July 12, 2010

Brendan Hoffman: Haiti, Six Months Later

Today is the sixth month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. (Please see Jon Lowenstein’s images and the BagNewsSalon discussion of the media coverage of the immediate aftermath.) Photographer Brendan Hoffman returned a few days ago, and sends us this update from Port-au-Prince:

I flew to Haiti fully expecting to find that not much has changed since I was last here in late February. For the most part, just walking the streets, that seems to be the case. In some ways, people’s lives have returned to something approximating the grinding poverty most experienced before the earthquake. In that respect, maybe Haitians are less numb with shock and can focus on wringing small bits of joy from their daily lives.

Grand Rue, one of Port-au-Prince’s main shopping streets, is again crowded with market stalls selling everything from blenders to beauty products, and most people seem to take pride in the daily chores of cooking and cleaning and taking care of their families. But there is a lot of frustration. There was honest hope that the tremendous surge in resources and attention focused on this small, dysfunctional country would change things for the better. Perhaps these hopes were too high, and change will come, just not overnight. But the window for convincing average Haitians that anybody is looking after their interests is rapidly closing.

Elections scheduled for late November don’t seem to be an important topic of conversation because there isn’t any sense that they matter. For all the thousands of NGOs working on the ground, the streets are still filled with rubble and hundreds of thousands of people still live in small shelters made of tarps, which degrade quickly in the brutal tropical sun.

The incredible tolerance for the press has also subsided quite a bit since my last trip. Everyone has had their story picked clean by the media, and displays a weary yet refreshing lack of interest in another fifteen minutes of fame. At least the aftershocks have subsided, and there hasn’t been a hurricane yet this season.

–Brendan Hoffman


caption: Women sit on a street corner along Grand Rue on July 7, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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Brendan Hoffman
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