Seeing Havana and Haiti

Seeing Havana and Haiti

I have always felt a strong connection to Haiti. I’m not sure why, but I was overwhelmed with emotion the first time I saw the mountains of the country from the plane. I’ve been twice and both trips affected me deeply. Then, last year, I had the chance to go to Havana when the borders opened to U.S. travelers. During the trip I kept saying “this is just like Haiti.” I said it so many times it must have been ridiculous, but something of the essence was the same. It surprised me.

I remember in particular how people in both places so fully use what they have. They value things that Americans would consider trash, broken, useless, and turn them into useful objects or even beautiful things. The front of a bus becomes a gate. A cracked bucket is a chair. An antique candy dish holds the soap and sponge. The patina of age covered everything with a beauty that could never be manufactured and I couldn’t stop looking. Both countries are considered impoverished but that’s not what I saw at all. The creativity I witnessed in both places made me see the abundance and waste that happens here in the U.S., but even more, I came to appreciate the incredible ingenuity that is by necessity a part of everyday life in both Havana and Haiti. Since then, I have never felt that what I had wasn’t enough.

Catherine Hollingsworth

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