Friday, September 25, 2009

Jacmel to Port-au-Prince Express !

Haiti was, in the 18th century, one of the richest colonies in the French empire. Coffee, sugar in plenty. Early in the 19th century, Haiti won her independence from France, and then rapidly descended into the disorder of dictatorships and political turmoil from which it has never really escaped in over 200 years. What a history there is to be found there when one digs a little. Before visiting Haiti and hearing stories in situ, I had had no idea that the United States had engaged in a complete and often brutal military occupation of Haiti for 19 years, from 1915 to 1934. We never learned that in any of the history classes I had in school. For some reason that pisses me off just a bit. As though some parts of American History weren't fit to mention in public schools.
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Jacmel, Haiti, was clearly once a beautiful colonial city, the remnants of former beauty are everywhere there. But Jacmel, like the rest of the country, has fallen on hard times. This ancient truck symbolized all of that and more for this traveller. ZA - 188 Jacmel Port-au-P express . . . at your service . . .
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36 comments:

Arnaud said...

As usual on your blog... breath taking B&W ruins. Sometimes cars, sometimes your dream house, but always stunning and amazing views !
Thanks for sharing all this with us.

Arnaud said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

Though provoking as always, Owen. Makes you realize just how much of history is fictionalized by lies, by omissions and just by bending the truth or changing the perspective...

Roxana said...

and if you saddled a horse and came to Romania, you would also find many occasions for such gorgeous decay shots, and historical musings...
have you ever been to Eastern Europe?
(yes, i visited Paris a couple of times)

Martin H. said...

Owen

I didn't know about the US occupation either, although it doesn't surprise me somehow.

Informative post with nice photographs to illustrate the point.

TechnoBabe said...

I have wondered if the "history" lessons I received growing up in US were complete and accurate. Apparently not.

Selina Kingston said...

You're so clever! I always learn a little something when I come to your blog x

Deborah said...

The US occupation was something new to me too - your reference to history lessons made me think of the was Japan's role in WWII was presented in their own history books, and I never learned about Canada's appalling treatment of Chinese immigrants in the first part of the 20th century in school, either. Thanks for the post - informative and interesting.

Deborah said...

Oh dear...that'll serve me right for not proof-reading! My comments should have read (as you've figured out, I'm sure) ...'made me think of HOW Japan's role in WWII....etc'

French Fancy said...

Black and white photos are so classy. What in colour might just seem like an old banger is rendered a perfect study in mood.

Susan said...

Haiti - David Blaine did a street magic show from there that still haunts me. You know how he asks for a coin from the crowd to do a trick? Well, the person just lost it - his coin was gone or cut in half (can't remember which). The man's reaction demonstrated to me how very poor they are and how precious any money at all is in Haiti.

Karen said...

In addition to the creative photography, I always learn something from your blog. I do recall something about Cuba and/or Haiti and Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders but don't know if it was in school or independent reading. But it matters not because I've forgotten most of it and will now have to dig up some history to read.
Thanks, Owen.
Five more days and I'm off to Paris!

GYPSYWOMAN said...

LOVE your images and cannot resist following along over here - hope you'll feel free to drop by one of my places and see what's happening in gypsywomanworld - again, love your work! thanks for sharing - have a great day - namaste' - jenean

Gypsy said...

I have always had a fascination for abandoned buildings etc and though they appear haunted and sad they always look beautiful somehow especially in black and white.

louciao said...

Life in the stuck lane. Excellent symbolism, intentional or otherwise.

Harry 'aka' Mojo said...

Bonjour Owen!
N'a pas acheté la voiture, mais est remontée à voir le spectacle Woody week-end dernier, very cool indeed!, Le succès continue, grettings de San Diego!
À la vôtre,
Harry

J said...

In a similar vein, I never learnt anything about the English occupation and colonial policies in Ireland - despite having grown up the long term consequences of them.

the watercats said...

All animals are equal.. but some are more equal than others.. remember!?... I had no idea about the English involvement in Ireland through it's history until I moved here.. niether did my parents! 60 miles of ocean can be enough to flood history sometimes...
Love this picture and the thoughts! Faded grandeur is always a winning format :-)

jeff said...

J'adore ce type de voiture abandonnée, carcasse qui part en barigoule...! C'est réellement magnifique ! Tu n'aurais pas les mêmes en couleur Owen ?... un peu exigeant peut-être ! ! !

A bientôt...
Ciao Amigo !

Alberto Oliver said...

Oh,, Papa Doc´s wicked inheritance, but I will tell you what really piss me off, to see his descendants living an aristocratic life, in FRANCE!!

