The U.N. says the country is now stable, and tourism is growing. But the former vacation paradise still has a faded beauty.
Haiti is a fixture in my mind, as permanent as memories of high school graduation or the weekend I first met my wife.
I lived there twice as an American diplomat for a total of four years since 2000, but its hold on me is not a function of time. Of all the countries I lived and worked in, Haiti stood out as the most beautiful, the most colorful and the poorest. It melds French, African and Caribbean cultures into something truly unique, less than two hours from Miami. Yet it also resists easy definition. It is an open, free place filled with secrets.
Today there are conflicting signs about where Haiti is going.
“Citadelle Henry is a living testimony of the determination of the people to consolidate their right to be sovereign and free, and to decide their own destiny. It is a place of remembrance and reflection, a symbol of dignity and freedom”. – Transcription on a plaque posted at the entrance to Citadelle Henry
Perched high above the ocean within the lush green confines of the mountain Bonnet-à-L’évêque that surround the small farming community of Milot are two of Haiti’s most prized possessions and symbols of freedom, Citadelle Henry and the Palais Sans Souci. Both built in the early 1800s during the reign of Henry Christophe, an important leader of the slave rebellion that led to Haiti’s independence, these two UNESCO World Heritage sites are perhaps the most impressive and iconic monuments in all of Haiti.
As of July 2016, there were 1,052 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites scattered across the globe. They are considered to have cultural or natural value and so should be safeguarded for future generations. There are currently 22 UNESCO sites spread across 13 islands in the Caribbean: Barbados, Bermuda, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Suriname, Puerto Rico, Belize, and Jamaica. 15 of these have a cultural designation and 7 have a natural designation, and Cuba dominates the list, with a total of 9 UNESCO Heritage Sites.
The high level of diversity in the Caribbean is evident in these Sites, but they also give a peek into the history and complexities of the region. A region whose cultural identity has been impacted by many forces and is tied to a colonial past.