In Haiti, Resilience Isn’t Enough

GRAND’ANSE, Haiti – Hurricane Matthew needed only a few hours to level the village of Anadère. But it could take months before the government or any relief agency provides assistance to this isolated community in southwestern Haiti. “No one has come here,” said resident Daniel Dieuveuille, six weeks after the hurricane ripped through Anadère on October 4, 2016.  Dieuveuille said all 50 or so homes in the village were destroyed, including those where the 70-year old farmer, his wife, and extended family have lived most of their lives. “We’re surviving on what little we have,” he said.

Bringing Caribbean history to life through music

VAUCLIN, Martinique – Each generation tells its history in its own way. In Martinique, a young jazz artist, Nicolas Lossen, has chosen music to tell the island’s history dating from its African roots to colonialism and the challenges going forward. The result is a compelling new CD entitled “Pié Coco-a” that parallels the resilience of the Martinican people to that of the coconut tree—which was also brought to Caribbean shores centuries ago and, like the descendants of slaves who constitute the island’s population, has endured and thrived. The CD is expected to be released shortly and will be available at www.nicolaslossen.com and a number of other sites. (See French translation below.

Tackling the U.S. tourist market / Tourisme : à l’assaut du marché américain

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique – Jacques Bajal is a Renaissance man who manages the Martinique Tourism Authority’s cruise department, champions the island’s historic bèlè music and dance that date to the time of slavery, and takes prides in speaking English on an island where few people do. During our interview, he is quite taken with the English translation of l’espoir fait vivre, which is fitting, because for years “hope springs eternal” could well have described Martinique’s tourism industry, particularly regarding the United States. Times are still tough, and even today only 4% of Martinique’s GDP comes from tourism, despite its beautiful beaches, lush nature reserves, excellent French cuisine, modern infrastructure, and low crime rate. (See French translation below. Voir la traduction en Français ci-dessous)

However, this tiny island in the southern Antilles is gradually reestablishing itself as a cruise ship destination and forging ahead with an ambitious initiative to attract U.S. tourists.

A Caribbean memory / Un souvenir de la Caraïbe

Fort-de-France, Martinique – A stiff wind blew in over Martinique the other night, first under clear skies, then under clouds that zipped by so fast they didn’t have time to rain. It wasn’t the kind of wind that ebbs and flows in gusts. It was constant like a fan turned on high blowing right at you. The awnings of our fourth-floor apartment in Fort-de-France creaked and groaned as they fought off the assault. I was nervous they might come loose. But I checked the bars and screws and satisfied myself that all was secure, that the hatches were battened down, as it were.

A Haitian Youth Orchestra: Is It a Dream?

Port-au-Prince, Haiti – It’s fitting that I sit to write about Pastor Jean Enock on Martin Luther King Day, because he has a dream, too. It’s about using music to lift up young Haitians who are in desperate need. The problem is that the pastor’s dream is slipping away, and he needs your help. (See French translation below. Voir la traduction en Français ci-dessous)

Back in 2006, Pastor Enock founded the Occide Jeanty Music Academy in Cité Soleil, one of the worst slums in Port-au-Prince.

The suburbs of Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique, with the legendary Mount Pelée looming in the distance. Photo courtesy of Stacy Marie-Luce, Tanisha Photography.

Learn more about America’s neighbors in the Caribbean’s Creole region

 Life in the Creole region of the Caribbean

FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique — Bonjour ! Sa’w fè?  Please allow me to introduce myself.  I am a former aid worker, journalist, musician and all-around n’er-do-well who lives in Martinique, an island with a history, people, and language most people know very little about. The booming influence in the United States of all things Hispanic dwarfs our knowledge of the Caribbean’s Creole region, even though the latter is geographically closer to our shores than most of Latin America. Like the other islands that form this diaspora of former slave colonies, Martinique is much more than a Club Med beach or the obligatory “…and the Caribbean” tacked on  to discussions about Latin America.  First, unlike, say, Saint Lucia or Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique is not a nation; its status as part of France could best be compared not to Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory but rather to Hawaii’s statehood.