I had never been to Haiti or the DR, and spoke neither Kreyol or Spanish, when I proposed to follow Haitian women traders for my thesis. Through Kylie Culver, an amazing young woman who works for the Batey Relief Alliance’s Ansapit office, and Louise Lindenmeyr, a Connecticut nurse who does stints at the health clinic here, I met Peter Louis, whose father, mother and grandmother are sellers of pepe and other goods. They are successful traders and an important family in Ansapit. Merite Louis, Peter’s father, has been urged by residents to run for mayoral office but his wife Micheline won’t have it, Peter says. In our relationship, what Peter lacks in English language skills, he makes up for in patience, perception, warmth, and a radiant inner peace.
As we were sitting at the home his parents bought for him and his wife until he’s able to build his own, Peter showed me a Dominican passport given to him by his father. In ways not yet clear to me, Peter’s dad has not only had amicable business relationships in the DR as a foreman of sugar workers and a seller of DR pepe and produce, he also owns a home in Pedernales and spends time there. Naturally, the senior Louis thought a DR passport would be good for Peter, too.
“When I see in front of my face how the Dominicans treat Haitians, I would rather live in my own country with ice for a refrigerator” — he reached behind the curtain that served as a front door and produced a kerosene lantern == “and no electricity.”