There are drones flying over Haiti these days, I was surprised to learn.
What are they doing there, you might want to know — and so did I, since I had heard nothing about this, and found out about it somewhat fortuitously.
I was looking recently at images on Google generated by a search for the University at Limonade (I’m interested in the University, the industrial plant nearby, and the international precious-metals mining projects in the region), when I stumbled upon this picture (below) of a quartier populaire somewhere in Haiti:
In the June 6, 2013 issue of The New York Review of Books, there is a review of two of my books, The Rainy Season, and Farewell, Fred Voodoo, as well as of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, by Laurent Dubois, the great chronicler of Haiti’s tragic and grandiose history.
The review was written by Mischa Berlinski, the award-winning novelist who has written almost all of the post- earthquake pieces on Haiti for NYRB. Berlinski lived in Haiti from 2007 through 2011 as the husband of an official of the UN Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH), a 10,000-strong multinational peacekeeping force that arrived in the country in the wake of a coup against elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and that has been the sole serious force of order there since.
When Graham Greene went to Haiti, one of the many fascinating characters he met there was Aubelin Jolicoeur, above, a gossip columnist for Le Nouvelliste. It was an unusually rough time in a country accustomed to rough times. The brutal François (Papa Doc) Duvalier was in power, and his secret police, the Tontons Macoute, combed the cities, towns, and villages, hunting down enemies of the regime.
Here’s how Greene describes Jolicoeur, to whom he gives a fictional name, in Chapter Two of The Comedians, upon the narrator’s return to Haiti, by ship:
A few photos of a model-train diorama made by a doctor named Tom who often works in Haiti. These dioramas are based on historical and on-the-ground research on the Haitian American Sugar Company in Léogâne (HASCO) and its railroad. I don’t know the doctor’s full name but if I did I would gladly credit him here: he’s an artist.
I found these online back in 2009 when I was researching an essay on Haitian foods. If you have never chawed and sucked on a woody, juicy piece of sugar cane, you have missed one of the few ecstatic experiences available to humankind (you name the others). Best part: when you’ve finished with a bite of cane, you get to spit the white pulp out onto the ground like a man.
Both of the photos above are of the Jalousie shantytown, arguably the most photographed shantytown in Port-au-Prince. They are before and after photos of the recent government paint-over of Jalousie (after and before, actually, in order of appearance).
Why is Jalousie so photographed, one might wonder. Jalousie is not the biggest, or even necessarily the poorest, of Haiti’s sprawling slums. But the tumbledown, terraced shantytown looks dramatic and also happens to face one of the two major roads that connects downtown Port-au-Prince with the wealthier suburbs of Petionville, Bourdon, Montagne Noire, and others even higher up the hill.