National Geographic : 1987 Nov
Statistics, however, do not begin to con vey the dimensions of human wretchedness. Thousands live on the streets of Port-au Prince, bathing and washing in sewage filled gutters. Haiti is plagued by infectious diseases. Measles, diarrhea, and tetanus are child killers here. Two hundred fifty of ev ery thousand children die before reaching the age of five. TRAGIC LAND, HAITI; one that has always seemed to promise something better, but has then been betrayed. "The most beautiful in the world . . almost like ... Castile," Christo pher Columbus wrote. Under French rule that began in 1697, African slave labor helped generate fabulous wealth, putting into the European lexicon: "wealthy as a Creole." In 1791 the slaves re volted and, led by a remarkable set of black generals, in 1803 defeated a force of 28,000 veteran troops sent by Napoleon Bona parte. This despite the betrayal of Toussaint L'Ouverture, preeminent general in the war of independence, who had been kidnapped and sent to France, where he died in prison. On January 1, 1804, Haiti gained inde pendence. It became the world's first black republic, and the second-the United States being the first-republic in this hemisphere. For a time it split into two separate regimes, north and south. The republic reunified, but from 1843 to 1915, 22 dictators shattered S Enclave of privilege and Despair, Haiti'scapital stands so apartfrom the quiet poverty of ruralHaiti that it is often called the "republic of Port-au-Prince." Foryears the source of that distinction was the National Palace(top), seat of Duvalier power, on the Champs de Mars. A statue of patriot Toussaint L'Ouverture, a leaderof the 1791-1803 warfor independence, over looks the square. The economic disruptions thatfollowed Jean-Claude Duvalier'souster in 1986 worsened an already deter ioratingsituation.In the wake of a highly publicized AIDS epidemic, the nation's vitally needed tourist industry has collapsed, and unem ployment is near 50 percent. Though opportunitiesin Port-au-Princeare more limited than ever, refugees from the countrysidecontin ue to pour in, crowding slums like Cite Soleil. Poorestpart of one of the hemisphere's poorest slums, the "city of cartons" (left) floats on a swamp of human and animal waste, whose nauseating sewage ponds contributeto the nation'sepidemic of sanitation-relateddiseases.