Monday, May 9, 2011

Port Salut, Haiti in its splendour!

By Jean H Charles

The first Sunday after Easter is the celebration of Quasimodo -- Jesus reminding Thomas in particular, the doubters in general, to have faith in his redemptive mission. It is also, in Haiti, the time for a major religious crusade, bringing people from all over the country and from the Diaspora into a manifestation of prayer and faith in Divine Providence.

It was the 17th Annual Congress, and one of my sisters, Mary-Jo, never fails to attend the religious festival, travelling each time from abroad just for the event. It was my first. I was awestruck by the religious belief and the fervor of more than 10.000 people kneeling, sometimes in the mud, manifesting their faith that mercy is on the way on that special day.

Jean H Charles MSW, JD is Executive Director of AINDOH Inc a non profit organization dedicated to building a kinder and gentle Caribbean zone for all. He can be reached at: jeanhcharles@aol.comThe Monday after Quasimodo, like the Monday after Easter, is the time for picnicking and for outings in the countryside. I took my sister on a long trip (three and a half hours -- 200 km) in the south of Haiti to the town of Port Salut for a two days touristic adventure. I was not disappoinred. Port Salut is Haiti in its splendor. A small town right by the sea, Port Salut is potentially Bali, Indonesia, Acapulco, Mexico and the French Riviera.

We stayed at Dan’s Creek, a quaint, small boutique hotel, where the couple, Katia and Evinx Daniel, holds court with an attentive staff to make the journey an enjoyable and pleasant experience. It starts right at the beginning; the dinner, which is part of the package (breakfast and supper are included in the price of the room: $160 per night for a suite, and $120 for a regular room) was scintillating. My sister has lobster; I had a grilled giant fish. The last time I had such a pleasant fish dining experience was in Istanbul, Turkey.

Evinx is the quintessential nation builder. He was the recipient of the 2010 Digicel competition for the businessman and the entrepreneur of the year in the country. A CPA by profession, who sold out his established insurance agency in Florida to move to the motherland, he has almost singlehandedly transformed the vista of a sleeping fishing village into a resort town with a modern supermarket, several French restaurants, a forthcoming marina and a buzz that Port Salut is the town to own a piece of real estate in.

Yet, he is not a native son. He and his wife, Katia, a nurse by profession, fell in love with the creek that was the focus for a detritus dump. It is now the setting of beautiful hotel.

I took a long walk in the morning throughout the village talking to the natives, inquiring as to which types of activities would enrich each one of them. A young man told me about building a factory. I led his answer towards a fruit and produce cooperative instead.

I got an approving nod when I told him those giant breadfruits that are sold four for one dollar in Port Salut can fetch $28 dollars at retail in the United States. I have seen giant apricots as big as a melon, a specialty fruit not seen or sold yet in the American supermarkets. I bought a full section of baby bananas (25) for $2, they command $0.99 a pound in New York.

Yet, everything is not paradise in Port Salut; I met young men not in school in the morning. My inquiry led me to the information that a group of teachers have been conducting a strike for an unpaid month’s salary.

After the debacle of the elections of November 28, 2010, the people in fury because of the theft of their popular vote burned the tax collector building of Les Cayes, the capital of the south of Haiti. Salary checks issued to public employees were charred and destroyed. The Ministry of Education has not make good of those payments. It follows that kids are idle; an annual examination might be compromised.

On my way back to Port au Prince, the capital of Haiti, I used my personal connections to meet with the Minister of Education and bring about a remedy to the situation. I have been promised a swift resolution. Kids will return to school, the teachers will be paid.

After a long conversation with Evinx in the evening, as Thomas putting his hand into the crucified hands of Jesus, and having set foot in Port Salut, my faith in Haiti was renewed; the candidature of Michel Joseph Martelly took birth right there at Dan’s creek hotel.

Evinx plans to shy away from the political glare and dedicate himself to his business and promoting the idyllic southern coastal area of Haiti.

There are plans in the way for members of the Diaspora to combine their contributions together ($100 per year) to provide each one of the 142 villages of Haiti with $3 million of investment per year for infrastructure, for institution- building and for incubating national entrepreneurship.

Port Salut is just one of the picturesque sites of the chain of towns and villages all along the southern coastal part of Haiti awaiting the influx of the Diaspora and foreign investors to magnify the natural resources for the benefit of all concerned.

The southern coast is also close to Jamaica and one of its most recent touristic ports of call, Portsmouth. The synergy of linking both territories into a travel destination can only benefit both countries and the millions of tourists seeking the latest trend in cultural experience.

The Easter season, as springtime, called for faith in the process of renewal of nature. The forthcoming government, the natural beauty of Port Salut and its environment give me faith in the future of Haiti. It has been and remains as “fabuloso” as Christopher Columbus found it some five hundred years ago!

May 9, 2011