remained silent for a while, pondering the gravity of my assessment. We then launched into a serious discussion of all the factors that might drive poor people anywhere, not just in Haiti, to sex early and often, the status of women and their dominance by men, prostitution as a survival strategy, family breakup for economic or political reasons, emigration, lack of education, lack of health care, and lack of hope for the future.
Then one of the journalists interrupted to tell us that a famous Haitian singer was there in the hotel and was going to sing for us. Beethovan Obas and his brother Mozart gathered us together in another part of the terrace. His stage name when spoken, not as spelled, in Creole means “Down with Beethoven.” His music was a blend of jazz and island beat, sometimes in French, usually Creole. The sound was soft, upbeat, and happy. But if you understood the words “Ayiti Mouri” you would see that they mean “Haiti is dying.” As he sang, the Haitian faculty joined in the chorus: “Nou pa, nou pa, nou pa, nou pa …” (We’re not, we’re not, we’re not, we’re not.”) He was left-handed and played his small acoustic guitar upside down, inventing new cords and finger formations. We sang until after midnight, until an American businessman came out of his room and screamed that we were keeping him awake. Junia, Henri, Ron, Marlon, and Jerry decided they would take Barth, Ruth, and the others out to a Haitian disco. “How can you go dancing after what we saw today?” I asked them.
“Haiti is like an onion, Art,” philosophized Henri, solemnly. “You’ve got to peel away one layer at a time. What we saw today is why we dance.”