I truly believe you don’t fully grasp the weight of the destruction from the earthquake until you stand in front of the National Palace. It’s the most significant symbol of destruction one can readily recognize in the city, and the symbolism is wrought with gravity. The effect is magnified when you turn around and see the hundreds of tents pitched just across the street. The whole sight truly paints a picture of what took place one year ago.
Before the one year anniversary, there stood in the National Palace’s front lawn a row of presidential candidate posters, each candidate with his poster neatly arranged in a row in the lawn. The row of posters stood as the only semblance of order amidst the scene of devastation. One year after the earthquake, those posters have been replaced with signs of a new Haiti, several posters arranged in a row depicting a new vision for the country. These new posters literally stand exactly where the presidential candidate posters once stood, thus one might be led to believe that the weight of building the new Haiti as depicted on these posters rests squarely on the shoulders of whomever might be elected president. This is not decidely the case.
As much weight as has been placed on the still undecided presidential election, the real everyday work I have seen carried out throughout Haiti has largely been done by the average Haitian. It is the average Haitian who has taken clearing out the roads into his own hands, and has taken the first steps towards rebuilding the country by rebuilding his or her own life. While a successful presidential election would only be beneficial for Haiti in that it would signify a democracy on the move, Haiti’s ability to advance its own reconstruction agenda is not hinged on a particular political outcome.
What are the possibilities in Haiti? Endless. Posters and presidents alike serve as symbols to hopefully advance those possibilities, but are not definitive, pre-defining factors. I’ve said many times that Haiti has survived and will continue to do so because of the collective resilience of the people. Haitians have a constant celebration of life that will always propel them forward through any disaster they may face. Haiti’s vision for its future far supercedes temporary political circumstances. The longevity of hope outweighs the ephemeral nature of despair, and Haitians are in no short supply of hope.
More photos of the National Palace can be seen on my flickr.