A Promise Kept: A Wedding In Haiti
Bestselling author Julia Alvarez fulfills "One of those big-hearted promises you make that you never think you'll be called on to deliver someday."
"A Wedding In Haiti" by Julia Alvarez is the true story of a promise kept despite differences in country and culture. Julia makes a long journey from her Vermont home to attend a friend Piti's wedding all the way in Haiti.
Cover Courtesy Algonquin Books
In a story that travels beyond borders and between families, acclaimed Dominican novelist and poet Julia Alvarez reflects on the joys and burdens of love—for her parents, for her husband and for a young Haitian boy known as Piti. A Wedding In Haiti (Algonquin Books, 2012) is an intimate, true account of a promise kept. Alvarez takes us on a journey into experiences that challenge our way of thinking about history and how it can be reimagined when people from two countries—traditional enemies and strangers—become friends. The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 1, “Going to Piti’s Wedding in Haiti.”
Circa 2001, the Mountains of the Dominican Republic
My husband and I have an ongoing debate about how old Piti was when we first met him. I say Piti was seventeen at the most. My husband claims he was older, maybe nineteen, even possibly twenty. Piti himself isn’t sure what year we met him. But he has been working in the mountains of the Dominican Republic since he first crossed the border from Haiti in 2001 when he was seventeen years old.
Bill and I might have forgotten the year, but we distinctly remember the first time we met Piti. It was late afternoon, and we were driving past the barracks-type housing where he lived with half a dozen other Haitian workers on a neighboring farm. On the concrete apron in front, the group was horsing around, like young people having fun all over the world. Piti, whose name in Kreyòl means “little one,” was the smallest of the group, short and slender with the round face of a boy. He was putting the finishing touches on a small kite he was making.
I asked Bill to stop the pickup, as I hadn’t seen one of these homemade chichiguas since I was a child. I tried to explain this to Piti, who at that point didn’t understand much Spanish. His response was to grin and offer me his kite. I declined and asked if I could take his picture instead.
On the next trip, I made a point of finding Piti so I could give him the photo in the small album I’d brought as a gift. You’d have thought I was giving him the keys to a new motorcycle. He kept glancing at the photo, grinning and repeating, “Piti, Piti!” as if to convince himself that he was the boy in the photo. Or maybe he was saying thank you. “Mèsi, mèsi” can sound like “Piti, Piti,” to an ear unused to Kreyòl.
A friendship began. Every trip I sought him out, brought him a shirt, a pair of jeans, a bag in which to cart his belongings back and forth on his periodic and dangerous crossings of the border.
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