Contrary to remarks many people make about Haiti as an undesirable place, there are a plethora of misconceptions at play; Haiti is truly an unbelievable and beautiful Caribbean country.
Countless media outlets portray only the negative aspects of Haiti. We all know about the thousands of families that are still living in camps after the earthquake of 2010. The fact is that Haiti has been steadily rebuilding and hopefully in the near future there will be a positive solution for re-housing those victims. Some even render Haiti as a one-dimensional place. There is so much more to this particular country than the naysayers will ever know. From the beautiful mountainous views to the amazing culture and history, there is a lot to explore.
Safety seems to always be an area of interest for the media while taking part in “Haiti bashing.” Even though paramilitary and armed groups are indeed prevalent within the country, safety is not a huge concern. The Haitian police force generally keep the population safe and they always keep an eye out for the different groups that pose any type of threat. You can imagine how difficult a situation that may be for any type of law enforcement, but they can succeed.
This unfortunate depiction of Haiti gives outsiders absolutely no confidence in visiting. On a public scale is seems to be strictly up to fellow bloggers, word of mouth and in-depth research to represent Haiti in a positive way.
The best way to get an individual idea of the sheer beauty of Haiti is to take a visit. The tourist industry is growing with every minute that passes. In 2012, the Haiti Ministry of tourism put out a new logo as a larger mission to rebrand Haiti as a beautiful place to visit.
Recently Haiti and Ecuador signed a tourism agreement. To add to that a giant billboard on the I-95 in Florida greeted drivers as they passed stating, “Live the experience, seize the opportunity,” . With this huge push for tourism there has also been a backlash as The LA Times’ Allyn Gaestel interestingly stated “Who wants to sip a rum cocktail knowing that, just down the road, malnourished children are languishing in tents?” While this is the case there is also much more Haiti has to offer to the visitor. This is not to say to simply ignore the continued devastation; in fact you can do the contrary. Haiti has been the site of a growing “philanthropy tourism.” So while you are in Haiti donate your time to a local orphanage or school and help Haiti while you stimulate the economy with your American dollars. [UPDATE just found out about a “voluntourism” trip happening this winter! Go here for more details http://www.experiencethevillage.com/destinations/?ee=8)
If you want history, Port-au-Prince is your best bet. The capital city is not only exploding with history, it’s also extremely colorful. From the commemorative and prideful statue of “Neg Mawon” to the art that lines the walls of Port-Au-Prince, to the stories of people chatting in the streets, La Citadelle Castle in CapHaitien to Sans Souci Palace, history lies everywhere.
The country has a vast number of beaches worth visiting. The Taino beach and resort is spectacular, as well as the Jacmel beach to name a few.
For the religious and spiritual, Saut D’eau, a waterfall in Haiti, has become a significant site of pilgrimage for vodun and catholic practitioners alike.
The food is in a league of its own. The African,French, and creole influenced cuisine is something that is best described by only eating. Lambi is an amazing traditional dish and legumes are one of the most flavorful accompaniments around. Street vendors line the street selling local Haitian snacks and grilled food. Various travel safety agencies advice against this but hey, are you really living if you don’t try the street food plus you will be supporting the autonomy of local street vendors. Just use precaution as you would anywhere else in the world. Visitors will be salivating at the unique blend of spices and herbs that rings true of the Caribbean but demarcates a specific “haitianness.”
Finally, Haitian culture and arts are the cream of the crop for any visitor to experience. The music, literature, unique clothing and paintings are breathtaking. We all have heard at least one poet or writer’s work from Haiti, from Danticat to Basquiat, Haiti has slowly but surely been coming into our consciousness. Jacmel has been touted as the “art capital” of Haiti and rightfully so. Local artists use their beautiful environments to inspire them. Another place to go is the “Iron Market” located in Port-Au-Prince—we would call this a tourist souvenir paradise. Art, purses, wallets, statues, and anything you can think of will be there and the prices are relatively cheap. If there is one thing that can be said is these vendors love a good haggle and they will pull you and every which direction to get you to come to their booth. It’s a fun and exhausting experience but you will never forget it! The music is also very fun and exhilarating with the elements of African drums to keep every moment exciting. From the traditional afro-musical influences, to the very Haitian kompas and zouk. Haiti is one of the most stunning places on Earth and anyone with a pulse should consider going for a visit at least once in their lifetime. It is a truly welcoming environment and an unforgettable atmosphere.
Our final conclusion: Don’t let the media fool you.