National Geographic : 1976 Jan
said, adding, "I symbolize for them the proof of its vitality and the promise of a better tomorrow." He is also counting on foreign aid-and he's getting it. But even with Jean-Claude as a symbol and foreign aid as a surety, Haiti ultimately will have to rely on its people, all its people, to turn trials into triumphs. 1MISSY, LOOK!" S"Here, Missy. Look here!" I "You want? You like?" "Here, Missy, look! Look here!" The litany of hawkers fills the ears; the variety and color of their wares overwhelms the eyes. But the Iron Market at Port au Prince, so named for the use of iron in its construction, does more than feast the senses (page 83). It is the premier showcase for the Haitian genius of making something out of nothing-the art of make-do. Everything has value; anything can be sold. Old tires? Only 50 cents each, and dandy for making sandals. Beer cans? Excellent for trays, when flattened. Old magazines, 10, 20, 40 years old? Very decorative as wallpaper. Pictures of Catholic saints? Fine to pray to but also valuable for display in voodoo shrines. Hand-size dolls made from scraps of material? Made to order for a voodoo cere mony to receive an illness transferred from a sick person. From scrap metal: candlesticks, mailboxes, pots, pans, sculptures, anything. My Haitian companion, Theo Duval, tells me a story: A car crashes and falls into a ravine. People pick the car to pieces, finding a use for every bit. Within a week nothing is left. "With our penchant for recycling, we al ready have an ecological approach," the ur bane Theo murmurs with a smile. Whatever the approach, it all takes hard work. And through history the Haitian has paid out his energies in prodigious labor, es pecially during his years in slavery, as I could see during a flight along the north coast. Below me, the ruins of the great estates appeared to be a veritable litter on the land scape. From the Mole St. Nicolas, where Christopher Columbus anchored on Decem ber 6, 1492-"lands... for everything in the world that man can want"-to the borders of the Dominican Republic, I saw everywhere the white stones of crumbled buildings piled like so many bones. Sugar, coffee, cacao, indigo, and cotton Haiti: Beyond Mountains, More Mountains plantations made France's St. Domingue per haps the richest colonial possession on earth in the 18th century. Millions of slaves created that wealth at a cost in suffering that still flogs memory. Historians have estimated that the terrible attrition required replacement of the entire slave population every 20 years. Even the chaos of revolutionary war failed to break the habit of hard, sustained labor, as was seen in the early 1800's during the reign of slave-born King Henry Christophe, who ruled in northern Haiti. An old house. An old man. Both bespeak the immense artistic creativity of the Hai tian. The house in Port au Prince (facing page), now a school, shows the ornate Vic torian architecture popular in the city 75 years ago. The distinguished painter Phil ome Obin of Cap Haitien is a sophisticated "primitive," whose canvases sell for thou sands of dollars. "Obin was a pioneer in a true modern-day renaissance of art," de clares Selden Rodman, the noted historian and critic who has fostered Haitian art.