This travel billboard (see photo below) just went up in Miami on I 95 at 69th Street. It’s a great idea for people to visit Haiti and see this incredible country. But this poster is unintentionally honest, hilarious, and tragic.
My favorite thing about it is the slogan: “Live the Experience.” I think it should say: Experience the life.
I wonder which experience of Haitians the promoters who paid for this sign are hoping that visitors will get to have? Living on a dollar a day? Not having running water? No health care? No house?
The billboard — which, note, offers a Haiti with a long white beach and ZERO Haitians — also offers, beneath the pitch line in smaller letters, the real lure: “Seize the opportunities.”
I can translate that. It means, Hey, this is a country in dire straits. YOU, Florida businessman (possibly even of Haitian origins), can profit from that! Low wages, close to Miami, no health insurance payments for workers, no social security taxes for workers, no pension funds, no corporate taxes collected, no environmental protections…. Check it OUT! Come mine our gold, put up resorts on our beaches, and exploit our population however you like!! It’s a tradition in Haiti!!! [my translation]
Also, as I know from having lived and visited Haiti for decades, if you have a little change in your pocket, living there or visiting is an extremely pleasant proposition. You can stay up at the top of the hill in the capital and avoid the poverty stricken population except when they wait on you. You can drink good wine and eat great food and go to fantastic clubs, work out in the mornings at world-class gyms, have cocktails on a balcony with fantastic Caribbean views. You can even live most of the time in air-conditioning.
But unless you feel you are trying, even if in vain, to do something to help out, I challenge you to sleep at night there. And just giving Haitians poor paying jobs with no future and no social security or pensions for their old age is not a real way to help.
Live the Experience.
Of course the billboard is the work of the tourism ministry of Haiti. That’s because since the post-earthquake election, the new president, Michel Martelly, has declared that “Haiti is open for business.”
Ripe for violation, is my translation of that. One example: Foreign mining companies now have access to some 15 percent of the Haitian national territory, and are hoping in the next decades to extract tens of billions of dollars worth of gold, copper, and silver. If the South African mining experience is any example, this does not bode well for future Haitian workers or the the Haitian national coffers.