By Jill Winters
Milot is home to the family owned and operated Lakou Lakay which means “our home” in Creole. Maurice Etienne is the director of the cultural center and operates it along with his wife and beautiful daughters. Their goal is to preserve the rich cultural traditions of Haiti so that it may exist as a country.
Lakou Lakay was originally the home of Etienne’s mother, and it was where she raised her son. Etienne has continued her legacy by remaining in Lakou Lakay and rearing his own family. Twenty years ago they opened their home to the public as the first hotel in Milot. Their concept was to welcome people, not as strangers, but as part of their family. They wanted to share this special place and their rich Haitian traditions.
Walking the grounds of Lakou Lakay, one encounters various fruit trees. Haiti before 1804 was a rich botanical garden that had everything the French needed. Napoleon sold Louisiana to fund his fight to keep Haiti. The island was rich with mahogany, cotton, sisal to name a few, and with plants for traditional medicine. Lakou Lakay is trying to preserve these natural resources and houses a beautiful botanical garden of its own.
The restaurant is open to the public by reservations only, and parties can be planned as well. The meals are prepared with the freshest ingredients available. Etienne takes great care and pride in ordering and scrutinizing all food. The wells on the property have been inspected and approved.
The cultural center is committed to the youth of Milot, and space is provided by Etienne as a partnership with the local community for learning. Currently, children are studying traditional folk dance and have a youth Fan Fare Marching Band. Another objective is to teach young children to read music in hopes that it may lead them to a profession in this area. A band of drummers is now entertaining professionally and traveling throughout Haiti.
Teaching children the true and authentic history of the Dahomey Culture is paramount to Etienne. He has a museum to preserve the history and found objects of the Citadel and the Palace.
In addition, a library has been opened but is in need of more books of any kind. Internet access is limited, and reading will provide more learning. The goals of preserving traditions while educating and training the youth of Milot enriches their lives and ultimately helps to make Milot a desirable tourist destination.
A traditional Bazaar is in the works. It is a boutique or market that will offer many different items in one location as was once available in Milot.
Etienne is also available for sightseeing and transport all over Haiti. He welcomes visitors at all times and is happy to share Lakou Lakay with anyone who would like to learn more about Milot and the Cultural Center.
Telephone 36142485 or 36676070
Jill Winters, a Pilates Instructor, visited the center and interviewed Mr. Etienne while she served as a volunteer on Dr. William Guyol’s team in December 2011. Jill lives in East Liverpool, Ohio.