Teller of Tales Maurice Sixto

Haitian storyteller Maurice Sixto began life in Gonaïves in 1919. Born into privileged circumstances, son of an engineer, he studied at elite Sainte Louis de Gonzague High School and pursued a legal career at University of Haiti. While there, he fell into journalism working at Le Matin. He then taught English in the Republic of Congo, and was attached to the diplomatic service in Paris.


However, Sixto's greatest contribution to Haiti were his gifts as raconteur. Using his skills as a voice actor, he developed characters to address social ills hounding Haitian culture. One controversial topic of his satires was the unspeakable practice of child slavery, known as restavék. Restavék means servant, unfortunate children who end up as slaves when their families can't care for them. Farmed out to wealthy families to work, they suffer physical, mental, and emotional abuses.

Sixto used child character, Sainte Anise, to delineate cruelties typical of these arrangements. To underscore the treatment of Sainte Anise compared to the family's own children, he used intelligence and wit to describe the demoralizing environment restavék children were forced to live in, apart from the rest of the family.

Sixto raised awareness of restavék as an abominable and unacceptable practice. Heretofore ignorant of child slavery, Haitian society received a rude awakening, forcing them to take responsibility for its practice. Sixto died at age 50 in the U.S., but his mesmerizing voice, command of language, and skills as a social commentator have kept his legacy alive, most importantly through his exposé of restavék.

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