was one street corner near the airport where youth gangs looked for tourists in unlocked cars, opened the doors on the run, and tried to steal purses or jewelry. My Haitian friends said these were second-generation Haitian-American youths who grew up in New York City, were corrupted by America, and were then deported after criminal convictions. “They don’t even know Creole,” I was told. Even with this pocket of petty crime, Port-au-Prince seemed much safer than Miami. And in contrast to the capital, there was simply no crime in Thomonde. Neither Delva nor the people would tolerate it, and in Thomonde there would be no place for vole to hide. Besides, as Dr. Paul had put it, the poverty was “decent” in Thomonde. Every peasant proudly worked his own little plot of land, compared to the “indecent” poverty of the uprooted masses in Port-au-Prince. During my first visit to Haiti, I was amazed at the peace and security I sensed in Cité Soleil. Now the politics were so unstable that my Haitian friends advised me not to take any students in there. Fortunately, Medishare now had Thomonde.
There were only a few AIDS cases identified in the commune of Thomonde at that time, probably because it was so isolated in the interior and because there were no doctors to diagnose it. The low numbers would surely grow. There were many cases down the road in Cange and even more in Mirebalais. There was more extreme poverty there, increasing the number of people traveling to and from the capital looking for work, forcing more women to turn to prostitution and more men to leave their families to cut cane in other parts of Haiti or in other countries, particularly the Dominican Republic. As tortuous as the drive from Port-au-Prince had been, the road is the only link between the countryside and the capital. In Haiti the AIDS epidemic had evolved in a classic pattern, first appearing in the slums of Haiti’s ports and tourist centers and then slowly spreading to the countryside. Paul had already demonstrated how the road facilitated this spread of disease. The two vectors? The police (if you were a Haitian peasant, you couldn’t say no to the police in the 1980s) and the tap-tap drivers.