Dying as a Haitian in Chile: The drama of our compatriots continues even beyond death

Posted by Jorge Rojas on Thursday, February 1, 2018 Under: Migration

In the last two years, 44 Haitians have been through the legal medical service in Santiago. They are the poor dead of one of the most massive and explosive migrations of the last time in Latin America. Of these, eight bodies waited months to be buried due to bureaucracy and lack of money.

Painful stories, traversed by the tragedy of dying more than six thousand kilometers: a young man is buried without his family being able to say goodbye, a man dies five days after his arrival in Chile and spends a year in the morgue, a woman is forced to migrate with five months of pregnancy and loses her son in an office.

 Haitian migration told by those who never returned: "Arriving in Chile in a vulnerable situation increases your chances of dying," says Jean Jacques Pierre-Paul, a Haitian doctor and poet.

It is the first time that Israel Dieurilus crosses the general cemetery of Santiago. He is 41 years old, is Haitian and arrived in Chile in December 2014.

Behind him goes his partner Saintene, and Francis, the half-brother of the dead whom they will bury: Robelca Dieurilus, the son of Israel. All three are watching a funeral that has been parked next to it. From one car they descend to the dead and on the other ten charitable arrangements and crowns. There are more than 30 people who come to testify the deceased, and Robelca took part in only five: the family and two lawyers of the Fre Foundation, who helped them pay the funeral expenses.

"Where to buy flowers?'' The father asks in Spanish.

Israel and Francis go to the entrance of the cemetery and come back with a bouquet of Japanese carnations and illusions. While they were shopping, the car that had brought them had not caught them until they were lost among the mausoleums. There will be no walking behind the coffin.

From the entrance to the courtyard 164, a piece of land with 748 temporary graves where the body will be buried, there is nearly a kilometer. Weepers walk along a path of zigzag graves. The soles of his shoes hit the cement and a couple of birds chirp. Then everything is silent. The gravel voice of a gravedigger breaks the ice.

"Everything is ready, sir," he said, putting his body on a shovel.

The man stands next to a mound, where he has just buried Robelca. The scene is strange. It looks like a macabre tease. The family has just arrived at the tomb and the body of the young Haitian is one meter underground.

Note the number of the grave: the 256- adds the pantheon.

Israel does not understand what is happening. The leader of the yard approaches to clarify everything: "The driver of the limousine said that no one came and we buried him, when a burial arrives, we have to fulfill the obligation to bury it, it happened to us before, "he explains. The man points to a grave where a few weeks ago they buried a Haitian girl and her family arrived. "At this minute, the only way to open this grave is to get permission from authorities, otherwise it would be an unlawful exhumation," he adds.

One of the foundation's lawyers calls the address and gets an agreement. They will not remove the urn, but they will uncover the lid of the coffin. "It's the most humane thing we can do," they explain by phone. Israel agrees: "Half nothing else," he says. The scene is even more absurd than the previous one: the same man who buried him a few minutes ago is now unearthing him.

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Robelca's death was a long suffering for his family. The young man arrived in Chile in January 2016 and was 21 when he became seriously ill. On July 5, he arrived at Barros Luco Hospital to consult for a high fever, and after waiting four hours without receiving attention, he gave up. Three days later, he died of sepsis (bacterial infection), according to his death certificate.

Death has opened another tragedy: waiting. Robelca had to wait 80 days at the Legal Medical Service (SML) before anyone could claim him. Due to a typographical error in the family name of the passport - said Dierilus instead of Dieurilus - Israel could not prove his paternity. At that time, he did not have money for burial either. The grave he mentioned was 2.5 million pesos and he had barely 60,000 in the house. He had to wait for the arrival of a birth certificate from Haiti and the help of a foundation, to finally bury him. The three months in the cold room disfigured the face of his son: "Remember that he was in the SML for a long time, his face is not the same as before," warns the head of the court before uncover it. Then everyone is crying. 

The coffin glass has traces of earth and below, the body of the young Haitian covered with a jacket. A death suit in which they tried to pack it without success. Israel and Francis take pictures and record videos of the coffin. It's not an offense to represent the dead like that. At least, when these images will be the only memories that relatives living in Haiti will have of the deceased. The sadness of a remote duel shared by WhatsApp, a millennial solution to loneliness that means dying away from home: "It is so that your mother knows that you are already buried," says the father.

A few minutes later, they cover the coffin again. Another burial is held a few meters away. Saintene is close to the group saying goodbye. He approaches to look at the deceased's face. Observe the funeral ritual that Robelca did not have. Then he returns to his grave for a last goodbye in silence. Israel memorizes the number of the grave. Both retreats evade the graves.


