Merriam-Webster defines migration as “to move from one country, place or locality to another.” In Chapter 3 of Fundamentals of the Human Mosaic, we learn that there are different forms of
migration. There is forced migration where a person is forced to move due to
threats from natural or man-made causes and voluntary migration which is when a
migrant leaves their place of residence to improve their quality of life.
Refugees are forced migrants. In the news, there has been a lot of talk of
Syrian refugees migrating to other countries but not many have heard of Haitian
In 2010, Haiti was
devastated by an earthquake with the magnitude of 7.00 on the Richter scale
(two aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5). Haiti had not been hit with an earthquake of
that magnitude since the eighteenth century. Due to the magnitude of the
earthquake many buildings collapsed. Haiti, unlike many other countries like
the United States, has a lack of building codes causing many occupants to be
killed or trapped under collapsed buildings. Two years prior to the earthquake,
Haiti was struck by two tropical storms and two hurricanes making the country
unprepared for another devastating disaster.
Women walking on a street of Port-au-Prince after the January 2010 earthquake.
Photo taken by Gregory Bull
The efforts of citizens and the international community was made difficult by the harsh conditions Haiti was in. There was no electricity, roads were blocked by rubble and no communication lines. Unfortunately, one third of the population was affected by the disaster and around one million of the impacted where left without a home. Ten months after the earthquake there was an outbreak of cholera. Yet another factor that added to the death toll.
Due to the 2010
earthquake many Haitians eventually migrated (forced migration) to other
countries. Some of those countries include Brazil, United States and Mexico.
For many Haitians settling in Mexico was not the intention. The goal for most
Haitians was to come to the United States in search of the American dream. A
small number of Haitians have returned home while many have chosen to take up
residence in Tijuana, Mexico. An estimate of almost 3,000 Haitians have started
the regularization process but only a little over 1,000 have been approved.
They are now perusing the Mexican Dream.
Dr. Aracely Amaraz, a
researcher from El Colegio de la Frontera Norte stated that Haitians consider
themselves “economic migrants.” They do not expect handouts and are determined
to make a living by using their own skills. They have obtained jobs in
restaurants, introducing Haitian cuisine, gas station factories, shops and
Tijuana has adapted and opened its arms to the influx of Haitian immigrants. Factories recruit Haitians, children attend schools, Haitian cuisine inspired restaurants are opening and congregations are adding services in Creole. Many Haitians appreciate the warm welcome Mexico has given them. The appreciate the abundance of work and the opportunity to work. Many employers appreciate the hard work, punctuality and enthusiasm Haitians have.
Many fear the influx of immigrants to their country because of the economic pressure. As Dr. Aracely Amaraz stated, Haitians don’t expect handouts. They want to work and make money to survive and provide for their family. Mexico’s warm welcome has given many Haitians the opportunity to get jobs and live in better conditions than those in Haiti.
Haitians living in a church.
Photographs by Hans Museilik
Mexico is setting an example to other countries who do not want to allow refugees in (Haiti, Syria, etc.). Mexican individuals have helped Haitians by offering work and build/offer housing. Other countries consider refugees an economic burden. In truth, they can be if they are not allowed to work. Mexico has given many Haitians the opportunity to work and care for themselves. They have relieved the economic pressure of population influx. They are like any other resident. Other countries should follow Mexico and open their doors to immigrants and refugees.