Haiti, Through My Eyes

Hi, my name is Nathalie and I am Haitian!  It took 36 years for me to say it and write it proudly.  Allow me to give you some background about myself.  My parents are from Haiti, however, I never visited until I was in my 40s.  My parents first immigrated to the Bahamas.  There they had my two brothers and me.  In 1978, we immigrated to United States (Miami, Florida).  My mother, brothers and I came over in a rickety-rick boat with about 20 other immigrants.  Back in the 70s and 80s, we were called the “boat people”.  A very negative phrase and that stigma stayed with me until I graduated from high school.

For many years, I was ashamed of where I came from because of the “boat people” stigma and how the media portrayed the Haitian people.  It took me 36 years to overcome it and embrace my heritage.  I finally overcame the stigma and negativity when I visited the Republic of Haiti in July of 2016.   What I saw was strength, beauty, resilience, and determination.  Anderson Cooper of CNN stated it eloquently “I have never met a Haitian who isn’t strong,” Cooper said. “You have to be to survive in a place where the government has often abandoned its people. Where opportunities are few and where Mother Nature has punished the people far more than anyone should ever be punished.”

Currently, Haiti is in the media because of a negative statement made about it.  I refused to repeat it as it is egregious and it does not warrant attention.  Below are pictures of my past trip and its people through my eyes

Port-au-Prince

Port-au-Prince is the capital and the most populous city in Haiti known affectionately as PAP.

The Presidental Palace
The Hotel in PAP

View from the Observation Deck from PAP

Cap-Haitien

Cap-Haïtien, often referred to as Le Cap, is a vibrant port city located on the northern coast of Haiti, steeped in history and culture. As the second-largest city in Haiti, Cap-Haïtien is notable for its well-preserved French colonial architecture, which provides a glimpse into the country’s rich past. This architecture gives the city a distinctive charm, with its cobbled streets, historic buildings, and the relaxed atmosphere of a bygone era.

The city serves as a gateway to some of Haiti’s most significant historical sites, including the Citadelle Laferrière, a massive stone fortress perched atop a mountain, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Built-in the early 19th century to defend against French attacks, the Citadelle is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and symbolizes Haitian liberty and strength. Nearby, the ruins of Sans-Souci Palace in Milot recount the opulence of King Henri Christophe’s reign, adding depth to the historical journey of visitors.

The Citadelle

The Citadelle is a large mountaintop fortress in Nord, Haiti.  This iconic fortress was once the crown jewel of Haiti’s national defense.

Jacmel

Jacmel, nestled on Haiti’s southern coast, is a city renowned for its vibrant arts scene, rich history, and stunning natural beauty. This enchanting city, established in the late 17th century, has become a cultural heartland in Haiti, celebrated for its artistic spirit and colonial architecture. Jacmel’s historic downtown area is a testament to its French colonial past, with beautifully preserved buildings that boast intricate ironwork and pastel facades, offering a picturesque backdrop that feels like stepping into a living museum.

A significant draw for visitors to Jacmel is its thriving arts community. The city is a haven for artists, filmmakers, and musicians, with numerous galleries, studios, and workshops that highlight the creativity and talent of its residents. The vibrant mosaic installations that adorn the city’s public spaces are a testament to Jacmel’s artistic identity, transforming the city into a canvas that reflects the soul and spirit of its people.

 

Bassin Bleu

Bassin Bleu is a hidden gem nestled in the lush hills near Jacmel, on Haiti’s southern coast. This enchanting natural wonder consists of a series of deep, azure blue pools connected by waterfalls, carved out of the mountainous terrain by the clear waters of the Petite Rivière de Jacmel. Its secluded location adds to its mystique, making it a magical escape for those looking to immerse themselves in Haiti’s breathtaking natural beauty.

The journey to Bassin Bleu is an adventure in itself, often requiring a guide to navigate the winding paths and rocky terrain. The trek, which can include a ride in a 4×4 vehicle followed by a hike through verdant tropical forests, offers stunning vistas and the opportunity to experience the rich biodiversity of the region. The final descent to the pools involves navigating steep paths and rock formations, which adds an element of exhilaration to the adventure.

Port Salut

Port Salut is a serene coastal town located on Haiti’s southern peninsula, renowned for its idyllic beaches and laid-back atmosphere. This tranquil destination is a stark contrast to the bustling city life found in other parts of the country, offering visitors a chance to unwind and experience the quieter side of Haitian culture. With its palm-fringed shores, soft white sands, and crystal-clear waters, Port Salut attracts both locals and tourists seeking a peaceful retreat in a picturesque setting.

To conclude my 10-day journey through Haiti, I share with you an enduring memory that captures the essence of this remarkable country: children laughing and playing on the beach under a fading sunset. Haiti is a land of incredible richness and bounty, inhabited by people whose resilience and warmth are nothing short of extraordinary. I encourage you to experience the beauty and spirit of Haiti firsthand.

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(9) Comments

  1. Medha

    Wow there’s so much to see in Haiti! I love the street art, the colourful steps, the city with the French colonial architecture, and of course, the beaches! I haven’t met a lot of people from Haiti (not in the part of the world where I live at least) so I don’t have a lot of knowledge about your country but it looks gorgeous!

  2. Kate

    I love this and I love your photography. I’m really glad that you’re starting to own up to your heritage and be proud that your family comes from Haiti. It definitely has a negative reputation, but that reputation can’t be overcome until people start to see the positive side of the country and the positive steps that it is making.
    Australian politicians use the phrase “boat people” to refer to refugees as well, and it’s a really disgusting way to reduce people to a problem and make it a political issue rather than a human rights issue. Hopefully we can collectively learn to have more compassion for people from difficult situations.

  3. Gabby

    Good for you to embrace your homeland and say it proudly. I find it really disgusting that you would be called boat people and be discriminated against – pretty much all Europeans who came to the US also came by boat – we are all “boat people,” actually!
    Haiti looks beautiful by the way, I can understand why you are proud to be Haitian

  4. Marcus and Mel

    Love the pictures it looks beautiful especially the Bassin-Bleu. It’s good to see Haiti portrayed positively. Apart from Indigenous people of America aren’t everyone else’boat people’?

  5. Samantha Sparrow

    This is such a beautifully written post – I’m so pleased you feel now able to embrace your Haitian heritage, and your positive feelings about Haiti as a place. The pictures are stunning, it is really such a beautiful place, and I’ve learnt a lot about a country I knew very little about.

  6. Lucy

    Such an honest, raw and touching article. I love all your photos of Haiti, it looks like a beautiful place to visit. I hope to visit one day see the beauty for myself.

  7. Ghia Lorenzo

    Wow! Never knew that Haiti is this beautiful! I really love the photos from the Bassin Bleu and from the beach, they are both perfect. I also love the pictures of the children smiling and the piece of art from Jacmel. Such a nice place to visit.

  8. Suruchi

    Port-au-Prince looks really beautiful. Look at the presidential palace, it is grand and the views from deck are just awesome. Cap-Haitien too is a colonial architecture hub. The large mountaintop fortress of citadelle actually looks like a crown. I love those stairs with graffitis. The blue pools of are lovely too. Overall Haiti looks great.

  9. Sandy N Vyjay

    Haiti looks beautiful, no other word for it. For some reason, the name Haiti always conjures up for me images of exotic natural beauty, pristine water bodies, and verdant landscape. Now I see the reason for it. The country is blessed with sublime beauty all around. I read about your family’s travails as you hopped on a boat to reach the shores of America and was really moved by your poignant story. Great to see you going back to your roots and feeling proud of it.

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