the crops

For the month of December 2009, I explored
the struggles of a few Haitian families located
on Andros, Island, the largest of the out-islands
of the Bahamas. The relationship between
Bahamians and Haitians is stressed as they
both work to stake claim to the island.
This photo essay is just the beginning.

Overview: A few hundred Haitians immigrants live in “The Crops” on Andros, Island. Wanting to live beyond the reach of their government, many of these Haitians risked their lives to make the trip to Andros. Back in Haiti they experienced chaos and violence. In The Crops, their struggle to find peace continues.

Since their arrival to The Crops, the Bahamian government has not treated them much better than their forsaken country. Their labor is still exploited and they receive little assistance from local government or unions. Many have come to the island illegally and speak little English; this leaves them with little control over their living and working conditions. The Bahamian government issues work visas to the Haitians with the stipulation that they work in agriculture.
Louis has been working on Andros Island for eight years. Back in Haiti he was an academic and involved in politics. When the opponent of the man he was supporting took office, Louis left in anticipation of political unrest. Working in the fields has been tough for Louis, he hopes to move to America where he can put his mind and musical talent to use.
A group of Haitian men plant onions in a rocky field on Andros, Island, two of which are in the country illegally. Bahamian bosses send for Haitians to come to Andros Island to work. Most Haitians will work for their bosses 6-7 hours and then work on the small farms they maintain.
Mr. Lee is a farmer who hails from Dominica. For over 30 years he has carved out a life for his family on Andros as a farmer, planting and harvesting his crops of fruits and vegetables, and selling them out of the back of his pick-up truck. There is a saying on Andros Island, explained Mr. Lee, that “the only good Haitian is a dead Haitian.” While he rejects any expression of hatred directed towards his fellow man, he does sympathize with the Haitian community. He doesn’t believe Haitians are the victim, instead he insists that, “the Haitian will always look for ways to outsmart you.”
Twelve-year-old sister Shenika holds Firecorn, the son of Menouze pictured in the background. It is common that one of the first things the Haitian community does when they arrive on Andros Island is have children. A child born in the Bahamas will have a certain amount of status who can then work towards citizenship.
Wousline (13), left, watches television through the screen door of her house with her sister, two-year-old Tracy. Wousline is trying hard to comprehend her new surroundings. She was sent for in Haiti by her parents a little over a year ago. She is now attending a Bahamian school where her native language Creole is never heard. When her parents are in the fields she cares for her siblings, five-year-old Alan and Tracy who were both born on Andros.
Jacque asks Shenika (12) for a dollar to put in the offering basket during a service at The First Baptist Church in Nicholls Town. Many Haitians worry about immigration officers stopping them at work or at home. The only time that immigration officers do not pursue Haitians for their paperwork is during church services or while they are in transit to and from service.
Many Haitians make a point of going to church every Sunday. They ready themselves in water basins outside of their shacks and look through their wardrobe before being picked up by church shuttles. If they are lucky, they have more than one change of formal clothes to choose from.
Twelve-year-old Shenika talks with her boyfriend on the telephone in the kitchen of her home while a family member paints their house. Unlike other Haitians living in The Crops, their parents own their house. This Christmas the family has decided spend money redecorating the house.
Shakira (6) is swung by her mom, Judana Parrisse in front of their home. Judana and her husband work many jobs to provide for their two girls, Shakira and Shenika (12) who have received a better education on Andros than what would have been available to them in Haiti.
Mr. Lee and his wife Marina do not know a day without hard work. The couple are in their 70’s and continue to farm five acres of their 15-acre-land. They occasionally employ Haitians to help them farm, but Mr. Lee, who refuses to hire Bahamians, is not satisfied with the Haitians work performance either. Here, Mr. Lee argues with Violet, a Haitian who works for him as well as for herself, as her daughter and Marina Lee listen. “You’ll never get a full days work out of a Haitian, but they will want a full days pay,” he said. According to Mr. Lee, they will work until 3pm and then travel to other farms to work.
Saint Louis Wesner gives a haircut to Loucian for the Christmas party while Melvin Parrrisse walks the perimeter. What little disposable incomes they have is sent home to their families in Haiti. Haircutting and styling is a social event.
Andros Island, at 2300 square miles in size, is the largest of the out islands and known as “the Big Yard.” Much of the island is covered with thick bush and pine, December, 2009.