Rosemitha lives in a small house right along the road that leads through Kolonbyè to Savanette. She had been living in Port au Prince, supporting herself by selling kleren, the locally brewed rum, and cigarettes, but she returned to Kolonbyè to live with and care for her aging grandfather.
She felt she owed him her care. He was the one who raised her. Her parents had never been a couple. Her father’s father took her in when she was very young. He was a well-to-do farmer and took good care of her.
His wife, however, didn’t like her, so she eventually accepted the chance to move to Port au Prince with her mother’s sister. Though her aunt didn’t send her to school, she took good care of her otherwise, grateful perhaps to have Rosemitha to help her with her own kids.
She grew up in her aunt’s home. As a young teenager, she had two children with men who crossed her path, but the men took their children and abandoned her. She started to make her way by getting work as a maid in other families’ homes, but she left that work when she received news that her grandfather, whose wife had passed away, was alone in his home and in poor health.
When the old man died, she decided to stay in Kolonbyè. At first, she just continued to live in the house he left behind. She had nothing of her own, but would live on whatever neighbors were willing to give her. She made her way by begging, or did minor chores in exchange for food. She was still living in the old man’s house when her current partner found her. He immediately liked her and also saw her as someone who could help him raise his two kids. She now lives with her partner, their infant boy, his two young children, and his mother in a house that belongs to the older woman.
They seem to have a strong relationship. Her husband speaks enthusiastically about Rosemitha as a stepmother. “She does everything for them. She’s a mother to them in every way except that she didn’t give birth to them.” But there is a lack of respect in the relationship, too. When Rosemitha is confused by one of my questions, her husband and mother-in-law gang up on her: “How can you say that? If you aren’t sure, say you don’t know!.”
But things are hard. His children are old enough for school, but they aren’t able to send them. They can’t even feed the children every day. For now, they depend entirely on what he can bring in as a day laborer, working in their neighbors’ fields. The usual rate, when work is available, is 50 gourds, or less than 80 cents. And that 80 cents has to feed three adults and three kids.
Rosemitha chose goats and small commerce because she feels that she’s succeeded at small commerce before. Her husband is already working hard to help her with the goats, making sure that they have everything they need, and seeking advice when he sees something in one of them that concerns him. She isn’t ready to start just yet, though. She’d like her boy to be a little older before she starts leaving him with her mother-in-law.