Owen said...

Hi Arnaud, well, it's not a Peugeot, but it is a beautiful old ruin of a truck, I love the way the rust is eating away the door panels... It is always a pleasure to hear from you, you are more than welcome... all these photos have just been laying in drawers for years... it was time to get them out of captivity and let them tell their tales to the world...

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Dear Comment Deleted, I see you are back again today, mysterious as usual, and cloaking your identity under the veil of obscurity... but I'm happy to see your footprints, whoever you are...

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Steve, most certainly, indeed it worries me when I learn about things like this that there's probably alot more that we don't know about, which is not taught in schools... I hate to sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, but I'm afraid we live in a disturbingly deranged and cynical world. There is an excellent book about the US occupation of Haiti, 1915 to 1934, in fact, that is the title of the book, which is available on Amazon.

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Hello Roxana, no, have not yet been to Romania, but I would love to... will look into saddling my mule... otherwise, I've been to Russia, does that count as "Eastern Europe" ? But have not been to Bulgaria, Ukraine, Hungary, CZ, Slovakia, etc, yet... may just have to change that...
Your last series of photos are breathtaking...

AnSa said...

..interesting post.. every country and age have their own story .. pictures are very original and unusual..:)

Peter said...

Of course it make a nice photo, but the yes, it's really depressing what you show and say!

... and this is where Columbus establsihed a first settlement, L'Isla Espanola, Hispaniola!

Janie said...

I didn't know about the Haiti occupation, but as you say, there's a lot we don't learn in history class.
Interesting old truck that definitely depicts hard times.

babbler said...

Owen,
I can tell that this truck was owned by a slug due to the ornate quality of the human grill in front. Mrs. Slug might even know the owner of that truck, she played in a reggae band with two Haitians a few years back, they ended up moving back to Port-Au Prince to open up a nightclub. The name of the band was "The Magyk Band" and they had a brief stint in television while working in LA California where I worked with them. To my knowledge, I was the only female slug drummer they ever worked with. They had wild stories of coming over on a boat and landing in Florida. They told me they hitchhiked to Los Angeles, and had a very interesting time getting through the deep south. They were two of the finest drummers I have ever worked with, I hope they are doing fine and I also hope that the nightclub they bought is located on high ground. I think about them every time I see the storms hit Haiti. Thanks for the wonderful pictures!
Mrs, Slug

Rosie said...

Is there such a thing as history then? I thought it depended on who you talked to....

DaisyDeadhead said...

Amazing photos once again, Owen!

Not Waving but Drowning said...

A metaphore for life...particularly with the black and white photography.

GG

Anonymous said...

Bon ! Je lance un appel à qui aurait vu un homme du nom de Owen, visage blanc, et noir, aux cheveux noirs, et blancs, yeux noirs, et blancs...
Il se trouvait il y a très peu de temps en Haïti entre deux carcasses de voitures... noir et blanc... Un fût de tisane millésimé sera remis en récompense à la personne qui pourra donner des informations sur la dite personne... Tout demande de rançon sera étudiée sérieusement...!

Snas déconner... Owweeeennnn ! ! ! Reviens !

Un pixelpote...

The Sagittarian said...

Some places do have a 'need to know' policy for history don't they! Love the photos, as ever.

robert said...

Thinking about school and its history lessons, I cannot remember any which taught us much about the U.S. or Haiti, let alone about countries which where suffering as a colony. Looking into the history books of the nineth grade over here, I found out that they cover Greece within the first 130 pages, leaving other 20 to the dictatorship of WW II and its results for Greece. Seems as if there is still many lessons needed - thankfully there is your site. A wonderful start into the new week.

Owen said...

Hi Martin, After seeing the number of people responding here that they hadn't heard of it either, I'm now wondering just how many people ever have heard of it. Certainly a little discussed chapter of history there...

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TechnoB, I hate to think what all was omitted from our schooling... I didn't find out about "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" until well after high school either...

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Selena, you are too kind... so in that case, come back frequently...

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Hi Deborah, well I never heard of Canada's treatment of Chinese immigrants either... but I am quite certain now that there are myriad chapters in history which the "history book editors" would rather we just forget about... I suppose their motto is something like "Ignorance Is Bliss"?

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Bonjour FF, glad you like the "old banger" in black and white ... but oh my, I'd say that quietly, if Louciao and/or Amanda hear you going on like that about old bangers, they are going to be back here in no time with a whole string (no, that does not mean "underwear") of un-savoury comments. Seems to me there was a dish in the UK called "bangers and mash"... Not to mention a drink called a Harvey Wallbanger...

