Below is a beautiful article (with similarly beautiful photos) taken by New York Times contributer Peter Kujawisnki. The author, who previously lived in Haiti, visited as a tourist recently and reflects on what has and has not changed. As with many of us who previously lived in Haiti, his memories are complicated and filters what he experiences now as a visitor. He sees signs of progress and the potential renewal of long dormant tourism in a country that remains much in need of livelihood opportunities. Visting Haiti, and experiecing what it has to offer, as he puts it is now neither brave nor unusual - just normal.
Below is an article by the Evening Standard's Claire Dodd about her experience visiting Haiti - not as an aid worker, missionary, or Haitian visiting family - but as a tourist. Getting around Haiti may not be easy, but for those with a sense of adventure, it is well worth it. Haiit's history of resistance, rich culture, and artistic traditions make it a unique and rewarding country to visit. People often ask how to help Haiti - but as Jean Cyril Pressoir puts it, “...if you want to help...come as a tourist. Help us break from away from this pre-conceived idea, this prejudice that has us defined as a place where you come to help. Don’t come to help us. Come to enjoy yourself.”
Orchestre Septentrional, founded in 1948, is as much an institution as it is a band. A New York Times article by Larry Rohter below describes how Septen, much like Haiti itself, draws from European, African, Caribbean, and Latin American influences to outlast uncertainty and adversity. Interested in hearing/learning more? Check out the new documentary about the band called "When the Drum is Beating." Or better yet, see them in Haiti.
Haiti requires foreign assistance for many years to come. However, trade is more important than aid over the long term. Digicel and others have shown that, while a difficult place to do business, investment can be both beneficial to Haiti and profitable to investors. A two day event to court new investors, financed by the Inter-American Development Bank, was recently concluded. Announcements included planned improvements to route national one, an industrial park in the north, and a large, new hotel in Port au Prince. A Miami Herald article by Jacqueline Charles on the forum follows.
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently announced the approval of two grants for Haiti totaling US $90 million. One grant is devoted to the development of an industrial park between Ounaminthe and Cap Haitian while the other is devoted to modernizing Haiti's energy sector. This is worth noting as investment outside of Port au Prince is unfortunately still rare. The IDP's support for the energy sector will allow for upgrading the Peligre Hydroelectric Dam and promotion of solar energy projects.
Last week, Trenton Daniel wrote an article highlighting malnutrition and hunger in Haiti’s neglected rural areas. Over the long term, the countryside needs agricultural modernization, better environmental management, and roads to move crops to regional markets. Haiti first has to make it through hurricane season which began May 1st. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipates an above normal hurricane season with a 70 percent chance of 12 to 18 named storms, including 6 to 10 hurricanes. Storms put lives, crops, and infrastructure in Haiti at risk.
Historic sites throughout Haiti speak to resistance, perseverence, and the long struggle for freedom. Unfortunately, many of these sites are now falling apart. Stephanie Curci has created a website that is both map and visual record of Haiti's historical sites. She plans to expand the number of sites represented and make it interactive so visitors can post their own photos and narratives. Stephanie welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, below is an article she wrote for the Journal of Haitian Studies on preserving and reintegrating Haiti's unique historical legacy.
Hello from Cap Haitian, the chipped pearl of the Antilles. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Central Plateau, I would sometimes take Route National Three from Hinche to Cap for a long weekend. I never looked forward to the grueling trip, but I always looked forward to being in Cap. The beaches were (and still are) beautiful and this region is historically rich. It is here that Christopher Columbus landed and where he lost one of his ships. The Haitian slave rebellion began with a single Vodoun ceremony in Bois Cayman and ended with the battle of Vertieres. The Citadel looms from a mountain in the distance. While the city of Cap Haitian has changed, and not for the better, it is still good to be back in the north.
The economy of every Caribbean country, from Cuba to Curacao, depends to a certain extent on tourism. The question is not whether Haiti can benefit from tourism so much as where, how, and to what degree. In order to learn more about the potential for tourism in Haiti, we caught up with Patrick Smyth, founder of Tours to Haiti. The interview, as well as a link to the website and contact information, follows.
Art is the medium through which some first come to know Haiti, and for others, to know Haiti better. Haitian art is too expansive to be confined to shops and galleries – it is found on public transport, on the walls, in churches and Vodoun peristyles alike. Art is Haiti's only inexhaustible resource. When others use the tired phrase "Haiti - the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere", let us counter that Haiti is the culturally richest country in the Western Hemisphere instead.