They Call It Canaan

VQR

Allison Shelley

In the aftermath of disaster, Haitians ask what makes a city

Port-au-Prince was decimated when a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010. But as the years progressed, from the balconies of Pétionville you could see something new taking shape in the distance, several miles north. Settlements began to appear on a barren landscape, shacks and tents spreading over dusty plains. Desperate for space, tens of thousands of Haitians flocked to the area.

Before the earthquake, the only people who visited these remote mountains did so to pray. It offered a quiet reprieve from the city, a place to be alone in nature. They referred to it as Canaan, the biblical promised land where Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, the land of milk and honey. “This Canaan has the same history,” one Nazarene pastor, who was among the first to move there, told me. “This is our honey.”

Honey or not, this emerging city is the earthquake’s most visible legacy. In Canaan, as in any city, people—the rich and the poor, the powerful and weak, the complacent and the desperate—were destined to get in one another’s way.

Read: VQR

As featured in Longreads

Five years after the earthquake, Haiti remains on unsteady ground

GlobalPost/GroundTruth, uncategorized

IlE-A-VACHE, Haiti — One day in October, 81-year-old Mascary Mesura was working in his garden of corn and coconut trees when the mayor of this small island off the southern coast of Haiti approached and told him to get out of the way.

“He said ‘the tractors are coming. We are going to build a lake to grow fish,’” says Mesura. “I asked for an explanation. I told him all the things we grow there. I was standing in my garden and he told the tractor to advance.”

The mayor, Fritz César, stood and watched while police handcuffed Mesura and his wife, forcing them to watch as their livelihood was uprooted, all 28 of their coconut trees toppled to make room for a fish pond to feed tourists.

The demolition was part of the Haitian government’s $260 million plan to develop Ile-a-Vache into a Caribbean tourism destination akin to the Bahamas or St. Martin.

Five years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravished an already troubled nation, Haiti’s leaders hope tourism along with mining, manufacturing and agriculture will help the country leave its legacy as an impoverished nation behind.

Read the full GroundTruth story on GlobalPost. 

Reporting was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center.

50 years a tourist in Haiti

Vocativ

Vocativ

One Wisconsin couple have been vacationing in troubled Haiti for 50 years, and they reckon it’s high time you made the trip

January marks the 5th anniversary of Haiti’s devastating earthquake. The country’s leaders are trying to move the nation past the “recovery” phase and into the future as a middle-income nation that attracts tourists and their money. Across the border in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, tourism is the No. 1 driver of GDP, and Haiti wants a piece of the action.

Beset by a string of misfortunes and natural disasters, Haiti isn’t many people’s idea of a fun Caribbean getaway. But one Wisconsin couple have been vacationing there for half a century, through all the troubles, and they just can’t figure out why they’re a rarity.

Read the full story at Vocativ.

In post-earthquake Haiti, a forgotten island is left to recover on its own

GlobalPost/GroundTruth

A ferry arrives at the wharf in Anse-a-Galets on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. /Jacob Kushner

Thousands sought refuge on the island of La Gonave four years ago. But little help ever arrived, something permanent residents know all too well.

ANSE-A-GALETS, Haiti — To traverse the 13-mile stretch of Caribbean Sea to the island of La Gonave, one must choose between three types of boats, none particularly safe.
louis vuitton bucket
First there are the “fly boats,” speed boats with outboard motors that race a dozen people from one side to the other. From time to time they flip over. Few records exist as to how many people survive.

Then there are the two large steel ferries that carry a few hundred passengers slowly across the sea each day. In 1997, one of those ferries sank, killing 200.
nike air max infrared
Last, there are the sailboats — wooden ships built from hand-carved lumber and pieced together with hammered nails. Their canvas masts are reminiscent of those in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise. They carry everything from rice to dry cement, motorcycles, cars and trucks.

In better times, Haitians travel to and from the 300-square-mile island as a matter of routine, however risky. In times of emergency, like the massive earthquake of four years ago, they come to La Gonave in droves.

In the first 19 days after the earthquake, 630,000 people fled Port-au-Prince, 7,500 of them to La Gonave, according to a 2011 study. Untold thousands more fled there from other earthquake-affected areas. Some NGOs put the total at 20,000, which would mean the island’s normal population of approximately 100,000 increased by between 15 and 20 percent almost overnight.
coach imitation purses
To feed and house them all would have required a substantial amount of the $9 billion pledged by international governments for Haiti’s recovery. But little of that aid — or the aid allocated by private donors — reached the people of La Gonave, GlobalPost found. Most of the migrants returned to the mainland in the months after the earthquake, leaving permanent residents in a dire state.

Read the full story at GlobalPost.

Johnbern Thomas: Jazz in Exile

JazzTimes Magazine
Haitian drummer, displaced by the earthquake, makes his way across the border

Caribbean jazz drummer Johnbern Thomas remembers the dates that changed his career much like any other musician. He remembers the Sunday in 1999 when, at the age of eight, the pastor of his church pulled him aside to say “God has a project for you,” asking him to play in what would be his first ever public performance. He remembers January 28th, 2010—the day he left the only home he’d ever known to try and earn a living in a country where he didn’t even speak the language.

And he remembers how, two weeks earlier, on January 12, he was concentrating so hard practicing riffs from a West African Roots book by Royal Hartigan that he didn’t notice the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that would postpone his dreams of becoming a jazz star in Haiti.

Listen to clips of Thomas performing and demonstrating an African-based rhythm he incorporates into his jazz music:

Click HERE to read the full article as it appeared at JazzTimes.

Jazz in Post-Earthquake Haiti: (Re)building a Musical Culture

JazzTimes Magazine

On a rainy Sunday night in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, jazz instructor Claude Carre sits down with his guitar on a small stage alongside two of his students, playing drums and bass. The audience of 15 or so wealthy Haitians and foreigners at Café des Artes don’t seem to notice when the house music gives way to the sounds of Carre and his trio playing a soft acoustic number.

Ever since the 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Haiti last January —leaving some 230,000 people dead and displacing 1.3 million more to tent cities—Haiti’s musicians have struggled harder than ever to find audiences. In addition to the immediate human suffering, the earthquake also put a long-term dent Haiti’s fine arts culture, including its delicate jazz scene.

“I don’t know if after that, the jazz scene is going to expire,” Carre said.

Check out the Port-au-Prince International Jazz Festival

Click HERE to read the full article as it appeared at Jazz Times.