Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Boston-Haiti connection

You know you're in Dorchester when you spell Creole with a K: Kreyol.

Did you know the word for razor in Haitian Creole (Kreyol) is jilet? How's that for a Boston connection? In Mattapan and Codman Square, Haitian Bostonians are buying razors with an English loan word. Don't let the spelling fool you. Jilet (with an accent over the 'e') comes from the opposite, most northerly end of Dot Ave, where a certain World Shaving Headquarters cools its plant and machinery with waters drawn from Fort Point Channel. The world is a fascinating, interconnected place.

For our non-Boston readers: Gilette's World Shaving Headquarters is located in South Boston. It has been for as long as safety razors have existed.

You know you're in Dorchester when you can buy a newspaper at the corner store called the Boston Haitian Reporter. The paper's headquarters is located on Harbor Point, down the road from the JFK Presidential Library.

You know you're in Dorchester when you are turning the radio dial hapharzardly and Haitian news and music comes out of the speakers. You can also hear Haitian music and at least local Haitian-related news if you eavesdrop outside of apartment windows.

You know you're in Dorchester if you find yourself eating in the best Haitian restaurant in Boston: Bon Apetit. It's on Blue Hill Avenue so it may be better described as being a part of Mattapan, but Mattapan and the Dot have a long-shared history as well as a long-shared zip code. What's good for Mattapan is good for Dorchester and vice versa.

In fact, to draw this out a bit further: what's good for Mattapan is good for Dorchester is good for Boston. What's good for all three? The Haitian connection. Boston, and Dorchester, and Mattapan are all better off under the Haitian influence. In a city of immigrants, Haitians are welcome. They add to the city's cosmopolitan air and lend their strengths to building a new and better Boston for the future, less the blue blood land of the cod and the bean, but more a place where they mince fish over grits and fried plantains for breakfast.

What better place to get a jump on a day and on America's multi-lingual tomorrow than in Dorchester, Mass?


Phil Lindsay said...

Gilette may be in South Boston (part of Dot until 1804) but it is located on Dorchester Avenue. Mattapan is only Mattapan because of the Post Office as it was always part of Dorchester as was Hyde Park, Milton, Canton, Sharon, Stoughton, Walpole, Foxboro, Wrentham...

Whalehead King said...

Think there's any chance of reasserting he original boundaries?


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