Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora

Publication Date: 
August 2009
University of California Press in 2009


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Based on fieldwork in Haiti and in three cities of the Haitian diaspora–Miami, Montreal, and Paris–this study offers a vivid portrait of the power of faith for immigrants. Drawing on extensive interviews and including rich details of everyday life, Margarita Mooney explores the struggles and joys of Haitian Catholics in these three very different cities. She finds that religious narratives, especially those about transformation and redemption, provide real meaning and hope in what are often difficult conditions. However, Mooney also finds that successful assimilation into the larger society varies from country to country, having less to do with these private religious beliefs than on cooperation between religious and government leaders. In the United States, the Catholic Church is able to offer services and advocacy that help immigrants succeed, but it is not able to do the same in France or Canada. Presenting a powerful picture of traditional Catholic piety that overturns many assumptions about Vodou practice in Haitian Catholicism, this work also provides a groundbreaking comparative perspective on how immigrants’ experiences and opportunities vary greatly across different nations.