The cross of Robelca has his name and the date of the burial painted: September 27, 2017. The responsible did not know the day of his birth, a common feature in all the graves of Haitians who are in the yard 164, the meter cheaper square of the cemetery.

Burying there costs 220 thousand pesos, but with a report from the municipality, which shows that the deceased had no resources, the price halved. The figure, however, does not assure an eternal rest, but only for five years.

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The oldest deaths of this land date from 2015. The vast majority of tombs look like birthday parties. They are colorful and even thematic. There are Chilean flags, U, Colo Colo, plastic flowers, swirls, hearts, stuffed toys, and some have banners with the faces of the dead, as if they were candidates for a political campaign. This is not the same with Haitians, whose graves have a desolate aesthetic. The land there seems desert, cracked by heat and oblivion. The "Calatitos", gravediggers say to the dead, alluding to the nakedness with which they leave: "The Haitians die young, because in their country they do not give them all the vaccines when they are young", says the one who has buried several.

Just walk around to find crosses with French names: Antoinise Antoine, Pierre Guillaume, Jean Claude Verité, Sergot Verdien, Noel Ronald, Nocheger Léger, Frizt Joseph, Robelca Dieurilus. In addition to being compatriots, they all shared a common past. Before being buried, their bodies spent several months in the SML without being claimed, some even over a year.

The situation was made visible after the death of Benito Lalane, a street migrant, who died of hypothermia in June of this year and who could not be buried until his family in Haiti sent an authorization. The law only allows the head of the diplomatic mission and the direct relatives to carry out this procedure, but in the case of those waiting at the morgue, some relatives did not even know he was dead.

A few months before the disappearance of Lalane, the Fre Foundation, dedicated to legal and social assistance to migrants, was the first to manage the funeral of a Haitian citizen whose relatives were not in the country. Esai François had been dying for several days at the Las Condes clinic, where he had arrived by emergency law, when a health center official had contacted the volunteers. He told them that the man was alone and that they feared no one would ask for him when he died. But the case was not so simple. They contacted the family in Port-au-Prince and then treated the cremation, the only viable option if they wanted to repatriate the remains: "With the body in hand, we began a conflict where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs intervened to convince the consul. He said that Haitian law only allowed burial, "

Del Pino was in charge of the ceremony. A funeral service was obtained with Hogar de Cristo and cremation with the general cemetery. A priest and a pastor sent him to San Saturnino Parish in Yungay Ward. Mass was broadcast to relatives in Haiti and ashes stored in the church.

The know-how obtained, served to initiate the recovery of two other bodies that were in the SML: that of Sergot Verdien, buried August 13, and that of Maudeline Agustin, killed in a traffic accident and buried the same month. The consulate would be responsible for the other bodies.


Pierre Guillaume arrived in Chile on August 11, 2016. He was 58 years old and has four children. He was from Gressier, a town in Port-au-Prince very close to the epicenter of the earthquake of January 12, 2010. His only network in the country was a compatriot named Guygnior Adrien, a 25-year-old singer, from Ouanaminthe, who had helped him manage his ticket with a travel agency in Santiago.

None was known. The contact between the two had been made by Blondine Salomón, Pierre's sister-in-law, whom Guygnior had located in Haiti. In March of last year, he wrote on his Facebook profile to know if it was true that Chile was a land of opportunities: "Is it easy to find work? He asked this time. Guygnior answered yes. He told her that he had been working on a gas pump since his arrival three years ago. Blondine explained that his brother-in-law wanted to try his luck and they both coordinated their arrival.

Pierre traveled on August 1 in the Dominican Republic and 10 days later arrived in Santiago. He was sick. He was sitting in the gutter next to a bag, bowed by a general malaise, when Guygnior found him on leaving his house. He saw him so helpless that he offered his piece: "We were from the same nation, I had to help him," he recalls. The next day he offered to take him to the doctor. "He had about $ 100, it was wrong, he was from Haiti and he was aggravated by the cold," he adds.

Doctors diagnosed bronchitis. They prescribed antibiotics, but with the days their condition worsened. Pierre then asks Guygnior to help him to return, to go to the office of the airline and to advance the ticket. The young man tried to convince the executives, but they did not agree. Ticket fees did not allow changes, so I had to wait for the remaining three weeks. A slow agony that he could not bear. Pierre died five days after arriving in Chile.

Guygnior found the body lying in the room on his return from work. He literally stumbled upon him. He called the police and tried to explain why a stranger had died at the foot of his bed. The doctors concluded that the cause was myocardial infarction and chronic ischemic heart disease. The next day he gave the bad news to the parents. How do you explain to a person that a loved one died six thousand kilometers away? Guygnior did it the same way he had started everything on Facebook: "Pierre died last night from a heart attack,"he writes to Blondine.

