Deposit a peer-reviewed article or book chapter. Deposit a complete issue of a scholarly journal, newsletter or book. Deposit scholarly works such as posters, presentations, conference papers or white papers. Skip to Content. Toggle navigation Carolina Digital Repository. Help Contact Us Login. Haiti is a sliding land: displacement, community, and humanitarianism in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince Public Deposited. You do not have access to any existing collections.
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Haiti is a sliding land: displacement, community, and humanitarianism in post-earthquake Port-au-Prince. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Chicago Wagner, Laura Rose.
The Time I Celebrated Carnival with Gang Leaders in Haiti
On January 12, , Haiti collapsed suddenly into sudden, telegenic disaster when a devastating earthquake hit its capital, Port-au-Prince, killing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying much of the city. The disaster both gave rise to an unprecedented urban displacement crisis, and engendered the promise of humanitarian and reconstruction aid and a flow of moral sentiment. Yet the earthquake and its aftermath were but the most striking manifestations of centuries-long patterns of vulnerability, life under an aid economy, and displacement.
Even before the earthquake, Haiti was infamously known as the republic of NGOs, while the history of slavery, uprooting, revolution, internal migration, and exile shaped Haitian people's conceptions of home and community.
2010 January 12 21:53:09 UTC
His I-am-home clothing is worn and comfortable: a stretched-out sweater, blue chinos, and old wool socks. The skin crawls on the back of my neck and the pit of my stomach crashes into my pelvis. I take a deep breath, push my wild furious loathing into a soft, horrible place inside myself, and I swallow.
He sits in the rocking chair next to me, elbows on knees, with his whiskered chin in the palms of his hands, and sighs. Then he picks up the magazine I have been reading, clutches it in his calloused and rough hands. Just like that. My life in Kenscoff becomes a dazzling succession of house parties, balls, gaieties, not only night after night, but also sometimes an afternoon gathering at one house followed by an evening party somewhere else. I dance, sing, and drink toasts with cheap beers. I wear trendy wide-leg jeans, white denims, belly shirts of neon colors, dresses with abstract, multicolored designs.
Tonight, Lakoup Nightclub is crowded, noisy, and literally vibrating with the beat of music blasting through large speakers. The air itself is alive with energy, the crowd abuzz with anticipation.
I walk into the music, into the shadows, and the hot, sticky night presses against my skin until perspiration beads my upper lip. The bartender is chatting with a woman. I walk out on the balcony, the den of iniquity, where a couple is smoking something with a peculiar smell. The girl laughs and reaches up. From the balcony, I can see the band in the backyard. I love the grainy vocal quality that lends the band a tortured but familiar sound, as if one were remembering a bad day. Martelly keeps listeners hanging on every phrase, awaiting the next pause or streak or curve.
His hair is wild and shaggy, as if the wind has been playing with it. He says his name is Ben and he is a lanky mulatto. He gets me another drink. Then we are lounging in the parking lot, his back against his beat-up Volkswagen, blowing smoke rings to the sky, watching them rise and disappear slowly.
We can still hear the crunching guitar and the keyboard. They come together to create a sometimes sultry, sometimes dreamy, and sometimes raucous feel. I want to listen to Michel Martelly forever. His voice is both loud and strong and soft and vulnerable.
His solos are the sound of supreme confidence: not aggressive or necessarily flashy, but casually assuring that every impulse will pay off. I give a horrible squeal, like a kitten under a rocking chair, when the stranger pushes both Ben and me into the pool. Wild fear grabs the edges of my mind.
Warned not to travel Haiti by motorcycle. We did it anyway.
Panic pounds loudly in my temples and twines my heart. I kick and squirm, fighting to get back to the surface. My lungs are screaming for air. I am choking. I am drowning. I gulp big mouthfuls of water; I can feel it going up to my nose and down into my lungs. He fires toward the sky. Gunshots pop like firecrackers. Leaving Ben behind, I plow through the madness to the side of the bar. I drop to the floor, crouching beneath the porch railing. Just a sea of people and crashing movement.
There is more running, sauve qui peut, and dizziness. I press my hands against my temples as two more gunshots shatter the air. The other guy is gone. Ben calms down. My father often spends half a day in a line to get his tank filled; no gas container allowed. I can only go to school three times a week. We fetch water from a cistern built under the house for our bath and press our clothes with a smoky charcoal iron, whose hollow interior is filled with smoldering coals.
High, spoutlike openings allow for the coals to be fanned when swinging the iron back and forth vigorously. We talk every night.
I sit Indian-style, wringing, twirling the curly phone cord in my left hand, receiver tucked between my ear and left shoulder, until hours later it leaves hickeys on my ear. I tell him about my father. One moment Papa is normal, calm, quiet, in control, reliable; the next he is a wildeyed stranger, screaming so loud my ears sting.
His eyebrows join together in a frown line across his forehead. His thin face is stern, lips latched tight, and his black-rimmed glasses magnify his furious eyes. Ben is not that bad, after all. We have phone sex once, or so he thinks. I am only pretending, playing Tetris silently on my Game Boy. I want to learn how to drive. Ben knows someone who knows someone else who works at the Department of Highway Control. I get my driver's license before I ever sit behind a wheel.
I think that once I get the rectangular piece of colorful plastic, it will be easier to convince my parents to send me to driving school. Well, no.
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Papa says I am too impulsive to drive a car. Mom is okay with the lessons because I told her that Ben is a math teacher chez les soeurs. He was into stealing credit card numbers on the Internet for a while.