Haiti is the only country in the Caribbean that earns only 10% of its income from tourism. Most of the other Caribbean countries earn 90% of their income from tourism and related industries. This fact is not surprising, given that most of what people hear and see on the news about Haiti is not exactly inviting.
You´ve probably heard about its political instability and the natural and man-made disasters that have devastated this small country. Most people have a preconceived idea of Haiti, and its probably not a positive one. So, as a “blan” (foreign) lover of Haiti who has the luxury of having family here, I will share with you about the Haiti that the news won’t show.
As a January 2016 TIME article states, there are two Haitis, “The CNN Haiti, and the real Haiti.” Every time I come here I observe the shortcomings of this largely misunderstood country and revel in its upsides, which are many.
If you ever decide to come to Haiti, these are just some of the perks you can enjoy if you are wiling to embrace new experiences and avoid comparisons with your first-world life.
1.- Beautiful landscapes.- I am told by family that I have not seen the most beautiful areas of Haiti, and yet what I have seen is pretty breathtaking. Outside of the cities, there are lush mountains, natural pools, and welcoming beaches. You will have to mingle with the locals to enjoy these, since there is minimal foreign tourism, but that is what I most enjoy about the experience. We recently visited Bassin Bleu near Jacmel and it was a refreshing and fun experience. There were local Haitians taking pictures and videos of us “blan” tourists!
2.- Tasty food.- Haitian food is amazing. Chicken tastes like chicken. Eggs taste like eggs. You don´t need to buy organic food because the food is as natural as you can get it. My favorite dish is lambi (conch), but the goat and pork are just as good. No matter what you eat, you can´t go wrong. If you are worried about getting sick, just exercise common sense and don´t eat unwashed fruit or vegetables, or drink tap water. I have never gotten sick in Haiti so far, and on the other hand became ill from food at a restaurant in a five star resort in Turks and Caicos.
3.- Unique art.- If you are a lover of arts and crafts made with recycled material, Haiti is the place to go. During my recent visit I was able to go to an artisan village in Croix de Bouquets and watch the artisans at work. I bought a beautiful metal angel that I´m taking back to Florida to remind me of the good things in life.
I was also able to visit the famous Iron Market in downtown Port-au-Prince.My family and I went up and down every single aisle checking out everything from carved wood souvenirs to vodou flags, powders and bottles. Unfortunately for the merchants, we were the only tourists there. I bought a beautiful metal bracelet, and a bunch of necklaces for gifts. But you can also find beaded purses, clothes, handmade sandals and more. It was a lot of fun and the merchants were not overly aggressive, trying to sell us their wares. On the contrary they were all very happy to see us. I just wish they had more clients!
4.- Great music.- If you have never listened to Haitian music I suggest you give Boukman Eksperyans a try! I discovered them thanks to a family member who took my husband and I to a concert in Pétion Ville in 2012. I bought all their CDs and quickly became an ardent fan. If you can see them live in Haiti, don´t miss it! During my second visit, I was fortunate to attend a dance class with one of the dancers that performs with the group. How cool is that? This time around I´ve found that the youth in Haiti listens to music that is very similar to what the youth everywhere else listens to—but in Creole.
5.- Friendly people.- For the most part you will find that Haitians are interested in “blans” and happy to see tourists. If you attempt to speak French or Creole, they will do their best to figure out what you´re saying. Or you may find they speak English or Spanish too. If more foreigners came to visit, this would boost the country’s economy and empower its people.
If you’ve been to Haiti, I’d love to know what you most enjoy about it. If you haven’t, what else would you like to learn?