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 Photo by Allison Shelley.

They Call It Canaan

In the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, the most crowded city in one of the most densely packed countries in the Western Hemisphere, class and elevation are inextricably linked. The city was founded on the coast, at the foot of the Chaîne de la Selle mountains, and over the centuries spread upward and outward from the sea. And as the city grew, so did its economic disparity. Now the coast is home to blighted sectors like La Saline and Cite Soleil, where some of Haiti’s poorest scrape together a living on streets that fill with trash after a heavy rain. Just above that is Delmas, a middle-class district of cinderblock houses and a main boulevard where pedestrians weave through perpetually gridlocked traffic. Above them all is Pétionville, where Haiti’s wealthiest citizens and foreign-aid contractors live amid upscale hotels and well-tended parks, with sprawling markets and grand villas that overlook the city and the sea.

City of Dust, City of Stones

Photographer Andre Lambertson and I visited Haiti together four times during 2010. We spent a week there on each occasion. We were there to learn and tell the story of HIV/AIDS in Haiti after the earthquake. Three hundred thousand Haitians died during that quake. Three hundred thousand. There are still bodies in the rubble. They may never be recovered. But millions now live with the memory of their loss. Among that number are the special people who we came to know—the people who are living with HIV/AIDS.


Haiti, Fallen

Haiti, as it turns out, isn’t particularly prone to earthquakes. Hurricanes and political turmoil, yes: it seems that every few years Haiti is buffeted with one or the other of those, and, either way, lots of people are killed. But earthquakes aren’t much more common in Haiti than in, say, the American Midwest. So the catastrophe that devastated Port-au-Prince on January 12 was a worst-case scenario: completely unexpected and centered essentially on the national capital and largest population center by far. It’s an unbelievably cruel stroke of fate and bad luck.

On the Ground Report from Haiti

January 15, 2010

The assistant director of UVA's Creative Writing Program was in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when the earthquake struck. He provides video and his impressions of the aftermath of the quake.

A young mother rests under mosquito nets with her newborn baby in one of the four Doctors Without Borders clinics in Port-au-Prince. The humanitarian organization tries to fill in gaps left by the capital city's virtually nonexistent healthcare system.

The Young Mothers of Port-au-Prince

After the last of four back-to-back hurricanes pummeled Haiti in August and September 2008, mountains of garbage, mud, raw sewage, and debris were left behind, clogging the streets of Port-au-Prince. A spate of unbearably hot and humid days followed, making the city’s narrow confines feel even more claustrophobic than usual. In the neighborhood of Carrefour Feuilles, a sprawling slum of one-room cardboard and tin shacks that look like they’re about to collapse, that’s exactly what happened.

Descent into Haiti

April 2005   We descend into Cité Soleil. Mattresses smolder on the trash-strewn roads in this sprawling seaside slum of Port-au-Prince. Gray smoke blows off islands of refuse and the charred remains of burned cars, and the twisted, immolate [...]

Dead Letter

Coachy, to whom Papa Toussaint had given the two letters for Paul Louverture, led their way south from Point Samana toward Santo Domingo City. Coachy had been to that place before, not so long ago, when Papa Toussaint had sent his army to the Spanish side of the island for the first time, but Guiaou had not. He had not been to Point Samana either before that day, when Papa Toussaint had brought them to look at the ships of the French.