Part II: What No One Tells You About Haiti

I felt uneasy about snapping photos when I first came to Haiti. I had a hard time pulling out my camera. I felt imposing and intrusive. I’m a journalist by trade – documenting experiences is what we do. But I felt I was doing a huge disservice to the people here by taking photos of everyday life.

“We don’t like tourists to take pictures of our ugliness. We want to show the positive.” 

You see, Haitians are well aware of the images the world sees of them in the media. They’re not exactly proud of what is on the surface and they want desperately to change the narrative and American mainstream view.

As travellers, we have the power to use our lens to capture a different perspective of people, places and cultures than the world sees. Of course Haiti has its challenges but there is a brighter side to Haiti than what we see or read about, and it has changed my perspective of what this country has to offer.

Haiti beach

 

Unspoiled beaches. Yes, that is the coastline of Haiti! It’s easy to forget that Haiti is still a hot tropical island in the middle of the Caribbean. In the 1980s before the Dominican Republic was put on the tourist map, Haiti was the place foreigners flocked to forget their troubles (even the Clintons honeymooned here). Decades later, nothing has changed because Haiti still owns some of the most sandy shores and pristine waters. The hope is that a strong tourism market could return to the Caribbean isle one day.

Haiti beach

Haiti beach

 

Haiti beach

Artisans make and sell colourful crafts on the beach

 

Colourful markets. Circa 1890, the Iron Market is one of the most colourful markets I’ve seen but the building hasn’t had the best luck – it sustained  extensive damage from a fire in 2008 and then two years later it was completely destroyed by the earthquake. It was since rebuilt thanks to Digicel, a telecom company (which has actually been doing more good in Haiti than a lot of aid agencies and IGOs). The market is now an important commercial and social hub for locals and trade in Port-au-Prince. You can get some beautifully crafted souvenirs here!

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Iron Market Haiti

Iron Market

Haiti voodoo

Haitian voodoo dolls are popular at the Iron Market

 

The people. Sometimes Haitians can be a bit reserved. Understandably so – they’ve been taken advantage of for so long by people they’ve trusted in the past (agencies, government officials, etc) but if you open yourself up and share a bit about you, they are some of the warmest, friendliest people you will meet. They are also curious and inquisitive, and thirsty for dialogue and cultural exchange. I was asked a lot about growing up in Canada, why I picked Haiti to visit, did I like Justin Bieber or if I ever met Drake! Haitian people reminded me that, no matter what socio-economic class you come from, we’re all more alike than we are different.

 

Homestyle food. Haitian food is deliciously awesome comfort food – and who doesn’t like comfort food! A typical dish is usually beans, rice, and stews with influences from the Spanish, French, and Africans. It’s usually warm, hearty, sometimes saucy, and always a healthy mix of vegetables or protein like chicken, pork or goat. Check out my list of delicious Haitian food to eat!

 

Haiti is certainly off the pages of a guidebook and most people refrain from visiting here, likely because of the way it is portrayed in the media. I really wanted to create a post to show a different perspective of this country, hopefully change the Western view, and inspire others to explore Haiti.

What comes to mind when you think of Haiti?

Has this changed your perspective about the island?

 

 

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