“We don’t like tourists to take pictures of our ugliness. We want to show the positive”
What you see is not always pretty and colourful here. There is pollution, poverty, and often gloom. Images of this side of Haiti have made it’s way through the media more than Haitians would like. They are well aware of how the world sees them and how they’ve been portrayed. They’re not exactly proud of what is on the surface but they want desperately to change the narrative and American mainstream view.
Haiti does have its challenges but there is a brighter side to this country than what we see or read in the media.
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.
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!
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.
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 not on the typical travellers’ bucket list, likely because of the dark light the media places on this country. I wanted to use my lens to capture a different side of this country, inspire others to think differently about Haiti, and maybe take a leap and explore this off-the-beaten-track island someday.
What comes to mind when you think of Haiti?
Has this changed your perspective about the country?