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Juggling with two cultures: transnationalism and hybridity as cultural outcomes of immigration for Haitians in the United States

Biculturalism, Self Identity and Societal Transformation

ISBN: 978-0-7623-1409-6, eISBN: 978-1-84950-555-0

ISSN: 0195-7449

Publication date: 1 October 2008


Haitian immigrants have settled primarily in several metropolitan areas of the Northeast region (New York and Boston, followed perhaps by Philadelphia), Southern Florida, and some areas of the Midwest (mainly Chicago). As indicated in a previous work (Zéphir, 2004, p. 90), New York City has the largest concentration of Haitians in the country as well as the oldest and most diverse established Haitian communities. Estimates of the New York population and its surrounding counties (Nassau, Rockland, and others) range from 200,000 to close to 500,000. This variation depends on whether one only takes into account figures given by the Census Bureau and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), or whether one also factors in the undocumented entrants and accepts estimates provided by Haitian community leaders themselves as being closer to reality. In more recent times, from the mid-1980s to the present, Southern Florida has been receiving the largest numbers of the new arrivals, particularly the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, as well as their vicinities. The US Census Bureau (2000), places the legal Haitian population in the state of Florida at about 270,000; but when one considers the clandestine population that number obviously increases. Let us not forget that Florida is the destination of the most desperate Haitians, those who risk their lives navigating the Florida straits in rickety boats to reach “the promised land” that the United States symbolizes for them. In fact, as recently as March 28, 2007, a boatload of about 100 Haitians reached Hallandale Beach, Florida. These Haitians have been put in detention centers, pending reviews of their cases. The state of Massachusetts follows with a conservative estimate of 75,000 Haitians, of which the majority are Boston residents. The state of New Jersey is home to approximately 40,000 Haitian immigrants, concentrated mostly in the city of Newark. In addition, two other Northeast states, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, in particular) and Connecticut have sizeable Haitians communities. In the Midwest, another very conservative estimate of 30,000 Haitians have settled in Illinois, over half of them in the city of Chicago. Although the aforementioned states and cities have the most significant numbers of the total Haitian immigrant population, it is important to mention that Haitians have migrated all over the country, from Louisiana, the Carolinas, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, to California. For example, in the city of St. Louis, there are several well-established families who have been in residence there since the 1960s. Indeed, several years ago, I met a couple of physicians who explained that, when they came to the United States to do their medical residencies, few hospitals in the country at the time would accept Black residents. One exception was Omer Philip Hospital, which has long since closed. These first Haitians brought their families with them, who in turn sent for relatives. In time, a solid Haitian community developed and prospered in St. Louis. Moreover, as this chapter was being written in June of 2007, I received a phone call from a Haitian in Kansas City who was telling me about the emergence of a Haitian community there as well, which he estimated at about 2,000 people. This particular individual is the director of a community center that, he said, is called Glory House, affiliated with the Baptist Church. This center has been recently established to help working-class Haitians, by offering them English classes and other social services. Those examples attest to the fact that Haitians are mobile and moving to other areas of the country where they have not traditionally settled, in search of better economic, professional, vocational, and educational opportunities.


Zéphir, F. (2008), "Juggling with two cultures: transnationalism and hybridity as cultural outcomes of immigration for Haitians in the United States", Dennis, R.M. (Ed.) Biculturalism, Self Identity and Societal Transformation (Research in Race and Ethnic Relations, Vol. 15), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 51-75.



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