The incessant drone of the motorcycle under me becomes distant as my mind creates images from the words of an elderly woman in the camp I just visited. “The Devil is on the loose in Haiti. He turns into a dog, a pig or a hen, to move unnoticed in the camps and devour life. Last night he appeared as a dog and took the life of a child.” In the camp everyone knows and speaks of the death, and the strange disappearance of the boy’s mother.
Every form that I have ever imagined devilish beings to take are banished from my mind when this Devil appears. He has become a 7-day diarrhea that “devoured” the life of the child. Is it easier to explain death in the hands of a demon instead of looking around and thinking that it might have been the lack of water, hygiene and food that snatched the life?
The destitution of the Haitian people hits me everywhere I turn. In none of the camps I visited is there a face that doesn’t show the mark of poverty. “The city looks like it was bombed,” says the security expert who accompanies me daily. There is no building, house or street that doesn’t show the effects of nature’s strength. They really were bombed – bombarded by political violence, illiteracy, unemployment, AIDS and extreme poverty. The quake did nothing more than expose to the world the indigence of an entire nation.
The three-day-long Mass held to remember the earthquake’s first month moves me in every way. Without realizing it I find myself swaying to the rhythm of the music sung by the throng of mourners dressed in white. The innocent faces of children contrast brutally with the cold stares of looters on Route National #1, the scene of the most dramatic images of the disaster.
In front of the ruins of the Government Palace the plastic sheeting and cloth are slowly being replaced by brick and wood. Probably in a matter of months these camps will become shanty towns built from quake debris turned back into walls and roofs. The debris already has a recognized value.