viernes, mayo 11, 2007

“Rêve Haïtien”

Ben Fountain's collection of stories, "Brief Encounters With Che Guevara," includes one particularly worth to mention in this blog. In “Rêve Haïtien” the main character is an OAS observer living in Port-au-Prince during the time of the military regime which ruled the country between 1991 and 1994. Some one hundred fifty former colleagues of mine (and I) fit that description. We were all fourteen years younger and MICIVIH was the joint UN-OAS adventure we were part of. “Rêve Haïtien” plot takes place in Pacot, Champ de Mars, near the Church of the Sacred Heart and in the Salomon and La Saline neighborhoods. Paintings of Hector Hyppolite, Antoine Obin, Préfète Duffaut, Frantz Zéphirin and many others populate the scenes. Reluctantly, the idealist Mason believes he found his purpose in life the day he became involved with an inspired smuggling scheme aimed at financing an armed resistance to the military junta.

A reviewer of the book says "Fountain has taken a lot of risks here (…) putting characters in situations they wouldn't likely be in.” Ha, ha, ha. Sounds too awkwardly familiar, but it’s just art (and literary criticism) imitating life, again.

When I came back to Haiti two and a half years ago, some old friends of MICIVIH times were already here and others joined us later. The time arrived for some of the most experienced to leave but a brand new generation of “fresh” observers has come (and gone) to develop their own “Rêve Haïtien.”
Here we are, past and present, hanging together on the eve of Mercedes' departure, surrounded by the ubiquitous paintings of some of the finest artists in Ayiti.

jueves, abril 26, 2007

Lékol bòlèt

El pasado 3 y 4 de febrero tuvo lugar en el Centro Carter de Atlanta, GA, un seminario internacional acerca del “Rol del sector privado en la mejora de los resultados educativos en Haiti” en el cual se asociaron varias agencias internacionales de cooperación, corporaciones de negocios, ONGs y representantes gubernamentales haitianos.

Uno de los documentos que circularon durante el evento resume bien ciertas constataciones sobre el sistema educativo haitiano, que paso a citar:

“(…) Non-public education is such a vibrant business amidst one of the most poverty stricken societies in the world. (…) Public spending in education (in Haiti) amounted to 1.5% of GDP in 2005-2006, while in the Latin America and Caribbean region it reached 4.3% of GDP. While on average private expenditure in education in LAC reaches 1%, in Haiti it amounts to 3.5%.

The provision of education is predominantly offered by the non-public sector. Based on information from the 2002-2003 census, the non-public sector enroll 95% of preschoolers, 81.5% of primary school students and 75% of secondary or third cycle students. This situation is largely different from the general pattern of LAC region, where private enrollment averages 20% in primary and 24% in secondary.

(…) Non-public schools have been set up in Haiti to fill the void left by government neglect. (Non-public education in Haiti grew) fueled by society’s almost blind trust in education’s potential to overcome dire conditions of poverty.”

El signo omnipresente de lo que acaban de leer en tan serio y sesudo análisis son los denominados “lékol bòlèt", que en otras latitudes de América Latina se conocen popularmente como “escuelas de garaje”. Se trata en general de centros pre-escolares y colegios (pero también incluso universidades!!!) creadas al ritmo creciente de la demanda pero sin respeto a los estándares educativos nacionales ni supervisión alguna de los respectivos Ministerios.
Escuelas instantáneas que en este pais proliferan ya sea bajo la sacro-santa bandera de la iniciativa privada, o bien el letárgico emblema de la caridad.

domingo, febrero 11, 2007

Fantasy, movies and literature imitating reality

In the movie Royal Bonbon's opening scene, a homeless middle-aged demented black man named Chacha wanders his way around the Carénage in Cap-Haitian. Then the character strolls the streets of the city begging for food and annoying people. He’s a “moun fou”. The female street vendors - the “ti machan” - kick him away, angered by his apparent vulgarity. Chacha undergoes an amazing epiphany and, declaring himself “King Chacha”, recruits a young child and leaves Cap. His hallucinatory dream turns into reality when he arrives to Milot and claims to be King Henri Christophe reincarnated. More children and a bunch of old people join him to take possession of the ruins of the Sans-Souci palace. Then he distributes honors and titles to set up a weird aristocracy.

Alejo Carpentier’s novel “The Kingdom of this World”, after the looting of Sans-Souci, the main character – Ti Noel - takes refuge in the ruins of his old master’s house. With a strange and beautiful, albeit useless, variety of spoils from the palace, the character rebuilds a makeshift personal kingdom, while awarding honorific titles to the passersby.

The real life fact is this: General Henri Chistophe crowned himself King of Haiti in 1811 and imposed a Constitution that very same year, creating
hereditary titles for four Princes, eight Dukes, 22 Counts, 37 Barons and 14 Chevaliers.

viernes, enero 19, 2007

L'otro día (Homenaje a Les Luthiers)

L'otro día caminando por la calle
vi a la gente odiar y luchar
y por eso en mi canto yo les digo:
lo mejor es no salir a caminar.

Les Luthiers - Homenaje a Huesito Williams

Los inversionistas privados de Port de Paix también ponen su cuota de pujanza en la ardua tarea de relanzar la economía de Haití. Aunque a veces parece que pujan demasiado… al descubrir que las cisternas para el carburante resultaron más grandes que el lote y la correspondiente excavación que debería albergarlos, el promotor y dueño de lo que será una futura estación de combustible simplemente optó por dejar los gigantescos depósitos en plena vía pública.