Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Without Resources, Resourceful

Haiti: Living in Limbo – Island enterprise

Posted By: Bryan Chan
Los Angeles Times
Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines in Haiti’s capital was a smoking ruin when Times photographer Carolyn Cole arrived in the aftermath of the January earthquake. Today the shops may still be shattered, but the businesspeople have found a way to go on.
Reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti — The shattered stores along Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines may never reopen. But amid the colonial-style columns and wide, arched entries, one group of women won’t let a little dust get in the way of beauty.
They’ve set up a sidewalk salon, where patrons soak their feet in large metal bowls. The stylists work in teams, their clients seated on blocks of concrete or broken chairs, strands of faux hair in their laps.

“We just started doing hair at this corner,” Marie Eliz St. Floren says.

A wig costs $25 and a weave less than $5, but in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake, the competition is growing, she says as she twists and ties her client’s long, black braids.

“More people are doing hair now because there are no jobs in the country,” she says. “But I don’t have a problem with it, because everyone has to live together. Life is hard.”

The boulevard is bustling with activity. Women and men walk along with baskets on their heads selling used socks, stalks of sugar cane, a bit of everything. But hardly anyone is buying.

Cobbler Francois Toto rests his elbows on an ancient Singer sewing machine as he waits for customers.

“It used to be a good place to work,” the 28-year-old says of a life spent making shoes under covered walkways that once sheltered wealthy shoppers. “I don’t like it here now, but this is where we have to survive.”

At the street salon, beautician Guerline Desir remembers good times too.

“There was electricity at night. We used to have a street club with music and dancing, girls and boys mixing. It used to be fun.”

But the 38-year-old remains positive. “It’s possible that it will come back…. It could even be much better.”

A few feet away, a woman rides off on a motorcycle taxi, her hair and nails beautiful for the weekend ahead.
carolyn.cole@latimes.com

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