New York As A Substitute

I was extremely interested in the idea that the Haitians had about New York, in comparison to the Italians, as described starting on page 133 of the McAlister reading.

We have seen, from the Orsi book, that the Italians came to the United States from Italy, initially one person at a time. But the goal, for most immigrants, was to eventually bring family over from Italy to start a new life in New York or the rest of the United States. The religion that they would most closely connect with, Catholicism, was already in the new locale, since the Madonna of 115th Street had been brought over to New York relatively early. Even though it was a connection to their old world, it was generally not the same Mary that many of the Italians were devoted to back in Italy (at least, that’s how I personally read it and I could be wrong). Instead, the entire community came together, becoming a community because of this Madonna. In one chapter, Orsi mentions how the people became disconnected from their hometowns in Italy because there was no longer a reason; the things that they were most connected to, the domus and religion, had been transposed to New York.

In comparison, the Haitis that McAlister depicts are not a group of people moving from one place to another, moving their devotion from Haiti to New York, but a people torn in two; they do not solely worship the Madonna, but equate the Madonna with Vodou/Voodoo and many of the Haitians don’t really believe in staying in New York permanently. McAlister comments that many Haitians send money back to their children in Haiti so that their children will grow up as good people ‘kretyen vivan,’ instead of being ruined by the atmosphere of New York. These newer immigrants, unlike the Italian ones, are less inclined to make New York, and the Madonna of 115th street, their home, but look to it as a a temporary replacement, a reminder of what they have left behind.

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