up – no thanks to The Sirens – who, bird bodies and all, eventually settled into life on a rocky island where they amused themselves by singing beautifully and luring sailors to their deaths.

Now here is where it gets a bit muddled:  According to one on-line source, time went by and the Queen of the Olympians, Hera, proposed a singing competition between The Sirens and The Muses. The Muses won, so they plucked the feathers off The Sirens to make crowns for themselves, thus signifying their victory for all time.  The Sirens resourcefully replaced their feathers with the tails and scales of fishes and continued their seductive work per usual, with the world’s second-most beautiful voices.  Another story goes that a hungry sea-monster, possibly the Krakken, devoured the bird halves of The Sirens and again, they cleverly replaced their missing halves with corresponding fish parts.

Still a third version says that The Sirens had been cursed would die if a ship passed by them that failed to stop to listen to their singing.  When the adventurer, Odysseus, set out on his voyage, he avoided The Siren’s treachery by putting wax in the ears of his crew and having them bind him to the masthead so that he could hear their song and yet be unable to stop the ship. Thereby, the curse of The Sirens was broken and they fell into the sea, whereupon they didn’t die after all, but metamorphosed into the half fish/half women that we associate with mermaids today. Since all of this is fiction anyway, for my money what “really” happened is kind of a moot point.  All that matters to me is a good story – and here, we have three!

Sign up for our newsletter

  • Information

View Cart Go To Checkout