My G Adventures trip to Haiti covered a lot of ground. For the second part of our trip, we flew south, starting our adventure in the legendary Haitian city of culture, Jacmel.
Meeting the Art Creation Foundation for Children
My visit started on a profoundly touching note with a visit and lunch at the G Adventures-supported Art Creation Foundation for Children (ACFFC), where we ate, then spent time getting to know the children and the program which let them be young artists while receiving basic needs and educational support.
Mosaic walking tour of Jacmel
Our guides for the day were remarkable teen participants in the program – photographer Fedno and mosaic master Bruno. Fedno had a press pass and had images published by major international publications and Bruno had designed and led the installation of some the large-scale mosaics which line the streets of Jacmel’s core. Listening to them talk about their work with such confidence, and then seeing the results, was truly inspiring. [Read more about Fedno]
Bruno and Fedno led us around Jacmel to learn about ACFFC’S work and how it has transformed Jacmel since the earthquake, and turned it into a must-see stop in Haiti’s emerging tourism industry.
The mosaics frame the city in colour and enhance its reputation for being an artistic and cultural hub for the country. The large pieces are also the perfect place for taking a quick break on a hot November afternoon.
Our walking tour took us around a series of impressive full-scale mosaics as well as some of Jacmel’s more historic stops. We visited the Cathedral de Saint Philippe et Saint Jacques in the town centre, right across from the old city Marché de Fer, now sitting empty since being relocated to a new, more spacious market in another part of town.
Of the many things I enjoyed in Jacmel, a highlight was the Préfète Duffaut laneway, a staircase featuring mosaics with passages from Hadriana dans tous mes rêves (Hadriana in All My Dreams). Easily the most famous book set in Jacmel, Hadriana was written by Haitian expatriate writer Réné Depestre, who has lived outside of Haiti in exile since 1959. The stark black-and-white tiles aptly illustrate the bleakness of Hadriana’s life after death, among other metaphors, including life under Haiti’s more oppressive regimes and life in exile. For more information about the development of this particular installation by ACFFC, check out Haiti Libre.
At the bottom of Hadriana’s stairs, our tour concluded with a walk around the artists’ quarter near Jacmel’s waterfront. We perused the shops for the famous Kanaval-inspired papier-mâché masks and other Haitian handicrafts.
By sheer coincidence, a small clearing revealed a TV plugged into a generator showing the Champions League group stage match between FC Barcelona and A.S. Roma. FCB was on a hot streak – the good guys won 6-1 – and fast friends were made over love for our favorite football team, language barrier be damned. There was even a guy selling cold drinks, which isn’t that unusual. In Haiti, there always seems to be a guy nearby selling cold drinks.
Our walking tour ended with a stroll on Jacmel’s seaside boardwalk as the sun was starting to set. This particular stretch is illustrated with ACFFC mosaic murals depicting Kanaval fun, swimming in Bassin Bleu, and the best things about life in Jacmel. This is, ultimately, the paradox of Haiti. It’s so easy to think everything is broken or less advanced than what you may find at home, but the truth is so much richer, complicated, and interesting than that.
While in Haiti, I read Edwidge Danticat’s memoir of returning to Jacmel, After the Dance: A Walk through Carnival in Jacmel, where she vividly describes a city bursting with so much life and so many characters, I can’t even fathom how a lifetime would be enough time there. Jacmel is one of those places where I immediately feel the need to return, where I couldn’t possibly begin to know it at all until I knew it longer.
All about my trip to Haiti
For more about my G Adventures trip to Haiti, check out my Haiti travel section:
If you’re extra curious, explore my detailed Google Map of everywhere I visited in Haiti:
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