Chèche Lavi: EXILE
The following images were made in the southern border town of Anse-à-Pitres, where in 2015, both Haitians and people of Haitian descent who had lived in the Dominican Republic for generations were forced into exile. Some people were taken to the border by Dominican authorities and others suffered harassment in the communities where they were living. The harassment and forced exile were in response to a Dominican law that denationalized people of Haitian descent who were born (in the Dominican Republic) between the years of 1929 and 2007.
During this time a man named Henry Jean Claude who was lynched in a public square in the Dominican town of Santiago.
Chèche Lavi is a Kreyòl expression that translates as “looking for life” and means searching for economic opportunity. When I moved to Haiti in 2011 and started to learn Kreyòl, “chèche lavi” was an expression I started to hear often. When I visited different points of the border that divides Haiti and the Dominican Republic I heard the expression used by people who were crossing the border to buy and sell goods. I heard the expression used in the sugarcane fields of the Dominican Republic by both people of Haitian descent who spoke Kreyòl with a Spanish accent and by Haitians who had crossed the border to work for a season.
In 2016 when thousands of Haitians and people of Haitian descent were forced into exile in the remote Haitian border town of Anse-à-Pitres I heard the expression used to explain why they or their parents had originally left Haiti to work in the Dominican Republic. I also heard the expression the following year in Tijuana, Mexico where thousands of Haitians who had made the long, expensive and dangerous journey by land from Brazil to Mexico were waiting to cross the border, in search of economic opportunity in the United States.