If you want my thoughts on the elections, you’re going to have to wait until after February 7th, when the preliminary results are released, and hopefully the Department of State publishes my article on its blogsite. Until then, now’s a good as time as any to try and define the Haitian Swagger, something I briefly mentioned in a previous article.
Haiti boasts a certain attitude, an almost definitive style of existence. You can immediately see it emanating all around you. Old women marching uphill, effortlessly balancing baskets of fruit on their heads. Young men in full suits on Sundays, despite the blazing heat, coolly walking to church. Vendors dotted along the sides of streets, selling everything from freshly roasted chicken to imported car mats. Even in the tent cities, you see young couples holding hands, strolling under the moonlight. Boys playing basketball on makeshift courts. It’s not just in Port au Prince.
In Cap Haitian, a city in the north once flourishing with tourists, one is still met with the gossamer thread of beauty that seems to permeate the country. The downtown area boasts the same charm of Old San Juan. It’s tall, pastel-colored townhomes criss-cross into perfectly gridded neighborhoods, each corner becoming an enclave of activity varying from street to street. Down one street you might find the inevitable group of boys playing soccer, effortlessly maneuvering around passerbys. Two corners over you could run into Digicel vendors selling top-up airtime. Towards the center of downtown you hear a church choir rehearsing while carpenters set up stages for the elections and men push wheelbarrows of rice to sell.
None of these examples quite define what Haitian swagger is, but they’re all symptoms of it. It’s the way Haitians walk with their heads held high despite the world’s perception that they are a thing to be pitied. It’s the way in which Haitians refuse to languish. Every able body is actively engaged in making life work for them, rather than the often-thought notion that Haitians simply sit still, waiting for someone to save them.
Haitian swagger is the abundance of trees, despite the perception that every single tree has been cut down.
Haitian swagger is the existence of romance despite images of rampant violence broadcast around the world.
Haitian swagger is peaceful protests and political rallies, amidst media reports that the country is falling into chaos.
Haitian swagger is, well, it’s the guy in the photo at the top of this article. It’s cool. It’s fast-moving. It’s charming.