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Photo-Essay with Video: Haiti After the Earthquake, Part 16: Strolling Through the Iron Market

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Port-au-Prince's famous Iron Market, its origins dating back to 1889.


Catch up on the investigative trip to Haiti by Georgianne Nienaber and myself from May 10 to May 13, 2010 by browsing through these posts:

Click here for Part 1
Click here for Part 2
Click here for Part 3
Click here for Part 4
Click here for Part 5
Click here for Part 6
Click here for Part 7
Click here for Part 8
Click here for Part 9
Click here for Part 10
Click here for Part 11
Click here for Part 12
Click here for Part 13
Click here for Part 14
Click here for Part 15

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In Part 15 Andre and I began our final tour of ravaged downtown Haiti, Andre getting me all the way to the heavily damaged banking district on Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines. But just up the street beyond this now barely functioning center of financial wealth in Port-au-Prince, lies one of the city's historical icons, Haiti's famous Iron Market (Marche' de Fer in French) also known as Le Marche' Hyppolite or the Hyppolite Iron Market. The Iron Market actually refers to two things: The building and courtyard of said name, as well as the giant open-air marketplace that blossomed out of this fascinating iron edifice erected in the 1890's under the administration of the 15th president of Haiti, General Florvil Hyppolite.

The building, interestingly, has a distinctive Islamic architectural influence. That is because the structure includes two French-built minarets that were actually destined for a train station in Cairo, Egypt, until the deal collapsed. President Hyppolite, eager to modernize Port-au-Prince and catching wind of the failed business deal, bought the minarets himself and had what became known as the Iron Market erected in the capital. Over time, a sprawling open market developed that would serve the daily needs of countless Haitians.

The Iron Market's imposing presence loomed over downtown Port-au-Prince for over a hundred years until fire badly damaged one side in 2008. The building suffered further heavy damage from the great earthquake of January 12th, as you can see in my following photos. Plans are afoot, I have happily read, to eventually restore this venerated landmark, signifying a reinvestment in the cultural treasures of the past. Restoration would also be paying homage to the indomitable spirit of the Haitian people, who have been able to carry on with iron will against all odds over the centuries, be it slavery, revolution, civil war, invasion, dictatorship, starvation, earthquake, destitution, or now, even cholera.

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Now let's take a stroll through the Iron Market:

Walking from Blvd Jean-Jacques Dessalines toward the marketplace.

These tall doors are from another time, another era.

Approaching the outskirts of the market

Haitian men, foraging through the rubble, extracting, in particular, iron rebar, which can fetch some money.

These damaged or ruined buildings are often quite old, the architecture varied, though often French in design.

Another obliterated edifice

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Haitians don't hesitate to set up in the shadows of blasted brick or concrete wraiths.

The pace at which rubble is picked up is almost infinitesimal. The government is lacking in money and resources in every sphere.

We are getting thicker into the marketplace as the bright parasols magnify in appearance.

There is indeed an element of danger in shopping here, not an intrigue you would face at Walmart or Macy's.

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