Baraderes: Mystical Venice of Haiti
Baraderes, located in the Nippes department of Haiti, is partly isolated and elongated with beautiful river coastlines that make a boat ride an unforgettable experience. This town is easily accessible by boats instead of car transportation due to its stiffed rocky unpaved roads. Personally, I have attempted twice to reach there by car, but I feared for my car and the roadside safety was a major concern.
Similarly to Pestel, which is another town of the Nippes department of Haiti, is somewhat identical to a certain extent. They are both coastal towns. They have a great deal of lush vegetation and coffee crops that make them a lucrative market for coffee growers and sellers. The three kilometers upstream narrow river for its main street gives rise to this beautiful old town of Baraderes.
This appealing little town is also famous for its rare coffee crops due to its hilltop mountains and its impeccable soil quality. The coffee industry market is the primary lucrative source of income for the whole area. Coffee is so religiously consumed, for that reason there's a saying - "No trip to Baraderes without having a cup of great coffee".
Baraderes' waterway is still the safest and the most effective transportation form to trade and to survive as a whole. The local economy is deeply embedded on its river and the water taxis are the main pillars.
The Baraderes' river crosses the main town up to multiple small town areas is similar to the Venice River that crosses its city. The obvious difference is that the Gondola service that is a must romantic famous boat ride for any visitor is not regarded as much. The romantic boat ride aspect of the Baraderes' river is not as intriguing to the locals due to a lack of appreciation, education, and culture.
Noticely, international foreigners enjoy greatly the water taxi rides more than the car rides to the seemingly long canals. The water taxi ride prices to this hidden gem vary from towns to towns such as Petite Riviere-de-Nippes, Petit-Trou, Anse-a-Veau, and to unknown remote areas. The coast guard as well is nonexistent in case there is a major accident. I must say the typical boat owners and the water taxi riders are on their own for any maritime related issues.
This hidden wonder, river like canal encompassed with beautiful sceneries has captivated all the visitors and the locals. Travelling consistently through this river puts the locals in communion with this mystical water god like spirit ...for so many voodoo worshippers. For some of them, as if the voodoo water god is living through these waters. Whenever it's time to travel the most sacred voodoo adepts would ask for permission and protection to reach their final destination.
Barely, Baraderes is reachable by a few people but the tradition marching bands "Rara" is vastly spread throughout, mainly in the Grand Sud and in the rest of the country. The Rara tradition is immensely respected and the rituals are blindly followed. During the lent season, especially on Sundays, the marching bands "Rara" have walked hundreds of kilometers to display their dancing skills, masks uniforms, and their unique rhythms to the entire Grand Sud. It feels like they were ancient troubadours-like figures returning into the modern time.
This region could be intensely crowded around this time with all sorts of fans. What I found interesting is the importance of the costumes and the masks traditions. Some bands are vying for best costumes competition. Street artists and Rara bands are all over the whole areas making it impossible for the local transportation. This unique attraction can also be seen in other powerful Carnival cities such as Leogane, and Jacmel. Like Venice carnival, Masks and costumes are a must. It's the same for the" Rara" band members in Baraderes.
These marching bands" Rara" are known for captivating people through their mysterious ways. Growing up partially in Les Cayes, I have always been fascinated by these "Rara" bands but their haunted stories have kept me from joining them religiously like the other regular folks. As I recall vividly, my late grandmother told me once that these Baraderes' marching bands "Rara" took a young kid with them all the way home and the kid was missing forever. Ever since, whenever they came to Les Cayes to perform, I would feel panicked and try avoiding them in any shape of form. Decades later, I am still puzzled by the whole idea. Sometimes, I wonder - Is it a Myth?
.. It was also reported to me that No one could willingly create his/her own "Rara" band?
Up to now, this mystical idea has ghosted my mind and has driven me towards of understanding Haitian mythology. It was made as if to be part of a Cult society, with so many frightening stories. Hopefully, once I am older enough I would take a chance in joining them in a dancing mode.
Like Venice carnival is famously known, Baraderes' "Rara" carnival/easter activities are second to none in the Grand Sud. The tradition remains intact; the band members never stop travelling great distances, and never stop fearing to perform their beloved form of arts regardless of the circumstances that may have brought.
If you think everything to do with Baraderes' carnival/easter festivities gets too much, I would advise you not to visit cities such as Leogane and Gonaives/Artibonite region as well around this festive sociocultural period. When it comes to Haitian "Rara carnival" alternatives, it's Simply "Rara Carnival".
References: ufdc.ufl.edu-The Venice of Haiti
Ktalove Bertrand! The Grand Sud Project, Researcher
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