At 4:53 PM on January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck sixteen miles west of Port-Au-Prince.
By the time the sun rose the next morning, over two hundred thousand people had lost their lives. Over a million had lost their homes.
The three years since that night have seen progress -- slow, scattered, tenuous progress.
Yet every hopeful whisper of development and prosperity is tempered by the weight of Haiti’s last century. Since long before the earthquake, Haiti has struggled with political, economic, and environmental hardship. A series of ruthless autocrats plundered the nation’s coffers while offering little to their countrymen but nationalist rhetoric, selective clientage, and shallow fixes to deep problems. Violent political instability scared away industry and investment, leaving millions unemployed, while foreign attempts at economic intervention often backfired. Decaying roads and infrastructure made it impossible for farmers to deliver goods to market, forcing them to raze their crops for charcoal, which left the hilly countryside denuded, infertile, and susceptible to flooding and erosion. Dysfunctional state services were supplanted by a network of thousands of NGOs and aid groups, which were run with good intentions but still unaccountable to the Haitian people.
With problems so countless, complex, and interconnected, the situation in Haiti can seem overwhelming and intractable. But for some, even a whisper of progress is reason to be hopeful. Jean-Baptiste Auguste Bertin, a father of three, believes so.
“I may die today, but what the future will bring might help my son, my daughter, the children. The people in Haiti. All Haitians. What we’re waiting for, it’s got to be something mystical. From the Father God. That’s what I want. That’s what we’re waiting for. And I know one day things might get better.”