“There is no aspect of the Haitian economy where women are not at the base. If the Madan Sara does not go to work, the city does not eat. If the Madan Sara does not go up into the mountains and back down into the neighborhood, the market will not operate. Without those women, there is no market, without the market there is no economy, and without economy, there is no country,” explained journalist and filmmaker, Etant Dupain, on the upcoming domestic and international release of Madan Sara. The documentary showcases the vital role of Madan Sara women to Haiti’s economy.
Etant Dupain met with Latina Republic to discuss the upcoming release of Madan Sara, his first personal project. Dupain is a journalist, filmmaker, and activist. He has worked for international news media outlets, including Al Jazeera, TeleSur, BBC, CNN, Netflix, PBS, Vice, and the award-winning film “Where Did the Money Go?” He was invited by the Congressional Black Caucus to speak in the U.S. congress regarding Haiti. Dupain founded an alternative media project in Haiti to enable citizen journalists to provide access to information in Haitian Creole for and about internally-displaced people, aid accountability, and politics.
The women that work as Madan Sara fuel the local economy in Haiti while taking care of their entire families with their earnings. Madan Sara travel all over Haiti bringing fruits and vegetables to Haitian marketplaces. They operate complex small businesses with skills passed on from generations. Many of the women learn the trade from their mothers, or through apprenticeships, invited by veteran Madan Sara that bring them into the industry. The women are proud of what they do and enjoy working for themselves; however, as the documentary highlights, the Madan Sara trade comes with a host of risks.
Madan Sara women work in tight knit communities. They have strong connections to the Haitian gastronomy and the farming sectors.
Madan Saras provide 80% of the fresh produce to Haitian restaurants.
Dupain’s lens captures a market in action. The film celebrates the women who operate their businesses and the love and respect their children have for them.
The documentary also shows the development barriers that halt Madan Sara’s economic growth and the vulnerabilities of running a business without credit, government protection or insurance from fires or loss.
Latina Republic: What inspired you to make Madan Sara?
My mother was a Madan Sara for many years. I was fortunate to go to the market with her and was inspired by what I saw in the markets. I do advocacy work with organizations in Haiti. One of the things that has stood out for me, is Madan Sara’s contributions to our country as a whole. I wanted to tell their story, locally and internationally.
Latina Republic: Tell us about the informal work sector where Madan Sara operate in Haiti. What does it mean to be a Madan Sara?
As explored in the film through the testimonies of Clotide Archille, and Monique Metellus, Madan Sara are small business merchants who wake up early in the morning around 3:00 am, and travel the countryside to buy goods, mostly food from farmers. They are at the center of a network economy. They are the middleman between the farmer and the market.
Madan Sara, buy, distribute, and sell food and other essentials in markets throughout Haiti. They face many obstacles, like lack of access to credit, safety and state assistance, but they persevere. They are at the core of the Haitian economy and of who we are as a country.
Latina Republic: How did you meet the Madan Sara in your film?
I met Clotide Archille, in 2015. I lived 2 mins from market so I would go there to buy vegetable from her and so we became friend I told her my plan to make the film and asked her if she would be in it. I was a regular at the market buying from her so we had a relationship.
The other main character in the documentary, Monique Metellus, I met while she was selling goods around my neighborhood. She came to my house, I bought produce from her and we became friend. We started a basic friendship and I asked her if she let me follow her around as she did her work.
Latina Republic: What are you hoping to do through this film?
I want people to learn about Haiti’s Madan Sara. These women do much more than just sell goods to survive. Some are heads of household, widows, single mothers who put their children through college thanks to their business. This documentary will educate the world about the power of Haitian women, the contributions that Madan Sara make every day to Haiti’s economy, and the dangers that they face when going to work.
Latina Republic: How does Haitian society think of Madan Sara?
There are 100s of 1,000s Madan Sara working in Haiti today. In my documentary, I talk with three different economists who comment on the contributions Madan Sara make and the costs of ignoring a vital sector of society by banks and the government. Madan Sara’s are overlooked, yet hold great potential to Haiti’s development.
Latina Republic: How do you use your gifts to choose and tell your stories?
I take my time to research and learn. With Madan Sara, I didn’t want to just write a script and have people follow it. I wanted the audience to have a natural experience, so this film is noisy. We take you to the market as part of the experience.
For this documentary, I took my time to listen to the women who work in the markets. I do not provide my opinions and I am not the narrator. I ask a few questions, but mostly, Madan Sara and others tell their own stories.
I work with many different types of documentaries. It is not every day that we have a good story of what Haitian women are doing to carry our society on their backs.
The documentary highlights the many obstacles to business development in Haiti while pointing to solutions. The Madan Sara documentary shows that when a Haitian woman and her business are invested in, her entire family, the next generations, and the country as a whole, moves forward.
The global premiere of the Madan Sara film will take place on October 25, 2020 at an invitation only, socially-distanced showing at the Rev Cinema in Haiti. The event will be hosted for the press, Madan Sara, and women’s rights organizations, with future public and online screenings to be announced in the weeks to follow through the film’s page:
The Madan Sara team is raising funds to host free film screenings at public markets in Haiti. If you would like to support this cause, please do so, here.
Soledad Quartucci | Executive Director
Soledad is the founder of Latina Republic and is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Soledad lived the immigrant experience in the US, which shaped her as an advocate for immigrant rights. Her passion for the immigrant experience in the U.S. led her to pursue a PhD in US immigration history. She enjoyed over a decade of her professional career in academia, but was pulled in a new direction when she learned about Friends of OC Detainees through a student. She was immediately inspired to volunteer and visit women held in detention in Orange County. By learning about their struggles and the motives for leaving their home countries in Central and South America, Soledad saw a need to understand and communicate the regional causes that pushed migrants outside their homes. By staying in touch with women who were deported to Central America, Soledad gained insight into local problems and encountered leaders and organizations in Central America that were dedicated to making their communities stronger, safer, and self-reliant. What started as a forum for storytelling in an effort to destroy stereotypes that depict migrants in an inaccurate light, turned into a nonprofit formed to help support courageous leaders and organizations that work hard every day to improve their countries. The study of migrants fleeing to the US, led Soledad to develop an equal passion for advancing the rights of Latinx families in Southern California where the stigma of public charge and a pattern of immigrant single-headed households necessitates action steps, information and local partnership. Soledad is an oral historian with a passion for human rights.