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#4774: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Style Lakay-- Saut D'eau (fwd)

From: Gina Ulysse <gulysse@bates.edu>

While In Haiti recently,  I debated with a development worker on what we
could be done with Saut D'eau.  I came back only to hear the same
argument on this side of the waters. I am all for Tourism.  I just came
back from Cuba where I saw an interesting case of commodifying culture
for economic growth.  Since Haiti has a different history, I say let's
be cautious as we seek to apply those same old approaches to development
that have been failures elsewhere.  My worry or greatest fear is simply
that twenty years from now, locals without the hegemonic $ will be
barred from entering the gated private propreties that their great-grand
parents could walk freely.

Development doesn't have to be destructive to what is already there. For
the first in my life, I went to Saut D'eau. It was beautiful, lovely in
ways that can be understood by those who respect soul and spirit. I
needed to go for multiple reasons. I wanted to see it for real.  Way too
many issues of Newsweek and National Geographic. I wanted to get
drenched by that waterfall and I wanted to talk to the Vierge.  The
beauty in the trip for me was in the tradition that is the pilgrimage
and the different ways that it has changed over the years. While some
were singing their praises, others brought boom boxes and those who
could brought sound systems. All sorts of people were there for
different reasons. I climbed up to the fall twice the15th and the 16th.
En route, I encountered both locals and dyas. People were getting
possessed everywhere in the water, on the road, on the way to the fall,
on the way back from it. Some egged them on and while others exercized
constraint warning friends to get control of themselves. What we all
shared is the desire to participate in this event and that included
those who came with knifes and guns waiting to forcebly partake in the
offerings visitors brought with them for the virgin.

The most wonderful part of this trip for me besides the walks to the
fall and encounters with other pilgrims was the time I spent with my
uncle and friends in the farmer's house that they rent every year. I
have already made plans to stay there next year and for a whole week.
For over a decade, this group of friends have been renting the same
house from the same farmer and his wife. In the lakou, there are four
seperate dwellings. They rented two and occupied two. The funds they
earn during these two to three weeks is a big chunk of their annual
income. So when I think of the numerous houses that locals rent and the
possibility of big hotels and restaurants I cannot help but cringe and
wonder what would happen to the poor farmer, his wife and daughter, her
husband and their kids. What about the men and women who rent donkeys
for the ride to and from the waterfall. What about the little makeshifts
stands that line up the path where you can get coconut? mayi bouyi avek
zaboka? what about the people who charge10 g for a soda?  And those
selling candles, pieces or bars of soap for cleansing? Since most of
these individuals do not have the capital or human resources to be
investors or owners or managers, what role would they play in this
development process. Will they be the bell boys and chamber maids? the
bus boys and waitresses? People who used to own and proudly cultivate
this land would not only have to sell to Big Money for tourism but also
work for BM?  What would that approach to development or should I say
growth do to those existing economic ventures?

In addition, as cultural event,  Saut D'eau is about pilgrimage and
hence requires some real experience of hardship. Comfortable Hotel rooms
and nice restaurants are not exactly part of the package. As I was
continuously told it's also a fet champet. It is not about luxe if all
you can find is the banana leaf just throw yourself on it and be
greatful. When in Rome I guess.....

Finally, I would add that one of the most distressing parts of my visit
was not the beautiful mud that we all waddled through or the impassable
roads to the Fall that only Tet Befs could penetrate but the intruding
photojournalists armed with feet-long lenses that captured images of all
of us there for our own reasons as "wild natives" (for which they will
be paid handsomely) that will soon find their way in print across the

Always with PeaCe and MaXImUm ReSpeKt

Dr. Gina Ulysse
African-American Studies
Bates College                              "CONSCIOUSNESS IS ILLEGAL"
Lewiston ME 04240                                                -PETER
Ph: (207) 786-6436
Fx: (207) 786 8338