The lakou model for land inheritance coupled with its mentality of self-reliance has impacted the Haiti’s social structure both inside and outside of the lakou. The lakou model places great value on autonomy—achieved by working the soil—and thus promotes an agricultural lifestyle. Traditionally, the lakou viewed salaried work as the enemy of autonomy, as by definition it requires workers to surrender to another’s demands. In the interest of maintaining autonomy, throughout the first half of the 19th century, rural Haitians willingly sacrificed the financial benefits of wage-labor in the interest of maintaining their autonomy on the farm. This practice encouraged the population to remain majority-rural. As of the mid-1900’s, 85% of the population lived in rural areas, and though that number has declined, even today rural Haitians are the majority.
Men and women were on equal footing when it came to land ownership, since both men and women inherit land equally. Although men and women live together in the lakou, the lakou’s support structure is a female creation, with women having the responsibility of seeking support from and providing support to other family units within the lakou. Women work on the farm, building new houses, and caring for children. In the African tradition, child-rearing was considered a communal affair, with any adult member having the authority to discipline or assign chores to any child within the lakou.
The head of this social order, called the chef lakou, was traditionally generally male, but there are more contemporary examples of female chef lakous. The chef lakou was generally the most senior member of the lakou, and served as guardian of the property titles to the land. His/her additional roles included advice-giver, mediator of disputes, and head of the lakou’s religious life.
Dubois, Laurent. Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. New York: Metropolitan, 2012.Google Books. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://books.google.com/books?id=drU3HlesN5kC&printsec=frontcover&dq=haiti+the+aftershocks+of+history&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZU6fT4nvHpOm8gSi4sSPAQ&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=haiti%20the%20aftershocks%20of%20history&f=false
Edmond, Yanique M., Suzanne M. Randolphe, and Guylaine L. Richard. “The Lakou System: A Cultural, Ecological Analysis of Mothering in Rural Haiti.” The Journal of Pan Africaln Studies 2.1 (2007): 19-32. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol2no1/TheLakouSystem.pdf
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