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Haitian Migration and Its Cultural Shifts

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Migration whether permanent, temporary, voluntary or forced has now become a common way of life and it is a fact that migration is an essential and widely accepted aspect of life in the Caribbean. Migration can occur as result of push and pull factors. Push factors are those which force a person to move. This can include drought, famine, lack of jobs, over population or war, while pull factors are those which encourage a person to move. These include a chance of a better job, better education, or a better standard of living. It is equally established that West Indians--including Bahamians--are descendants of immigrants. The migrant population in the Bahamas comprises mainly of Haitians, while others are from Cuba and Jamaica.

Particular emphasis is placed on the migration of Haitians; Haitian migration focuses on historical circumstances that forced the Haitian people to migrate to the Bahamas from Haiti over the course of history, and this flood of non-Bahamian immigrants has continuously shaped Bahamian understandings of our own cultural identity. The increase of Haitian migration resulted in the increase of Haitian-Bahamians. No right thinking Bahamian can deny that Bahamians of Haitian descent are an important part of Bahamian society. There are Bahamians of Haitian descent on our police and defense forces, in our schools and in various government departments. The migration of Haitians to The Bahamas has deep historical roots and is an issue of principal concern in the Bahamas. The Bahamas' proximity to Haiti and Cuba is a key factor contributing to the substantial amount of irregular migration. Despite the fact that Haitians have integrated as a part of Bahamian culture, there is a strong intolerance of Haitians in the Bahamas, as Bahamians express that Haitians overpopulate and invade the Bahamas and creolize Bahamian identity. Despite the intolerance of the Bahamian people towards Haitians, Bahamians still depend on the skilled labor of Haitians and obtain it at lower cost through the Bahamian work permit system. These jobs are one of the leading pull factors that encourage Haitians to migrate to the Bahamas. Haitians arrive to the Bahamas on sloops, and many can be found arriving and departing in the Bahamas. Seeing these sloops can be described as a part of Bahamian culture and exposes an outright cultural shift. They represent a change in the realism that Haitian culture has affected certain aspects of culture.

Cuban migration also impacts Bahamian culture, Cuba has been one of the trade routes of the Bahamas for a substantial amount of time and certain aspects of trade result in significant formation of identity. In order to trade with Cuba we must be able to communicate; this influence of language is an essential example of a cultural shift and the impact of foreign cultures in the shaping of Bahamian identity. Cuba is known for its inexpensive medical services and there have been a considerable amount of migration--mainly



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