05 February 2010

Recovering Haiti looks to tourism to bolster economy

A young guide in Milot, Haiti, readies to the lead a horse to La Citadelle, one of the largest forts in the Caribbean. The Sans-Souci palace - ruined in an 1842 earthquake - is in the background.

By David Agren, Canwest News Service

MILOT, Haiti - The earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince failed to budge La Citadelle la Ferriere, an early 19th-century fortress that towers over this community in northern Haiti.

With thick, stone walls, rows of cannons and piles of cannonballs, along with breathtaking views from a setting nearly 900 metres above Milot, local tour guide Maurice Etienne calls it "one of the biggest fortresses in the Caribbean,'' and one of the best tourist attractions in the region, too.

And now, with the economy in shambles and the capital in ruins, Etienne and others in Haiti's nascent tourism industry see potential in places such as La Citadelle and are calling for the country to urgently embrace one of the Caribbean's most lucrative industries.

The proposal to bolster tourism in Haiti isn't entirely new, however. Haiti was among the pioneers of Caribbean tourism in the 1950s, but the industry petered out with the rise of strongman Francois "Papa Doc'' Duvalier.

Read more at Canada.com.

04 February 2010

Haitians living in Dominican Republic return home to find relatives

I recently returned from 11 days of reporting in the Dominican Republic and Northern Haiti. Here's one of the stories from the trip on the mass return of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic to Port-au-Prince in an effort to retrieve relatives left homeless or injured by the Jan. 12 earthquake.


By David Agren
Catholic News Service

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (CNS) -- Saintivo Gassant boarded a small, intercity bus with 37 other passengers -- mostly fellow Haitians -- at a ramshackle station in the Dominican capital, beginning a seven-hour journey back to the rubble of his native Port-au-Prince.

He carried a backpack stuffed with documents: immigration papers, a copy of his university degree, and even photos, including a snapshot of him with the president of the Dominican Republic at a tourism exhibition. He clutched the backpack tightly for much of the first leg of the journey, knowing its contents could prevent any glitches in his attempt to bring his 12-year-old daughter, Kimberley, back to the Dominican Republic.

Gassant knew few details about her situation, just that Kimberley had been living temporarily with her mother when the magnitude 7 earthquake flattened the Haitian capital Jan. 12, and that she was now living in the street, under the care of his sister.

"I still don't know the whole story," he said Jan. 26, explaining that he learned of Kimberley's fate in a brief, Jan. 16 phone call. "My return home will be completely unexpected for them."

Gassant was just one of the thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic -- and points farther abroad -- to return to Port-au-Prince in search of information on loved ones and, in many cases, to retrieve them from the ruins of an earthquake that claimed an estimated 200,000 lives and destroyed a city that will not be fully reconstructed for years.

Read more at Catholic News Service.