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#271: ethanol vs. clairin (fwd)


     Ethanol alcohol was buried yesterday amidst flags, trumpets, tubas, and 
t-shirts (that read "Men nan men Pwodiksyon Nasyonal ap vanse" on the front 
and "President Preval = National Production" on the back) and a sign at the 
grave that read "Adieu Ethanol." No ordinary burial this, it was preceded by 
a rally in Leogane, Haiti where local farmers have been actively enraged 
about the imported ethanol alcohol (presumably purchased for hospital use) 
which has been competing with Haitian made clarin (Haitian rum--moonshine, if 
you will--produced for local consumption), a major source of income from the 
sugar cane harvests. 

     President Preval was on the stage, along with many community leaders 
(including the mayor, Catholic and Episcopalian priests, Dr. Jack Lafontant 
and others from Hopital Sainte Croix, and 16 people representing the 16 
sections of the Leogane commune), at least three members of the president's 
cabinet and visitors from Cuba who have offered their professional assistance 
in improving cane and clairin production as well as other products, based on 
advances made in Cuban sugar cane fields. 

     I believe the point was best made by Jean Dominique, the director of 
Radio Haiti Inter. He said that when he was approached by a peasant 
organization about the problem of ethanol being sold as clarin [in 
competition with?], he deemed it worthy of radio air time. "Let it be 
understood," the announcer says, "Ethanol is not clarin. Ethanol is ethanol. 
Clairin is clairin." (In fact, that radio spot was my first introduction to 
the problem. How refreshing to hear a real public service announcement on 
commercial radio instead of enticements to purchase! It sure got my attention 
and made me want to know more.)

     He went on to say that when the president comes to town to hear about 
the problem with clairin production, it is natural for everyone to want to 
bring up their own particular concerns: "we have a problem with mangoes...we 
have a problem with bananas...we have a problem with sanitation." But it is 
important that when there is a problem in one area the people in a community 
gather together and focus on that problem. He testified that when President 
Preval starts working on a problem he is committed to resolving it. And it is 
important to all of us--whether we care about clairin or not--that this 
problem be addressed lest it go the way of sugar production in Haiti, or 
coffee (and I'm sure we can think of others). It may not be our particular 
problem of choice at this time, but its resolution is critical to the 
resolution of other problems.

     Once again, I am hearing and seeing the Haitian people say we have to 
stick together, we have to work together for our common good. We are all 
interconnected. I was thrilled to see people representing various groups 
within the community: people I had met through playing tennis at the public 
tennis court, people I knew through the hospital, people I knew from morning 
and afternoon walks in the same neighborhoods, people from local businesses. 
When the mayor spoke, he acknowledged that even though he is from a different 
political party than the president and most of the farmers it is important 
everyone work together!

     Is ethanol really dead and buried? It was, of course, a symbolic burial 
that took place off of Route Nationale when the rally in Leogane was over. 
But as Tom Driver, author of "Liberating Rites: Understanding the 
Transformative Power of Ritual," makes it clear in his book, symbolic events 
have profound power to transform not only people but also society. May it be