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Mom Always Said, “Don’t Date Haitian Men.” But was she right?

By Vania Andre

You’ll overhear the laments at a restaurant or a party, when one Haitian woman gripes to another, “gason se chyen” (men are dogs) or “gason pa ka rete san fi” (men can’t live without women). They are usually dishing about their husbands or boyfriends, and the complaints are almost always followed by warnings to younger women to watch out for Haitian men because they are all “vakabons” (street hoodlums and freeloaders).


“First and foremost they are cheaters,” says Ivena Viciere, a mother of two who emigrated to the United States 25 years ago and, like many Haitian mothers, instructs her daughter to not date Haitian men. If arried men find a woman willing to live as a mistress, the men will not hesitate to cheat, Viciere tells her daughter.


Nearly 50 percent of Haitian men over age 50 and living in rural areas admitted to being polygamous at one point in their lives, according to Timothy Schwartz, author of “Fewer Men, More Babies; Sex, Family, and Fertility in Haiti.” In his book, Schwartz examines the relationships between men and women in raditional Haitian communities. Such statistics give way to the belief that Haitian men are promiscuous and unfaithful.


Perhaps surprisingly, 95 percent of Haitian men questioned from a random sample could not name benefits to being involved with more than one woman, according to Schwartz’s research. In fact, the majority of Haitian men found polygamy to be immoral. In an instance where a wife learns her husband has a mistress, the majority of Haitian men recommend the woman leave her husband.


So why all the infidelity?

It’s simple, explains Schwartz. If a man is quarrelling with his wife, he can visit his mistress’s home to eat and relax. Men involved in numerous relationships say having more than one woman serves as a sort of compensation for what one wife may be lacking, Schwartz says.


Viciere agrees. “If there is something they want you to do, and you don’t want to, they’ll tell you outright ‘I can find someone else to do it,’” she says.


Schwartz further explains, “In cases where they don’t get along, [the wife] may be very happy that he spends his time elsewhere. She may encourage it.” Schwartz even blames Haitian women for tolerating extramarital unions for financial gain. “Women in Haiti tolerate, if not encourage, [polygamy],” he says.


Because men in rural areas are often impoverished, women do not have many relationship options. “They have to compete for those few males who have money and wealth. This means accepting men who have other lovers, spouses. It doesn’t mean they like it,” he says. “Family members, particularly mothers, control, manipulate and guide daughters into making practical decisions. That means accepting men who have other spouses.”


Although not legal, polygamy is practiced in Haiti, mostly in rural areas, says Schwartz. He argues that although some perceive these relationships to be extramarital affairs, he says the unions are more like marriages, with a man’s several “wives” recognized by the community. There are even proactive efforts to bear children in these unions, and the men are financially responsible for each wife. In turn, each wife is typically expected to be sexually faithful to her “husband,” Schwartz explains. Even the daughters of first wives often find themselves compelled to take advantage of resources only available from a man who already has a wife, Schwartz writes in his book.


Divorce is rarely an option in traditional Haitian communities because entering into marriage is a hefty investment. Therefore, when a man is experiencing hardship in his marriage, he “may take another wife and spend more time with her,” Schwartz says. “Meanwhile, the women tolerate it.”


Because of this cultural acceptance, women who immigrate to America suggest their daughters don’t seek relationships with Haitian men.“What’s happening, I think, is that Haitian parents think that ‘blan’ ascribes to a higher morality and are more monogamous,” says Schwartz. Many Haitians use “blan,” which is derived from the French word “blanc” meaning “white,” to refer to foreigners. There is a general feeling that relationships with men outside of the Haitian community will be monogamous because they are raised in a culture where monogamy is reinforced by law, said Schwartz, so there is a misperception perception that American men do not cheat .


Many Haitian mothers living in the United States often also believe their daughters will achieve financial independence and won’t need to settle for an unfaithful husband, says Schwartz. “Women … can supply the money in relationships and don’t need a man’s money,” he says.


“I would never tell my daughters not to date Haitian men because that is generalizing,” said Jean Luc Bigord, a father of three children who was born in Haiti and feels much of the infidelity has to do with bragging rights. But he also believes monogamy exists in Haitian marriages. “It is possible to find that one person in your culture that agrees with your values.”


