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Haitian Winter, Part 4: The Duvalier Legacy: The Ghosts of Fort Dimanche

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On February 4th independent journalist Georgianne Nienaber and I flew into Haiti for a five day whirlwind investigative tour facilitated by our driver and "fixer", Andre Paultre, a journalist's best friend in Haiti. This is the fourth piece in my series, "Haitian Winter".

For Part One of this series, CLICK HERE
For Part Two of this series, CLICK HERE
For Part Three of this series, CLICK HERE

*******

On Saturday, our second day back in Haiti, we got up early and vacated our hotel into Andre's SUV with all our belongings, planning on spending the next night well north of Port-au-Prince in Gonaives.  But our first major goal this morning would be to investigate the Truttier refuse and medical waste dump near the giant slum of Cite Soleil adjacent Port-au-Prince, a dump already controversial because even cholera-laced human feces was being dumped into an open and unlined pond there, threatening to contaminate an actual water source that serves Port-au-Prince, Plaine Cul-de-Sac Aquifer.

As we drove toward Truttier, we were suddenly passing by the huge La Saline open-air market where thousands of mostly women daily buy and sell goods, particularly used clothes, a locale I will again touch on later in this series. Leaving behind that colorful spectacle, Andre was soon winding us through the pot-holed side streets of La Saline's slums until suddenly a large, weathered and deserted-looking two-story ruin began to loom into view. "Fort Dimanche", Andre proclaimed, as he identified the place, explaining that this was the favorite Hell-hole of the Duvalier dynasty for destroying their political opponents during their three decade reign.

Fort Dimanche:
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Inside the ruins of Fort Dimanche, now, in 2011 (photo by Mac McKinney)

and,

going back in time some 45 years, meet this woman, Rosalie Bosquet:

As we approached Fort Dimanche, we drove past these extremely primitive, rusted-out, barely holding together shanties made largely of various lengths of wood and corrugated tin.


A closeup of one shanty and its inhabitants.

As Andre, Georgianne and I parked, climbed out of the SUV and began walking through or leaping over mud, gravel and fetid-looking ponds of water in the short distance to Fort Dimanche, we found ourselves suddenly straddling the intricately interwoven past and present realities of a legacy of deep repression, violence and exploitation, a legacy that has resulted in an all-but-failed State mismanaging a deeply impoverished and abandoned population, all the while predatory forces hover about the land like black-winged vultures. This, perhaps, is more Wasteland than T.S. Eliot ever thought imaginable.


Now we are walking up to the facade of what is left of Fort Dimanche amidst playing or curious children and adults. Note the words to the left of the concrete edge of the second floor's exposed ceiling, "D'EDUCATION DE LA SALINE VILLAGE DEMOCRATIE", which means, roughly, the La Saline Democratic Education Village, so named because some of the vacant spaces inside are being utilized as school rooms for the local kids of La Saline, the shanty-village surrounding the fort.


In the previous photo you may have noticed the golden-tan, disk-like objects on the ground. Here is a closer view. These are "clay cakes", one of the basic staples for many poor in Haiti right now. Although some call them "mud cakes", they are actually made from mineral-rich clay imported from the city of Hinche in central Haiti. The front grounds of Fort Dimanche have now been transformed into a large "clay cake bakery" whose one product is sold cheaply and hopefully daily, depending on the weather, in the surrounding markets.


To my left are more clay cakes and more La Saline shanties and citizens.


At this point I decided to enter the ruins, where the first thing I came across were some of the stored ingredients used in making clay cakes in the foreground of what was once the wall separating two prison cells.

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I am a student of history, religion, exoteric and esoteric, the Humanities in general and a tempered advocate for the ultimate manifestation of peace, justice and the unity of humankind through self-realization and mutual respect, although I am not (more...)
 

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