There is a Haitian saying that might upset the aesthetic sensibilities of some women. ‘Nou lèd, nou la,’ it says. 'We are ugly, but we are here.’ Like the modesty that is common in rural Haitian culture, this saying makes a deeper claim for poor Haitian women than maintaining beauty, be it skin-deep or otherwise. For women like my grandmother, what is worth celebrating is the fact that we are here, that against all odds, we exist.
Edwidge Danticat, “We Are Ugly, but We Are Here,” Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean
One misconception people have about Haiti is that, poverty runs the country. The media will never show you just how beautiful it is. There is in fact life there. Haitians party, work, raise families, go to school, & vacation there. Haiti is so rich in value but you shouldn’t have to go there yourself to know that. - 🇭🇹🇭🇹🇭🇹
Sexuality is another factor distinguishing social experience, but as noted by Rosamond King, female same-sex desire is “near-invisible” as a behavior and as an identity, in society and in scholarship, meaning that it is actively hidden or cast as nonexistent even when contradictory evidence exists. King suggested emphasis on other aspects of identity made same-sex desire less visible, and Indo-Caribbean women’s desires even more so. Allusions and suggestions of queer subtexts among Indo-Caribbean peoples have been made, such as among Indo-Caribbean women’s performance in matikhor or Indian men in indentureship contexts. Lauren Pragg uses matikhor as an allegory within Indo-Caribbean feminism to assess the queer potentialities “rooted in the erotic emancipation, sacred elements, and communal connections of the matikor space, as well as the non-normative embodiments, behaviors, and imaginings it can create for Indo-Caribbean women.” Sean Lokaisingh-Meighoo believed the homosocial conditions of indentureship and jahaji bhai (ship brother) created deep bonds, possibly of a “queer quality.” Both Pragg and Lokaisingh-Meighoo point to the absence of queer analysis of Indo-Caribbean culture and practices, including fluid gender and sexual identifications and expressions. While offering crucial insight into Indo-Caribbean women’s cultural and social experiences, the edited collections Matikor (1999) and Bindi (2011) interrogated their negotiations of gender and ethnicity within patriarchal Indo-Caribbean culture, a culture wherein female sexuality is subjugated to male control and layered with burdens of respectability and family honor. What does it mean to be same-sex loving in that context?
“(Un)Settling the Politics of Identity and Sexuality Among Indo-Trinidadian Same-Sex Loving Women” by Krystal Nandini Ghisyawan
in Indo-Caribbean Feminist Thought Genealogies, Theories, Enactments (2016)
*note: majority of in-text citations removed for readability.