Continuing my series of photo-essays on Haiti, and still on Day 1, after visiting Camps Canaan and Corail, Georgianne, myself and Andre, who was of course driving, headed back down the bumpy dirt road between the camps, and en route, once again we saw emaciated animals, horses and cattle to be exact, such as this horse:
This image in a sense is a symbol of Haiti right now, because in the depths of the collective unconscious of the Haitian people, who brought their African Faiths with them when they were kidnapped, sold into slavery and thrown into wretched Hell ships bound for Haiti, the Vodou Religion of Haiti evolved out of their experiences of oppression, brutality and struggle. And the Vodou gods and goddesses, or Loa, became known as the Divine Horsemen of Haiti, who, during states of religious ecstasy, would "ride" those chosen by them to channel divine power and knowledge to the community.
At this historical point, however, after several centuries of every imaginable evil being foisted upon them by colonialism, imperialism, racism and predatory capitalism, not to mention continuous pounding from Hurricanes annually, as well as the horrific January 12th earthquake, the horses are starving, so to speak. The horses must grow strong and well-rounded again for the Loa to empower the people. And there are those in Haiti working toward this end.
The Veve of Ogoun, the Haitian Vodou god of fire and iron, politics and war, who sustains triumphant revolution against oppression, as well as healing and protection in general. Some of his powerful energy will be necessary for the great task of rebuilding Haiti and Haitian society.
Click here for Part 1 of this series.
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3
After Andre had gotten us off the dirt road, we were quickly back onto Highway One again and headed back toward Port-au-Prince, and just as quickly we were beginning to see what is a common sight in Haiti, a citizenry that embraces the roadways and highways as an extension of their social and economic life. Businesses, open markets, even homes dot these avenues of transportation here, there and everywhere, as you can see from the following pictures:
We are rolling down Highway One at a pretty good clip now and beginning to see hundreds of people involved in all kinds of activities just off the road.
We begin passing school boys and girls just out of school. The girls are notable, particularly, because many are in uniforms. There are hundredsif not thousands of parochial, largely Catholic as well as private schools in Haiti. The stereotype that all Haitians are ignorant, uneducated peasants and workers, fit only for exploitation by our social Darwinists and racists, is a lie.
This is either a large tap-tap for public transportation or a school bus. We were moving too fast for me to verify which.
Businesses and outdoor markets along the way
These sidewalk enterprises are usually very colorful. Haitians seem to love bright colors.
We passed a Haitian flag fluttering in the breeze. The current flag, changed again in 1987 after the Duvaliers' influence had waned, to quote from Wikipedia, "was adopted on February 25, 1987. The flag is divided into two horizontal rectangles. The top half is blue (Papa Doc preferred black) and the bottom is red. Since 1843 the flag for official and state use has had the coat of arms of Haiti on a white panel in the center. The coat of arms depicts a trophy of weapons ready to defend freedom, and a royal palm for independence. The palm is topped by the Cap of Liberty. The national motto is on a white scroll reading L'Union Fait La Force ("Unity Makes Strength")." (source)
Quite a crowd of Haitians on the go.
More school girls waiting for transportation.
And all these Haitians are apparently waiting for tap-taps.
A mother and daughter, apparently, walking
A tap-tap in front of us and one Haitian waving at me.
Yes, the lottery has afflicted Haiti too.
We are passing over an old wooden bridge. Down below is a muddy, half-dry river despite the rainy season already having started, symptomatic of the ecological destruction that has been wrought on Haiti by callous corporations over the decades.
In the foreground is a a man pushing a large bag of coal along. Coal is used for cooking and heating.
Now we are entering Cite'-Soleil, whom detractors and lurid novelists describe as one of the most disease-ridden and dangerous slums on the planet. The reality is that, yes indeed, this is a slum of several hundred thousand people, very poor, but what has led to its demonization is the fact that it is the headquarters of pro-Aristide support in the country.
Bertrand Aristide is of course the exiled, populist president of Haiti who was forced out of office by culminating violence and subterfuge on February 29, 2004 in what was in effect a coup d'e'tat instigated by a well-financed paramilitary group blessed by Washington. President George Walker Bush provided the coups de grÃ ce, by Aristide's account, when he was literally kidnapped by Americans sent by the State Department and then flown in an American plane to the Central African Republic, eventually being invited by the South African government to remain in exile there. The White House said he resigned, but even if that was true, with a well-armed paramilitary force bearing down on the national palace, it would have been a resignation under intimidation, not by choice.
Was Aristide a saint? Hardly. Haitians I have talked to said he made his share of mistakes and was corrupt, but this is hardly novel in Haiti. What made him anathema to the White House and the local oligarchs was that he was devoted to improving conditions for the poor and dismantling the traditional systems of exploitation.
Pro-Aristide supporters, led by his large political party, the Fanmi Lavalas, erupted in protest and rebellion to his ouster, this quickly leading to the UN Security Council, pushed by the US and France, voting to send an armed "United Nations Stabilization Mission", better known as MINUSTAH, into Haiti, not to restore democracy, but to, in reality, legitimize the coup, quite an odious task, one flying in the face of the UN Charter, but suitably cloaked in Charter rhetoric anyway.
Over time this massive UN occupation force realized that Cite'-Soleil was the center of resistance to their designs, and suddenly we were reading that Cite'-Soleil was full of gangs, kidnappers, murderers and cutthroats that the UN had to "flush out", leading to ongoing raids by UN troops that always resulted in the massacre of civilians. Of course, Cite'-Soleil, like any slum, has a gang element (ever heard of the Crips and bloods in LA? Should the UN be sent in with helicopters and tanks to take them out?), but the level of demonization was clearly propagandistic, meant to justify military campaigns against an armed resistance movement and its base, just as we see the White House demonize anyone who takes up arms against its invasions as "terrorists".
Many Haitians were soon utterly opposed to UN troops in Haiti and to this day, even after the earthquake, they consider the blue-helmeted, heavily armed multi-national force driving all over Haiti in armored cars as ugly occupiers, made worst by the fact that some UN troops, mainly the Sri Lankans, were engaging in the ongoing rape of Haitian women. The Sri Lankans have, at least, been subsequently removed.
Here are several non-mainstream-American media videos to bring you up to speed on Haiti in the aftermath of the coup:
On the actual coup:
On repression after the coup:
On UN massacres:
UN Rape of Haitian women:
Back to Cite'-Soleil:
Cite'-Soleil is bustling, slum or not.
More sidewalk businesses
Tires for sale
Some earthquake rubble, probably, although Cite'-Soleil wasn't hit as hard as Port-au-Prince proper. I say probably because some buildings were leveled by UN shelling and gunfire during raids in the past.
Here is a building that IS pockmarked with heavy calibre gunfire from a UN raid.