Who is Baby Doc’s friend? The man on the right in this picture looks very familiar to me. Clearly he outlasted Duvalier in Port-au-Prince because I would not recall the face of someone who fled along with Jean-Claude. It’s not Baby Doc’s most trusting face. Who can identify the smiling mystery man?
History sometimes gets turned on its head, as it did last week when Dany Laferrière was inducted into the Académie Française. Laferrière was elected to this odd but august institution in December, 2013, so the induction was not a surprise, but still: amazing. You can be sure that not a French person living in Haiti in the early days of the slave colony, or in the centuries after, imagined that a true son of Haiti would ever be elected and inducted into Richelieu’s exclusive bastion of elite, supereducated, well spoken (no: perfectly spoken) Francophones.
Sometimes, a misreading of your own work just deflates you. Just one little line, and you want to throw in the towel. Instead: let me rectify matters here. In her interesting, smart, and necessary book on Haiti, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives, Gina Athena Ulysse writes about, among many other subjects, Mac McClelland, the Mother Jones human rights reporter who covered Haiti briefly in the wake of the Haitian earthquake of 2010. I’ve written about this complicated writer, too.
We’re all checking the news this morning, and noticing — in the margins of the reams of words on Charlie Hebdo and the 19th-arrondissement network — that it is the fifth anniversary today of the Haitian earthquake that took hundreds of thousands of lives in 2010.
Everyone wants to know how Haiti is recovering from that catastrophe. It’s a good question that is more about how well the international community can deliver relief and recovery aid than it is about Haiti in particular. A brief answer to the question is this: some good was done with foreign help, but that’s not the most important question to be asking.