Guygnior proposed to perform the funeral, he thought the bureaucracy at the morgue was the same as in Haiti: "There we can remove the body in the morning and the afternoon is already buried," he said. In the SML, however, they did not want to give him the remains. They explained that he needed a notarized authorization from the family. The papers took 20 days to arrive and cost U $ 400. There, Monique Salomon, Pierre's wife, accepted her cremation, a procedure that eventually engulfed her funeral. "The problem was that it cost a lot, a million and a half pesos, and I did not have that money to do it," says Guygnior.

It was then that a Haitian friend, who had bought a grave in the Spring Park cemetery, offered to bury the deceased in it. But again, they refused permission: "As the paper says cremate and not bury, they did not let me,"he adds. In the end, he gave up. He put the deceased's belongings in a bag and looked for another room.

The body of the Haitian was frozen in a vault. He spent a year there, before someone came to ask him again. He was a diplomat. Pierre was buried on August 19, 2017. The Embassy paid the funeral expenses. Nobody accompanied him in his farewells. Guygnior did not even know.

The same thing happened with Solomon Cherestal, Noel Ronald and Frizt Joseph, who died on February 22, 2016 following a stroke. All were took by the diplomatic corps and buried on 1 September. A triple burial without crying. One of the most solitary of the last time, as they remember in the general cemetery. So far, no one has visited these tombs yet.

To die of misery

"Someone made Haitians believe that Chile was the paradise of South America," says Jean Jacques Pierre-Paul sipping a coffee. "It's sad, an immigrant is always looking for a better life, but I've met fellow countrymen who were stolen from the airport and had to sleep for a week on the street," he says.

Jean Jacques is a doctor and a poet. He works in Mutual de Seguridad, he is the author of seven books, he is 38 years old and he arrived in Chile nine years ago, after studying in Port-au-Prince and Cuba. He arrived in Santiago while this city was still an exotic destination for Haitians: "Five years ago, we knew very little about this country," he says.

The numbers give you the reason. According to the statistics of the Investigative Police (PDI), in 2013 there were barely 2,000 Haitians, a figure that doubled the following year. The explosion occurred in 2016, when 47 thousand people entered, the first big wave of migration. The second occurred this year and continues to arrive. From January to September, there are already 69,000, giving a total of 136,000 in the last five years.

Jean Jacques identifies three groups of migrants: professionals, young people who come to study and work, and adults who arrive without education. Although everyone has difficulty and many of them are frustrated - he explains - this last group is the most vulnerable: "They have trouble finding work, they live in precarious conditions they are robbed, they rent houses or apartments, change money, they deceive them with fakes, I know many who want to come back", he says.

But the return is not easy. In the last five years, only 5,000 Haitians have left Chile. Multiple factors affect the low return rate, including the inability to save for a passage and the few options they have to start a new life in Haiti, where some have sold everything and even got into debt for traveling: "The vast majority see their life as a failure," says the doctor.

Others, with less luck, died trying. According to SML figures, 44 Haitians have been through this service in the last two years in the metropolitan area, the main urban center where the population is concentrated:

- What are they dying of?

"They are not all healthy or with the same social network. Imagine that you are 50 years old, you are hypertensive, you are diabetic, you are alone, without money and at the end of the world. Arriving in Chile in a vulnerable situation increases your chances of dying, "explains the doctor.

This is what happened to Joane Florvil, his countryman who died in late September after spending nearly a month at the Central Post. The Haitian girl was arrested by police on the afternoon of August 30, accused of wanting to leave her daughter at the OPD office of the municipality of Prado, and being in the police station, in a confused situation, she ended  with blows to the head. The case is still under investigation.

Jean Jacques sees in this death a succession of blows which the woman can not recover. He wrote a poem to honor her memory. There, he accused racism:

You did not understand the Chilean dream
We killed you all Joane Florvil
Because of the color of your eyes
Because your accent is not English, French or Berlin
Now we do not know what to say to your daughter.

The doctor says that in his country you have an "idealized vision of Chile, as if it were a land of opportunity, while in many cases it is not." Perhaps the state sees in this migration a workforce, but the ease of arrival is not accompanied by ease of integration, "he says.

This happens, in part, because the decree-law regulating migration dates from 1975, with a focus on police control that has seen the alien as a threat. In this legal framework, the State reacted to the massive arrival of Haitians, Dominicans and Venezuelans. "The migration has undergone a significant evolution, a few years ago, this topic was not discussed because it was very numerous and showed our weaknesses." Now, I believe that Chile meets the needs, even with this old law in which it advances, "Gabriela Cabellos, head of the Department of Immigration and Foreign Affairs said.

