Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A year later, Haiti celebrates life, mourns its dead

A year later, Haiti celebrates life, mourns its dead
PORT -- AU--PRINCE -- Some people here are marking this painful day in bed, the hurt too much to bear.

By the early hours of the first anniversary of the deadly earthquake that rocked Haiti, Haitians had visited individual tombstones and passed by mass graves, where hundreds of tiny wooden crosses mark the spot where tens of thousands of Haitians are buried.

Many united in prayer.

On the Champs de Mars survivor camp, thousands of Protestants gathered as pastor after pastor exhorted worshipers to ``celebrate life'' amid praises of ``hallelujah.''

A year ago Wednesday, a 7.0 earthquake killed a city's worth of people; the government here estimates as many as 300,000. Their names have not been logged, and some are still under rubble.

About 810,000 people they left behind still are homeless from that day's devastation. But on Wednesday, Haiti's 10 million survivors declared a national holiday to take the time to remember, to say goodbye to the ones they lost and thank you for the lives they still have.

A variety of activities were planned, including an appearance by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

As a political commentary.... why are these people still homeless? Billions of dollars in aid were donated to this country in the last year (to say nothing of the billions of dollars that have been spent on them in the last decade). Perhaps its time to stop praying to a god who never answers, and start doing some work.

Anyway, where's Haiti:

Note that Haiti shares the same overarcing island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

Haiti is situated on the western part of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Greater Antilles. Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean behind Cuba and the Dominican Republic (the latter shares a 224 mile border with Haiti). Haiti at its closest point is only about 45 nautical miles (52 mi) away from Cuba and has the second longest coastline (1,100 mi) in the Greater Antilles, Cuba having the longest. Haiti's terrain consists mainly of rugged mountains interspersed with small coastal plains and river valleys.

The northern region consists of the Massif du Nord (Northern Massif) and the Plaine du Nord (Northern Plain). The Massif du Nord is an extension of the Cordillera Central in the Dominican Republic. It begins at Haiti's eastern border, north of the Guayamouc River, and extends to the northwest through the northern peninsula. The lowlands of the Plaine du Nord lie along the northern border with the Dominican Republic, between the Massif du Nord and the North Atlantic Ocean. The central region consists of two plains and two sets of mountain ranges.

The Plateau Central (Central Plateau) extends along both sides of the Guayamouc River, south of the Massif du Nord. It runs from the southeast to the northwest. To the southwest of the Plateau Central are the Montagnes Noires, whose most northwestern part merges with the Massif du Nord. Its westernmost point is known as Cap Carcasse.

The southern region consists of the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac (the southeast) and the mountainous southern peninsula (also known as the Tiburon Peninsula). The Plaine du Cul-de-Sac is a natural depression that harbors the country's saline lakes, such as Trou Caïman and Haiti's largest lake, Lac Azuei. The Chaîne de la Selle mountain range – an extension of the southern mountain chain of the Dominican Republic (the Sierra de Baoruco) – extends from the Massif de la Selle in the east to the Massif de la Hotte in the west. This mountain range harbors Pic la Selle, the highest point in Haiti at 8,793 ft.

The country's most important valley in terms of crops is the Plaine de l'Artibonite, which is oriented south of the Montagnes Noires. This region supports the country's (also Hispaniola's) longest river, the Riviere l'Artibonite, which begins in the western region of the Dominican Republic and continues most of its length through central Haiti and onward where it empties into the Golfe de la Gonâve. The eastern and central region of the island is a large elevated plateau. Haiti also includes various offshore islands.

The historically famous island of Tortuga (Île de la Tortue) is located off the coast of northern Haiti. The arrondissement of La Gonâve is located on the island of the same name, in the Golfe de la Gonâve. Gonâve Island is moderately populated by rural villagers. Île à Vache (Cow Island), a lush island with many beautiful sights, is located off the tip of southwestern Haiti. Also part of Haiti are the Cayemites and Île d' Anacaona.

A bit of history>Haiti (pronounced Hay-tee]), officially the Republic of Haiti is a Caribbean country which occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti (land of high mountains) was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the mountainous western side of the island. The country's highest point is Pic la Selle, at 8,793 ft. The total area of Haiti is 10,714 sq mi and its capital is Port-au-Prince. French and Haitian Creole are the official languages.

Haiti's regional, historical, and ethnolinguistic position is unique for several reasons. It was the first independent nation in Latin America and the first black-led republic in the world when it gained independence as part of a successful slave rebellion in 1804. Despite having common cultural links with its Hispano-Caribbean neighbors, Haiti is the only predominantly Francophone independent nation in the Americas. It is one of only two independent nations in the Americas (along with Canada) that designate French as an official language; the other French-speaking areas are all overseas départements, or collectivités, of France.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas as per the Human Development Index. It has experienced political violence throughout its history. Most recently, in February 2004, an armed rebellion forced the resignation and exile of previous President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and a provisional government took control with security provided by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Rene Preval, the current president, was elected in the Haitian general election, 2006.

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and devastated the capital city, Port-au-Prince. Although the exact number was difficult to determine, reportedly more than 230,000 people were killed. The Presidential palace, Parliament and many other important structures were destroyed, along with countless homes and businesses, leaving many homeless.

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