By Dave Iverson
[Editor's Note: This article features the work of Pax Christi Port-au-Prince, Sakala and Daniel Tillias quite prominently.]
Haiti is unlike any place I’ve ever been. The list of what it’s endured reads like a biblical tale: slavery, dictatorship, corruption, hurricanes, poverty, cholera, and of course the horrific earthquake of 2010. And yet that list doesn’t fully define Haiti. Somehow, it’s the worst place I’ve ever been but also the most wondrous, a place that against all odds exhibits remarkable strength and endurance, qualities that I observed when I was there two years ago to cover the aftermath of the quake for the PBS NewsHour.
This spring I was back in Haiti and while I was there I met up again with Daniel Tillias, the man who was the interpreter on my reporting trip two years before. One afternoon, Daniel drove a few colleagues and me around the city of Port-au-Prince. What I saw was striking, both for what hadn’t changed and for what perhaps still can.
The earthquake’s impact shifts block by block in Port-au-Prince. You travel down one street and it looks like things are getting better. You round the corner and it’s 2010 all over again. “This is the main boulevard in Port-au-Prince,” Daniel notes as we drive past a building that look like the earthquake just happened. “I always say the same thing before I go by. I hope I have time to pass by before it collapses.”
A few blocks from downtown, the familiar tilted outline of the ruined national palace comes into view, unchanged. It’s almost as if it’s being preserved, like the memorial dome in Hiroshima. But the ruins are actually testimony to something else. I ask Daniel why the palace hasn’t been torn down and his response is revealing. “There’s been a lot of discussion about who will rebuild it,” Daniel observes. “Is it like the United States, France or another one? Or does it have to be Haiti? And the whole debate slows down the process of pulling it down.”…