Reprinted from Caribbean Net News
Commentary: Jacmel and the Highlands of Haiti
Published on Tuesday, July 3, 2007
By: Barbara Meo-Evoli and Wadner Pierre
It is said that two Haitis exist -- one in Port-au-Prince, the other everywhere else in Haiti. With a two hour drive from the capital one can observe the traditions of the countryside in calm surroundings.
The first town one encounters, 86 km south of the capital is Jacmel, a florid port city that has depended on the coffee trade since the 19th century. One sees evidence of two hundred years of good administration, aided by an attractive climate and a thriving tourist industry.
The structure of the marketplace in the city center is architecturally unique. Built at the start of the twentieth century with high steel framed roofs beneath which merchants sell fruits, vegetables, meat and other food. In contrast with the capital where the informal economy fills the streets, Jacmel's merchants occupy properly constructed spaces.
Jacmel's local government stands out for the services it provdes residents: regular garbage collection, restoration of buildings with historic or aesthetic value, and the maintenance of paved downtown roads - most of which have been asphalted in recent years. In fact, most of Jacmel's downtown roads are paved with white concrete blocks and are kept very clean.
Easy accessable roads provide a boost to vehicle rentals, making it easy for newcomers to get around the town. Local shopkeepers say that tourism has helped keep unemployement down.
On the beaches, 10 km from the city, small restruarants busily serve locals and vistors from other parts of Haiti and outside the country. Officers from MINUSTAH (the UN occupying force) were seen enjoying the atmosphere. Children sell coconuts freshly cut from the trees.
Traveling from Jacmel to Seguin, further to the southeast, river crossings are filled with women washing clothng and children bathing. A reforestation project involving Bambu trees is underway in the area but there is still no bridge suitable for motorists to use.
Further down the road is Paredo, where many walls are still adorned by adverts for mobile phone voucher cards sold by Digitel, a multinational telecommunications company that has expanded rapidly in Haiti since May 2006.
Peasants and workers, from a nearby project, appear from the side of the road to help travelers facing car troubles. Together they push a car until it starts. At the peak of the mountains is Haiti's national park of Seguin. The Ministry of Environment has launched a project to plant indigenous pine trees in an area officialy set aside for conservation.
Most of the slopes are carefully cultivated with corn, onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and other crops. Adults and children walk through the fields, working under the hot sun.
Further down, the road continues to Furcy where crops and people are loaded onto trucks heading for the capital. As the trucks motor past, dozens of peasant women walk in sandals carrying produce for the six hour walk to Petionville, the richest district in Port-au-Prince.
For more information see www.HaitiAnalysis.com
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