Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Visiting Haiti

Haiti is a very interesting country on the Caribbean island of
Hispaniola. Christopher Columbus stopped in Haiti in 1492. France and Spain divided the island with the French getting control of the western part that is Haiti. In the 1700s Haiti was one of the richest colonies in the world.  They used slave labor to produce coffee and sugar. But in 1804 the slaves revolted and created the first black republic in the world and the first country in the Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery.  Other countries that had slaves were afraid their slaves would revolt, too, so they isolated Haiti and didn’t trade with them. Haiti became a very poor country.  And, things got worse for Haiti on January 12, 2010 when a powerful earthquake occurred in the capital of Port-au-Prince killing 300,000 and leaving about one million homeless. 

We found the people of Haiti to be friendly and working hard. There were many interesting things to see.  In the capital of Port-au-Prince one of the interesting places we visited was called the Iron Market.  It is a market filled with people selling things. It is like a mall.  The building was made of iron in France and was supposed to be a train station in Cairo, Egypt but it ended up in Haiti during the 1800s.  The earthquake damage has been repaired and it was reopened in 2011 by former President Bill Clinton who has a foundation that is helping Haiti. Many of the shops in the Iron Market have crafts made by the Haitians.  We visited the village of
Nouailles where we could hear a lot of hammering because the people were making beautiful works of art from old steel drums.  And, in Jacmel we visited a shop where people were making bright, colorful objects from cardboard.  Amazing what people can make out of nothing!

While we were in Jacmel we went to a folkloric show. We love folkloric shows because it is a way people preserve their heritage. The dances were very colorful. We also saw Paper Mache creations and masks that are part of a huge celebration and parade called Carnival.  We would like to see the celebration to watch the parade, see the dances, and hear the great music.  When we were at Moro’s shop he put on one of the Paper Mache masks he made – a giraffe mask.  

In the north of Haiti we visited the Citadel.  It is the most amazing
fort we have every visited. Most forts are built on the water to stop armies from attacking but the Citadel was built on top of a mountain.  The Citadel was built so the Haitians would have a safe place on the mountain to defend themselves if the French tried to recapture the county.  We learned something interesting. One of the reasons the French sold the Louisiana Territory to America was so they would have money to recapture Haiti but it didn’t work out and luckily Haiti was not attacked.

The Citadel was constructed by 20,000 workers between 1805 and 1820. To get to the fort we took a road half way up the mountain to a parking lot where we got in a four-wheeler called a Rhino to go the rest of the way.  It was very curvy and steep.  Along the way we saw the school children walking home from school.  Can you imagine walking one hour or more up a steep hill with the temperature 90 degrees to get home from school – every day? They must have been tired and hot but the girls looked so nice in their colorful uniforms and matching ribbons in their hair.