How to Prevent a Spouse from Cheating



  1. E Said,

    Based on my observations, this is sadly accurate. All sides of it … which is a shame because I LOVE Haitian men. They’re fun to talk to, easy to get a long with. As family and friends, my experience has been that they’re wonderful. But, though my mother never discouraged me from dating/marrying a Haitian man, I kind of starting to develop that sentiment myself based on what I’d seen to that point. I say “kind of” because I do believe there are plenty of Haitian men out there that are totally committed to doing right by their girlfriends/wives.
    Oh, and I didn’t read the “How to Prevent a Spouse from Cheating” but to that I say “One must take NO RESPONSIBILITY for another’s infidelity … OR FAITHFULNESS.” A person’s faithfulness or infidelity is a manifestation of who that person is on the inside not what’s going on externally.

    Posted on March 3rd, 2012 at 10:17 am

  2. Jolie Personna Said,

    I had the unfortunate experience of being duped by a 52 year old Haitian man I met online. I am a 48 year old professional woman with a great career. Our arrangement was a long distance one with him living in the south and me in the north. We spent several months on the phone sharing our life stories, him making promises and I foolishly believing them to a point. We exchanged tons of pictures of ourselves, families, friends and pictures of our travels around the world. We called each other 3-4 times daily and texted constantly. We talked about being the best partner for each other, especially since we both had bad relationships in the past. He does a great deal of traveling, both domestically and internationally due to his type of work. We made plans to meet in the South for July, but he had an assignment in the North and invited me up to see him in early June. Excitedly, I did and initially thought things were great, but a sixth sense told me something was not right. However, I made the best of that weekend even though I caught him in a lie about a photo over a Hispanic woman in his camera. Months earlier he told me about this woman and said he had only taken her out to dinner before our situation began and that she had never been in his home. Yet, the picture clearly showed the woman sitting on his couch in his living room. I am a dark skinned AA woman of Caribbean decent. I live in a predominantly Haitian neighborhood. I work in a community serving primarily Haitian immigrants and I know that many people in the Haitian culture have a preference for light skin and straight hair. Knowing this, I had several conversations with him on my occasions about this concern and he denied he had such preferences. I further observed his stares at women, especially Hispanic women who were scantily clad or dressed provocatively. Also, he was often quick to brag about one of his son’s Asian wife and another son’s Hispanic girlfriend. He loves Panama and Columbia and I do not want to forget the Dominican Republic and most of his communication through social media is to YOUNG women from these parts of the world. He is a 52 year old man and these women look in their early 30′s maybe late 20′s. Even his visits to the Islands, the women he tends to lure are women of mixed race. Needless to say I began to express my concern which I think became overwhelming to him and today he is out of my life and I am out of his. Does this experience sour me on Haitian men. Absolutely not! However, when you have a large segment of people saying the same thing about the men in a particular culture and saying you are dead for dating them, then it is time to lie down. Remember the old adage, “A million French men can’t be wrong.” I try not to stereotype, but you bet I will be paying better attention the next time around. I did let my guard down this time around and wanted to believe he was right for me, but I am convinced everyday that he is simply no good for me and the journey I am on.

    Posted on July 19th, 2012 at 8:51 pm

  3. Jolie Personna Said,


    Posted on July 19th, 2012 at 8:52 pm

  4. 604grl Said,

    @ Jolie Personna, your story sounds about right. I am a Haitian woman myself, and 6 years go decided to stop dating Haitian men. I grew up in a family where the promiscuity of the men is legendary, and has gone on for decades. My grandfather had at least 2 – 3 concubines that we know of. Each of my uncles did the same thing. My dad had 10 kids with 7 different mothers (and this is just the ones we know of), many of the children were not supported by my dad in any way, and some currently live in poverty in Haiti. Growing up was hard for me, my mother passed away when I was 7, and I was brought to live with one of my dad’s concubine who already had 4 children from him, the youngest one was only 3 months older than I – go figure. Living in that house was hell, I was abused physically, sexually and mentally by my dad, my half siblings, all while my STEPMOM if I can even call her that sat and did nothing. Added to the disfunction was the operations of my dad’s small business, since it was the source of income for all of us.
    Well it’s been 11 years since my dad died. I was lucky enough that one of my dad’s concubine arranged for me to join her in the States even before my dad passed away. In the past 11 years, I have gone on to complete an MBA at Cornell University; I have had my shares of frogs, but 3 years ago met the most amazing man any girl could wish for – and we are currently trying to start a family together; also in the past year I started seeing a therapist to help me heal. At 29 I am very happy, and sometimes I find myself in disbelief that this is actually my life. I am very grateful to the amazing woman who helped me in getting out of that mess, and gave me a second chance.

    Posted on October 2nd, 2012 at 7:46 am

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