Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Haitian Squatters

Squatters Looking for a Home of Their Own in Haiti

Jacques Klin is ankle-deep in dirt -- digging, singing -- with an irrepressible grin on his face. Today is a big day. Today is the day he stakes his claim.

Around him on these hills outside of Port-au-Prince, tens of thousands of people have already done the same thing. The idea might not be his, and even the dirt does not belong to him, but Kiln does have the one thing everyone in Haiti seems to need right now -- a dream.

Six months ago, this land was nothing but crickets in the grass. Now, it's Haiti's new frontier, a landscape of squatters whose greatest hope is a home of their own. Gray and blue shacks and shanties extend for miles. Small gardens and homemade fences break up each plot. There are no trees or water. At the region's eastern end, a small herd of emaciated, confused horses wanders between the tents.

Many of the shacks are clustered close to the three big camps in this region, Corail, Village Blue, and the sardonically named, "Obama" camp. Despite Kiln's smile, to an outsider, the hills have the look of a very odd, very grim train garden.

"President Preval says anyone can take this land," he says.

That's not the truth, of course. Which Kiln certainly knows, since his government has never given him anything of real value. But it is some version of the truth, and more than enough to hang his hopes on.

The rest of the article here.

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