In Jacmel Haiti, we ventured down a shaded side street and into an avenue of crumbling factories that seemed all abandoned. But behind those rusted red doors was something of a secret discovery.
Haiti always has something surprising to show.
Part of the surprise is that Haiti hasn’t been a destination on the top of most lists to travel to, so much of what’s to see and experience is unknown. But I’ve already gone through the reasons why you shouldn’t judge Haiti by its media coverage and why it is one of my favorite places to visit. Besides just those surprises of the unknown, when I visit Haiti I always feel like I’m having some profound experience — more so than I feel in other places.
It isn’t the monuments of history like Rome, where I lived out a childhood dream exploring the Colosseum. It isn’t moments like bungy jumping for the first time and the feeling of death and life gripping you within seconds of each other. As always with Haiti, it’s something more engrossing, more powerful, and more raw. It’s the feeling of the air around every experience there. In every interaction. In every step and touch and taste and smell and smile. It’s old and fragile yet ready to burst at the seams with life. There’s just some things that hold it back, and a part of that is that the world and people look at Haiti like a crumbling ruin that should just be passed by without a glance.
As I’ve come to experience from both of my trips to Haiti, one in 2012 and the last in 2015, is that no matter how it looks to the naked eye, Haiti always holds surprises within. And with that said, it was no different when we came upon an avenue of apparently abandoned buildings. As we wandered the side streets of Jacmel Haiti, we found a small gallery hidden behind a half-opened red iron door of a cracked building.
Inside, we met Prince, the owner of the gallery who we had the pleasure to learn from about the history of those very buildings. And he gave us a private tour of the abandoned factories connected, ones that held the past of a prosperous Haiti frozen in time behind locked doors. Inside those crumbling shells told the story of Jacmel, a booming port city in the early 1900’s — and those buildings were coffee factories processing coffee brought in from the hillsides.
It wasn’t just another abandoned place, because I do my fair share of urban exploring. The whole time walking through those halls and hearing the history gripped me, and nearly stole my breath. I could feel the “once upon a time” of it all. But more importantly, it was what beautiful things were happening behind these crumbling facades that was the surprise. Instead of passing it by without a glance, we chose to peak in and discover what was really beneath the surface. Now it’d your turn to.
Come check out the video that I’ve put together about this experience, and share your thoughts after!
Again Haiti left me in wonder. For it is only here that I feel I see such an inspirational rise from ruin to create beauty from decay.”