Viewed from a distance, Port-au-Prince seems a pleasant and mellow Caribbean port city:
Once one is out on the streets though, the fact that all is not well in Port-au-Prince soon becomes apparent. And the January 12, 2010 earthquake only served to push Haiti closer to the top of the Failed States Index… Destruction, dysfunction and desperation abound:
The desperation of this scene left an impact on me… The man in this picture is eating a dead rat he found amidst the sea of burning trash around him:
This used to be an elite bank. Now it is a breeding ground for cholera and a rubble-strewn lot being taken over by those who lost everything in the earthquake:
As one makes their way toward the center of Port-au-Prince and the Champs de Mars, the streets become more crowded:
The Champs de Mars is where the National Palace
is was and where the Bicentennial Monument celebrating independence from France in 1804 can be found… The Bicentennial Monument survived the earthquake:
The National Palace – the official residence of the Haitian president – was not so fortunate:
Nor were the surrounding government ministries:
All of the open spaces in the Champs de Mars area have been completely taken over by massive refugee encampments.
Nearby are the remains of the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, also known as the Notre Dame Cathedral:
The roof and the towers flanking the main entrance collapsed in the earthquake, although the lower parts of the walls remain standing. The Archbishop and the Vicar General both lost their lives in the earthquake and they have not been replaced.
Past the Champs de Mars and the Cathedral, one will find the chaotic street markets:
In the middle of the market area is the site pictured below… This used to be a school. When the earthquake started, the children inside rushed outside only to be buried under the collapsing buildings around the school. Dozens were killed and a number of their bodies are still beneath the rubble. There are sites like this all across Haiti and the only reason this one stood out on this day was because the fixer we hired had known some of the children:
The below is an example of the many fertile breeding grounds across Haiti for all manner of diseases… Very often we observed Haitians lowering buckets into the fetid sewers running beneath Haiti’s streets and drawing up the milky green waters for bathing or drinking. Sometimes they would just scoop the water up out of the gutters. And all too often such moves would be preceded by us having just seen someone purge themselves into the gutter or kick some vile item into the mix:
These women in the iron market did not really care for having their picture taken. In fact, Haitians in general do not like having their picture taken:
Despite the impression of crowding and chaos likely created by the above pictures, one can find instances of solitude in Port-au-Prince:
Along the waterfront… Just a few blocks away is the anarchy of the city center:
Even the ubiquitous taptaps, the preferred method of transportation in Haiti, seem to vanish along the waterfront:
The streets are so deserted in this area that it is almost eerie:
Haiti’s decline is remarkable. It was once the wealthiest colony in the world and is now one of the poorest countries in the world.
This is Milfort Bruno, the fixer we hired to show us around the Port-au-Prince area. His prices are very reasonable ($40 a day), he’ll get you into some great places and he saved our lives which is more than enough for someone to earn a thumbs up in my book. You can contact him via the phone number in the background of this picture or if you stay at the Hotel Oloffson, you can ask anyone there for Milfort Bruno and they will direct you to him (his shop is just across the street):