Haiti Call it a come back


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Haiti: Call It A Comeback - UPTOWN Magazine

Last fall, I read Dimitry Leger’s stunning debut novel God Loves Haiti, and at its finish, I was in awe. Leger, a native Haitian, managed to convey the beauty and grandeur of his homeland—the architecture, history and gorgeous terrain— all of which have been nearly forgotten and overlooked by a world more focused on the country’s problems. But Haiti is and has been a land of prosperity and potential. Celebrities like Marlon Brando flocked to the “Pearl of the Antilles” in the 50s and 60s, and a young Arkansas couple named Bill and Hillary honeymooned in the country in 1975. Haiti swells with globally-recognized art, music, writing, cuisine and its Creole culture is the backbone of New Orleans (in fact, had Haitian slaves not defeated Napoléon Bonaparte, he would have never sold Louisiana to the United States). As the adage goes: it is a country too rich to be poor. After finishing God Loves Haiti, my first thought was, I must visit this country. A month later, I was landing in the capital city of Port-Au-Prince.

Priceless in Port-Au-Prince

Walking through Port-Au-Prince is exhilarating (it’s safe: most of the rubble from the massive 7.0 2010 earthquake has been removed; and, despite media paranoia, Haiti is actually one of the safest countries in the Caribbean, according to a 2013 Igarapè Institute study). Looking into the faces of the men, women and children passing by, I see the resilience and pride; it’s the same strength and courage that allowed their enslaved ancestors to oust Napoléon from their homeland and become the first independent black republic in the Western Hemisphere.

The energy of downtown Port-Au-Prince is frenetic with throngs of Haitians walking—some hurriedly, others with Caribbean leisure, but mostly all with purpose—and sharing the streets with vintage motorcycles and the gaudy Tap Taps. These colorfully-painted pickup buses are used by Haitian locals for transport and are oftentimes adorned with political slogans or portraits of the famous.) The Iron Market, a stone’s throw from the Caribbean Sea, is one of the most famous structures in the country. Also known as Marche en Fer and originally built in in Paris in the 1800s, legend says that the market was purposed as a train station in Cairo, but Haitian President Florvil Hyppolite swooped in and purchased it when the deal soured. Nearly destroyed during the quake, the communications company Digicel coughed up $12 million and rebuilt the iconic bazaar to international building code standards, making it resistant to hurricanes and earthquakes. Lots of decorative odes to the original building and several 21st century add-ons were made including solar paneling and free WiFi. Today, with two major halls— one for food, the other for products—it’s just as vibrant as ever. The garrulous vendors work overtime hawking their goods, that include including everything from veggies to voodoo paraphernalia. It’s exciting, overwhelming and an absolute must-see.