National Geographic : 1976 Jan
In Jacmel's Pension Craft, an old mansion overlooking the town square, I find a balm for travel aches, rocking on the upstairs veranda overlooking the palm-fringed sea with Hai tian owner-managers Erick, Adeline, and Marlene Danies. Another water-fretted ride the next morn ing brings me to the dedication of the irriga tion canal at Marbial. Only a foot wide in places, it looks like a simple ditch to me, but its importance is quickly established by the size of the festivity underway. Ceremonial grounds on a hillside are dec orated with striking circular designs, made of green leaves, powdered charcoal, white sand, yellow sawdust, and purple clover. An out-of tune but enthusiastic band plays for an hour before the blue-uniformed home guard pa rades. Speeches begin, welcoming the Minis ter of Agriculture, Mr. Jaures Leveque, who has come from Port au Prince. A sudden, furious downpour breaks up the party, washing out the hillside designs and sending the band, militia, and out-of-town dignitaries scurrying for shelter. As our jeep sloshes homeward, I muse upon the truth: The people were the festival. Dressed in their best, they came from miles around, walking but carrying shoes to keep them clean. They were smiling, with that eager look of expectancy that makes children so endearing. Yet when our eyes met, I saw a weary sadness. These are people who have endured, who will endure. It is their spirit that is Haiti's greatest asset. HABITATION AMITIE, the House of Friendship, is my small contribution to Haiti. Upon my departure the house will become village property, with a rental poten tial that could give the community its first income for public improvements. Small and simple though the house may be, Habitation Amiti-like the Marbial Canal - must be properly dedicated. It is Gerard Almajor, chief man of Labadi, Glory haunts the ruins of Sans Souci at Milot, the palace built by King Henry Chris tophe in 1813. Marbles and mahoganies, brocades and satins made it sumptuous; mountain water, flowing through ducts, kept it cool. To celebrate Haiti's 150th birth day in 1954, Marian Anderson sang on the floodlit grand staircase while a costumed king and his courtiers paraded above.