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Reflections from the Red Zone

Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues), Chris Blackwell, Wyclef Jean, Alpha Blondy, Dobet (Ivory Coast), The Bob Marley offspring; slowly but surely the stars are coming back to Haiti. That's a good sign. After 21 years of political upheaval, this most recent election is the most positive thing that's happened to our favorite Caribbean nation. The UN is here with representatives from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, China, Taiwan, Benin, Cameroon, Jordan, France, Canada, and the U.S., to name a few. A visit by Sheryl Crow would be nice to remind the developers that we have to think globally but in a green sort of way.

After trying to negotiate peace and disarmament with some of Haiti's most violent gangs, newly re-elected President Preval (The only Haitian to complete a five year term, '96-'01, since the Duvaliers left) offered the gangs an interesting ultimatum: "Give up your guns or die". Well, believe it or not, some didn't listen. The collateral damage is probably the most tragic aspect of going after criminals who are embedded within the civilian population. As of now, kidnappings are down, street traffic is getting back to normal, people are starting to go out at night, cell phone companies are battling for our allegiance, and Haiti's 17 & under soccer team has qualified for the upcoming World Cup.

Things you didn't know about Haiti:

* Great coffee (better than Starbucks, MacDonald's, Dunkin Donuts and most stuff you find at Dean and Deluca). Remember, with coffee, the fresher, the better.

*Great local peanut butter (ever had spicy peanut butter?).

*You can still get fresh fruit juice here.

*Local rice doesn't need to be enriched.

*Port-au-Prince Carnival is over the top.

*Every July 16, thousands of people go pray at a waterfall called Saut d'Eau, where back in the 1930's there was an apparition of the Virgin Mary.

* Alexander Dumas, a mulatto, born to a Haitian father and French mother wrote The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

*James Audubon (Audubon Society) was born in Haiti.

*Haiti is the second independent nation in this hemisphere.

*Haiti is the first black republic in the world. Haiti helped Venezuela gain their independence.

*Haiti used to produce more wealth than all thirteen colonies combined.

*Chicago was founded by a Haitian named du Sables.