Posted by: lisaparavisini | August 19, 2009

Love and Haiti by Amy Wilentz

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Amy Wilentz, the journalist whose 1989 book The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier brought the plight of the Haitian peasantry to the attention of thousands of readers in the United States and abroad, has just published a “love song” to Haiti in the Condé Nast Traveler magazine. The lyrical piece, which celebrates the beauty and allure of Haiti, gives us a Haiti different from the negative headlines and discouraging assessments of the nation’s future. Here are the opening paragraphs. You can access the article through the link below.

This is a love song. It’s a Haitian love song, played on three drums and an electric slide guitar that never sounds quite on key. No question, you can dance to it.

I’m writing this song not just for me but on behalf of the thousands who have come to Haiti over the centuries and been touched by it, moved by it, even changed forever: the writer Zora Neale Hurston and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was the first U.S. ambassador to Haiti. The actors John Gielgud, John Barrymore, Richard Burton, and, more recently, Danny Glover, Julia Roberts, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie. I’m writing for rock stars Mick Jagger and David Byrne and for rapper Wyclef Jean (who’s actually Haitian-American, and who introduced some of the aforementioned to his homeland), and for the great anthropologist, physician, and author Paul Farmer.

I’m also writing this love song for Maya Deren and Katherine Dunham, both of whom documented traditional Haitian dance and were bitten by the Haiti bug. This song goes out, too, to director Jonathan Demme, whose son was named after a Haitian shantytown, whose walls are covered with Haitian art, and whose films always have a Haitian touch. In this eclectic group are other writers, also: William Styron, Lillian Hellman, and Haiti’s greatest foreign fictionalizer, Graham Greene.

Let’s not forget eternally optimistic Congressman Dick Durbin, longtime lover of Haiti, or Bill Clinton (the third U.S. president ever to visit—and now the UN’s special envoy to the country), or Jimmy Carter, who came to monitor elections, or possibly the grandest of foreign dignitaries who fell for Haiti, Franklin Roosevelt, who drafted one of the country’s many constitutions (that’s how we conducted foreign policy back then) and was the first U.S. president to visit—in 1934. Hats off, too, to the late pontiff Jen-Pol Dè, as we write his name in Creole; he came to Haiti during the time of the dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and said that things had to change.

Not to be too arrogant, but I am also writing this song on behalf of Christopher Columbus.

You can accessed the article at http://www.concierge.com/cntraveler/articles/501372


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