Until now, the decree-law regulating this case had been supplemented by two presidential instructions, dictated by Michelle Bachelet in her two governments. The bill that was introduced in Parliament last August includes these and other adjustments. According to the head of immigration, the initiative has four central axes: establish and strengthen a catalog of rights and duties, modernize the categories of migrants and visas, guarantee a regular procedure in terms of sanctions and evictions, and create a national migration. policy."Today, there is a consensus that this issue is not just about the process of entry into a country, but also has a direct impact on other topics such as health, education, work, justice and housing.

- There are presidential candidates who are practically planning to close the borders and select the migrants as if they were apples in a production chain. Is it viable?"

It is very complicated to understand migration as something that the state can model in its own way. In other words, by a specific rule, I will allow the entry of some and not others. It is not like that. Migration meets human needs. In the event that Haiti has suffered two natural disasters, you can not stop it. You can control it and be informed, but if this is selective it is not possible. People migrate for the same thing and that causes the secret. A state can not be blinded by believing that it can choose those who enter.

Jean Jacques believes the same thing. It is the state, he says, that should set its standards for foreigners: "Migration is a right," he says.

But sometimes it's also an obligation.


Lucienne Joaneus was five months pregnant when Makenson, her ex-partner and future father of the child, told her to pack a suitcase: "You're going to Chile," he ordered. Both lived in separate houses in the Dominican Republic and had a son who would soon be two years old. "He wanted me to leave because he had another wife, so he would not be close to her, I came forced," she says.

At the age of 12, Lucienne made her first migration. she left Haiti for the Dominican Republic after suffering repeated abuses from her father. she came to live with a friend and offered to take care of her daughter in exchange for food and lodging. She left school when she was 16 and at 23, she was paired with Makenson. "I asked him if he had children or a girlfriend and he said no, so we went to live together for about three years, but when I got pregnant for the first time, he told me that he had another partner in Haiti, I'm going to get married, "she adds.

Makenson married and rented a piece to Lucienne. When the child is born, he has put a store to take care of him. For almost two years, he had two relationships, until the end of July 2016, he told Lucienne that she had to leave. The young woman did not know how to refuse and on the day of the trip Makenson took with him her son. She flew to Santiago in August of last year. The second migration of her life.

The only thing she knew about Chile was that it was very cold. A friend warned her before leaving: "In this country, you have to wear socks," he said. She bought two pairs and put both as soon as she left the airport. A friend of Makenson went to get her. "When I arrived here, everything went very badly," laments Lucienne.

Since her arrival, she has lived in five different houses, all at Central Station. When she was seven months pregnant, Lucienne had remained in the street. The young woman went to see a Chilean friend who sold at the fair. She offered him housing and a pension in return for her job, a position she held until December 20 of last year, when her baby was born. She had it at the San Borja Hospital, where 70 per cent of the births are foreign mothers, and the Haitians are in third place: "I was happy," she recalls.

Her second son was the only good thing that happened to her. Lucienne lived with this family until the baby was six months old, when they told her that they could not help her anymore. Her support network hardly existed. By the age of 12, she was practically alone. Then she went to see a young Haitian woman she had met at the San Jose Chuchunco Clinic in Villa Francia, where they both had their medical examinations. Both had been mothers recently. She has 50,000. To pay the rent, they enrolled in the Garden Angelitos and started selling Super 8 at the fair. She was there on Tuesday, September 26th, the day when the kindergarden who took care of her called to tell her that the child had a fever.

The mother remembers that he looked like a child, but nothing serious. She treated him with acetaminophen and when he started to improve. During this week he did not wait for classes, but on Sunday he inexplicably worsened. He arrived at the clinic with vomiting and diarrhea, and was sent by ambulance to San Borja Hospital. There they could serum, take blood and take x-rays. He spent the whole afternoon observing, sometimes sleeping, especially crying, uncomfortable and painful. At dawn the next day he was released. The doctor diagnosed him with two acute diseases: gastroenteritis and unspecified bronchitis. They prescribed Domperidone, Perenteryl, Salbutamol, rehydration salts, and a mild diet.

Lucienne left at one in the morning to wait for the return of a bus, but the locomotion did not take place. It was the first time she had no way to get home, no network to get her out of trouble. she went back to the waiting room and sat down. She was with her son in the car until six in the morning while waiting for transport, among the patients waiting for a change to see. At that time, a nurse took her to a warmer spot inside the hospital, where she waited until she left.

