The Bitterness of Sugar

Activist Inoelia Remy came to Miami to tell the harrowing story of working in the Dominican Republic's cane fields

In the days following the Haitian Women of Miami banquet, Remy appeared on several local Creole-language radio programs and Haitian television. On this visit, her fourth to Miami, she told audiences how Hurricane Georges had destroyed her batey and most of the others in Sabana Grande de Boya. She complained that little of the relief money went to Haitian areas in the Dominican Republic. "The hurricane left nothing but concrete floors," Remy says. "The workers need the most basic materials like wood, and metal sheeting for roofs."

Remy says she didn't seek monetary donations from the Miami community during this visit because she was invited to speak at the banquet. But people wanted to contribute to her efforts. Callers to radio shows asked about the work of MOSCTHA and similar groups. It was hard for some to believe that her Santo Domingo office was equipped with nothing more than a fax machine and some manual typewriters. "People's hearts just poured out," recalls Gepsie Metellus, an officer of Haitian Women of Miami and an aide to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler. Remy stayed at Metellus's house during the first few days of her visit. "I have a feeling," Metellus continues, "that people didn't really understand that even if they pledged a box of pencils or a ream of paper or a roll of tape, that it would help her. Nothing would be too small."

After listeners to an afternoon show on WLQY-AM (1320) asked whether Remy had access to the Internet (she's hardly touched a computer, she replied), one man called to offer her his own PC, complete with modem and printer. Sure enough when Remy flew back to Santo Domingo on March 10, the computer, all boxed up, was on the plane with her.

"So we continue lobbying," Remy concludes. "We talk to whomever we can." Meanwhile Haitians continue to risk their lives on journeys in rusty boats heading for the United States. Remy has never considered immigration to the United States as a viable way to improve her lot. She feels fortunate to be in a position to help her people instead of in a daily fight for survival. "I always thought the greatest power I could have would be to help those on the bateyes," she says. "I want to contribute a little bit, and immigrating to the United States doesn't resolve the problem [in the Dominican Republic]. I've lived these things. I'm doing what I love."

kathy_glasgow@miaminewtimes.com

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