Haitians hold voodoo rituals to honor ancestors amid crisis

By Gessika Thomas

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) – Haitians honored their ancestors to mark the Day of the Dead on Tuesday in colourful voodoo rituals that provided a respite from the powerful day-to-day actuality of gas shortages, gang violence and rising malnutrition.

Voodoo followers within the Caribbean nation gathered in cemeteries, many wearing white and a few with their faces coated in white powder, to sing and dance as a part of rituals that contain communing with ancestral spirits.

“Voodoo, if you want to define it, is the means at your disposal to establish harmony between you and everything that surrounds you, both visible and invisible,” stated Carl-Henry Desmornes, the faith’s “ATI” or supreme chief, in an interview.

More than half of Haiti’s 11 million individuals are believed to observe voodoo, a faith introduced from West Africa by enslaved women and men and practiced clandestinely underneath French colonial rule.

It is intently recognized with the wrestle in opposition to slavery in Haiti, which declared independence from France in 1804 following what’s broadly thought of the world’s solely profitable slave revolt.

“Despite the difficulties caused by the lack of gasoline, people have made the trip to the cemetery. As I speak, my car is out of gas,” stated Valcin Antoine, a voodoo priest or “ougan” often called “Toutou,” who led a ceremony on Monday at a cemetery within the Port-au-Prince suburb of Petion-ville.

“We are not afraid when we do the work of the spirits, they protect us.”

For many years voodoo has been portrayed in Western movies as a black magic cult, however it was formally acknowledged as a faith by Haiti’s authorities in 2003 underneath President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Haiti has for almost two weeks suffered extreme gas shortages. Gang blockades have prevented vans from reaching gas terminals, forcing some companies to shut their doorways and hospitals to restrict providers.

A wave of gang kidnappings, together with the kidnapping final month of a bunch of American and Canadian missionaries, has spurred native outrage and led a number of transport trade teams to name common strikes.

(Reporting by Gessika Thomas in Port-au-Prince; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Richard Chang)

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