Back at home, the baby did not improve. Lucienne did not know if it was the same disease that was still attacking him or if it was aggravated by the coldness of the room where he had spent the night. At noon, she went back to the office with him. It was more serious than the previous time. The nurses tried to revive him, but it was impossible. He died at nine months: "I do not explain how you can die, if the doctor saw that he had vomiting and diarrhea, and he did not miss it, he would not have had to die, "she laments.

In the Central Metropolitan Health Service, on which the hospital depends, they do not believe the same thing. Dr. Eduardo Bartolomé, director, assures that the minor has received all the care that the protocols establish. "Small children do not need to be hospitalized for any reason, because hospitals are not risk-free, which has been done with care because bronchitis and diarrhea have been diagnosed without dehydration, requiring care and hydrated properly, "he says.

The director says that he does not know what happened after the medical discharge, that formally there is no recording where he realizes that she stayed in the waiting room, or that he there was a re-entry of attention. At this point, says the doctor, what happens in an emergency department is that people attend, "and if she entered a room and did not re-register, they may have not be noticed. " "If you go to a bank and sit in a corner, and you arrive two o'clock in the afternoon and you talk about it later because the bank is going to close, you can not tell anyone that nobody Asked what you would do.When you go to a place of attention, there is always a way to communicate with the people you serve, and that's the way people access the relationship with the system "He says.

The young woman shows some pictures of her son on her mobile phone: when he was in good health, when he was put on his oxygen mask, when he was dead on an iron table, dressed in a suit white and hummed his neck. The same heartbreaking image sent to Haiti for his mother and the father of the bus to discover the tragedy. "My son was my only family in Chile, we played every day, mom could say, and now I'm alone, I want to leave, I have to work, raise money, go back to the Dominican Republic to look for my other son, and start a company to take him out, "she says.

At 29, Lucienne wants to start again. she lost her son one day after the Haitian community made a trip to Plaza de Armas in Santiago in memory of Joane Florvil, who died the same week. The funeral was attended by five people, including the gardener's aunts, the office nurses, and a Haitian who prayed in the church when the answer was made. They buried him a few meters from Robelca's grave.


Israel holds a tin with water and welcomes it at the foot of the cross. He is squatting in front of his son's name. Dip the stems of Japanese carnations and arrange them. This simple bouquet of flowers marks the difference between this tomb and that of the rest of his compatriots. Israel remains several minutes mumbling in Creole. "I was praying and I also told her that next year I would go to Haiti for 15 days," she will say later.

This is the first time she has visited her son since he was buried a month and three days ago. It's Eve of the Day of the Dead and there are things that worry her. One of them is what will happen to the body when the time that allows it to be buried is reached: "Shall we erase your name from the cross? "On the island, the family is sad. Israel shows her mobile phone, opens a WhatsApp discussion and searches for messages. The photos of the burial appear: a coffin, an open coffin, a buried coffin, the dead. In addition, an audio message announcing the news to the mother of Robelca, his ex-wife. "She is very affected," she says.

The relationship between the two is not good. They have been separated for many years after leaving Robelca at the age of seven months. It was Saintene, the current Israeli couple, who raised the child, and who received it on January 10 of last year, when he arrived in Chile. "I lived at the central station and worked in a hospital near the Mapocho station to clean up, in June 2016 they gave him his temporary residence," recalls Israel.

A block in a straight line, above the tombs and crosses, appears Lucienne Joaneus. Like Israel, this is the first time she has attended the cemetery after the funeral. Her son is buried in the courtyard 149, also called "kindergarten". There, the tombs look like children's rooms, full of toys and whirlpools. Lucienne welcomes plastic flowers and two pots. She waters the earth and weeps inconsolably. Put her fingers in the mud, scratching hard, perhaps trying to caress him. She misses him in a heartbreaking way.

In the weeks following her death, she tried to look for work in several places, but did not succeed. On the one hand, she wants to go back to Haiti, and on the other she is terrified of separating from her son's body. She has the same doubts and fears as Israel: "Where will the remains go when the term expires?" She asks. Nobody has the answer.

Lucienne kneels before the grave and recites a monologue: "Now you are like an angel in heaven, like the Lord Jesus, I miss you more every day, when we were in bed, we smile, we watch television, I I'm always going to visit you I miss you so much my beautiful baby, how much I loved you You called me mom and now nobody tells me. Look where you are now my baby, under the earth, it's cold, everyone loves you a lot, you know, aunts, your friends in the garden, "she said crying.

Then she stops, dries her tears and says goodbye. Look at the teddy bears and the tomb dolls: "Very soon, I will come to visit you to bring you toys,"she adds.

This is the first time she talks to a dead person.

In : Migration 

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