Haitian leaders estimate that 60 percent of Boston's Haitian community lives below the poverty level. The uncertainty of the future, their pervasive poverty and their isolation from family and friends has led to a difficult, pressurized existence for many. It is a reality, Haitians say, most clearly dramatized by the immolation of Antoine Thurel, a cab driver who set himself on fire on the State House steps earlier this month. Boston's Haitians have no trouble understanding why Thurel, who left a note explaining his suicide as a sacrifice for the liberation of Haiti, was driven to do such a thing.
Others talk of increasing conflicts between husband and wife. Because women usually are designated the caretakers of the home in Haiti, Haitian men often expect the same behavior of their wives in America, even though Haitian women sometimes work two or more jobs here. The result has been divorce and separation, a rare phenomenon in Haiti.
Haitians believe the prejudice is manifested in US policy toward Haiti as well. By far, the most troubling thing for Haitian immigrants is what they believe to be an American lack of respect for Haiti.