Owen said...

Hi Susan, indeed. I think the story that really struck home for me just how far poverty can go was what we saw while in Haiti, people would actually dig up graves in order to steal the hardware (handles, hinges, screws, nails) off the coffins. Pretty grim...

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Hi Karen, I hope you have an absolutely fabulous trip to Paris ! There is an excellent book about the US occupation of Haiti, available on Amazon...

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Hi Jenean Gypsywoman, many thanks for dropping in here... I'll be by to take a peek in a little bit here... many many thanks !

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Gypsy, I think black & white often brings out the best in a photo... for years I only shot with b&w film, but now with digital it is wonderful to be able to shoot in color and then see what it looks like in black and white, just be sliding the "saturation" all the way down to the end of the scale...

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Lynne, for sure, this truck is going nowhere in a hurry... and wasn't "Life In The Stuck Lane" a famous song by the Vultures ???
:-D
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Hey Harry, well, with or without the Woody, I'm sure you'll find a way to have a great time... party on !

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Dear J, Ireland is another area in which I'm woefully ignorant, with only the vaguest of notions... sure wish I had time to read everything I could imagine wanting to read.

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Hi Vicky, amazing how stretches of salt water can wash away memories, forcing us to dive ever deeper to dig up the truth... such as it can still be found.

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Salut Jeff ! Suis content si ceci aurait touché un point de plaisir... en fait, couleur non-disponible, car image d'un negatif de pelicule noir et blanc Kodak Tri-X... peut-être on pourrait couleuriser les images ?

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Hi Alberto, yes, last reports were that Baby Doc was still in France... God only knows what went on behind the scenes to make that happen...

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AnSa, very glad you've enjoyed them...

Owen said...

Hi Peter, Hard to imagine Columbus landing on those shores before 1500, and finding an Indian tribe living there, the Tainos/Arawaks, who did not fare well in the ensuing course of events. Well, hopefully not too depressing, these photos and thoughts, for me there is something joyful in the observation of change and evolution. When I stumble on an artifact like this truck, I feel perhaps something of the pleasure an archeologist might feel at discovering and ancient trace of man...

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Hi Janie, I guess learning history can be a life long activity... for there is no shortage of subject matter out there...

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Dear Mrs Slug, thank you for this wonderful story of travelling drummers... indeed, I hope they are doing ok today, because Haiti was not getting easier to live or work in, from everything I've heard since visiting there. Interesting, I also met a Haitian musician while staying there, he played guitar with a group called "Boukman Eksperyans"... and he looked alot like Jimi Hendrix... Well, at least this summer there were not so many tropical storms over Haiti, which is a good thing, as they've had a bad time of it over the past few years. The land has been de-forested to the point where storms very quickly become dramatic due to the run off quickly causing floods. Which are calamitous for both people and slugs...

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Hi Rosie, I guess history can be a very malleable metal indeed...

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DaisyDH, Many thanks, a grateful day to you as you start the new week !

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Hi GG... what starts out young and shiny and raring to go ends up rusty with missing wheels and standing still stagnating... is there any escape ?

Owen said...

Cher Anony Mouse, où peut-il être, cet animateur, cet âne-i-mateur, ce magicien qui disparait si facilement derrière la fumée du noir et blanc; bon, en fait, il faut payer un grand rançon en barils de tisane, car après avoir passé le weekend à arpenter les sentiers du parc Marquenterre, et à faire du vélo jusqu'à Quend-Plage, et se balader dans les rues et avenues de... Rue, je t'assure, j'ai bougrement soif ! Alors pixelpotes du monde entier, je suis-là, mais le gite où nous étions ce weekend n'avait pas de wifi, tout juste si l'on avait un lit... En tout cas, pas d'inquiétude, je n'ai pas été kidnappé par une bande de Cht'is...
:-D

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Dearest Saj, you are quite restrained here I see, perhaps sobered up by the sight of this lovely truck detiorating rapidly...? Did you see the above comment where it was referred to as an "old banger" ???

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Hello Robert, delving in history books is a dangerous business, as one never knows where such delving may lead in terms of buried treasures. And in Greece they have some serious history indeed. How incredible it must be for you to live there, I can't begin to imagine. Have you maybe come across the author John Fowles in your travels ? He set one of his books in Greece... The Magus... an enchanting tale.
Take care...

The Sagittarian said...

Oh dear, I do hope you're not inferring I may be an old banger myself? I'll have to ration your rum...