Tales of Port-Au-Prince: Letting Haitians Speak for Themselves


As a follow-up to our previous post on the book Lavil: Life, Love, and Death in Port-au-Prince, ed. Peter Orner and Evan Lyon (Verso, 2017), here are excerpts from the Foreword by Edwidge Danticat, which was published by Literary Hub (23 May 2017):

It is the morning of the feast of Corpus Christi, fête Dieu, in Port-au-Prince. The sun rises early and fast, along with a chorus of voices singing hymns. Altar boys in flowing white robes and girls in long, spotless communion dresses weave rosary beads through their gloved fingers, or adjust crowns of white flowers on their heads. The parents walk at their children’s side, their beaming faces glowing in the hot sun. “He must be present in my life every day,” they sing. Fòk li prezan chak jou nan vi mwen.

Corpus Christi processions are meant to commemorate Christ’s body, in pain, but Haitians have plenty of their own pain. The procession circles a makeshift displacement camp where mothers are bathing their children in buckets of cloudy water in front of the layers of frayed faded tarp they call home. Before entering the crowd with her grandmother, my six-year-old US-born daughter, who is returning to Port-au-Prince for the first time since the January 12, 2010 earthquake, repeats something she’s told us many times since we landed in the city. “I thought everything was broken.”

Built for 200,000 people yet home to more than 2 million, Port-au-Prince is a city that constantly reminds you of the obvious, as though you were a six-year-old. No, everything is not broken. And no, not all the people are dead. Every person in that procession, and every person living in the city, bears that communal testimony, and Port-au-Prince is a testimonial city. It is a city that everything—fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, political upheaval—has conspired to destroy, yet still it carries on, in part due to the resoluteness of its people, a few of whose stories you will read about here. [. . .]

See full foreword at http://lithub.com/tales-of-port-au-prince-letting-haitians-speak-for-themselves/

See more on the book here: https://www.versobooks.com/books/2391-lavil

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