In Jacmel Haiti, Abandoned Coffee Factories Become Vibrant Art Galleries (With Video)

In All Topics, Haiti, Videos by Ryan1 Comment

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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!

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Old iron doors this heavy duty were a sign of a prosperous business.

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Century old coffee machinery still intact.

 

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Near the coffee machinery, Voodoo drawings on the wall. Our guide said some people sneak in to have ceremonies here.

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I could feel this profound “once upon a time” sense here, almost as if I could see the machinery running and the business bustling.

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An old well that is said to be cursed by bad Voodoo spirits, or so I was told.

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Old desks with paperwork and transaction receipts still cluttering the surface.

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An old bottle of rum, nearly 100 years old, stands defiantly dusty against time. On the label it noted all of the health benefits of rum. Ain’t that something?

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Automobile lubrication charts that were used as mock instructions on up keeping the coffee machinery.

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Century old ledgers and receipts, handwritten, noting sales of tens of thousands of Haitian dollars worth of coffee lay scattered on the ground.

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“These were once all coffee factories” our guide said as he took me to the rooftop.

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“It wasn’t the earthquake” he told us in his harsh cigarette voice, “it was just forgotten.”

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The intricacies of the arches and doors show just how wealthy this factory once was.

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Across from the crumbling factory, he had more to show us. More of the abandoned factories that weren’t just “forgotten”.

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An art gallery and studio was created from the ruins of one factory to make an inspirational space for young artists.

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Some artists favor traditional art, others modern. Much on display was also different mediums used to depict Voodoo culture and history.

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Political art, amongst the rest, was prominent here with the young artists using their skills as their voice.

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A young Haitian artist paints a traditional piece with other students, depicting history of Haiti using different symbols.

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Quotationmark

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.”


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Comments

  1. These photos are beautiful! Thank you for sharing your journey. You are right, Haiti is not a destination of most, but these photos are inspiring!

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