This is part one of a guest series about a trip to Haiti. A friend, “Captain”, who travels frequently to the Caribbean for work took a trip to Haiti with Delta and the Haiti Department of tourism to explore the country, people, culture and get a sense of how this country is recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2010.
Last week I ventured into the realm of the unknown, the often criticized, and the rarely visited. I did so via Delta’s daily flight from JFK to PAP. I also looked at flying from ATL but it won’t be daily until next summer and I had a specific timeframe. I have some fantastic pictures and stories to share with you about my flights, hotels, eats, shows and experiences. I’m not sure how many words or pictures it will take but hopefully I can communicate the fact that any tour of the Caribbean is totally incomplete without a visit to Haiti.
This is my first post on a trip to the “Land of the High Mountains” in the Western Half of Hispaniola known as the country of Haiti. A journey into a mystical outpost, holding many secrets from a dark past and not too distant present. From this historical struggle has been born a country of strength, perseverance, beauty and an undying love for their culture.
Voodoo or Vodou as it is spelled in Creole, is a religion that originated out of the French Colony of Saint Domingue, in the location of present day Haiti. While many Americans may be familiar with the term, most will never have the opportunity to experience an actual ceremony in the land of its birth. I did, and it completely possessed me.
What I witnessed was actual descendants of the original Mambos and Houngans performing a ceremony passed down to them from generation to generation. One by one the women of the ceremony were flung across the room by something that I could not and did not want to see. I wanted to participate but couldn’t. I wanted to look away but couldn’t. I felt like I was watching a Nascar race at Atlanta Motor Speedway with my eyes fixated on the 190 mph wreck before me. I tried to avoid all glares, stares, brushes and touches with the women of the night. In Vodou tradition they had been mounted by the God Iwa. I wasn’t sure who Iwa was, what sex they claimed on their tax return, what they wanted with the participants of the ceremony or why they mounted people at all, but I was positive that I didn’t wish to find out.
As one of the possessed women came backwards around the ceremony ring, touching all in the room, I slowly retreated out of the doorway. In that moment I felt safe. Safe in the darkness of the night. Safe from the view of the ceremony. Safe from what I did not understand.
Just as I began to feel a moment of relief, a tug at my shirt sent chills up my arm. As I slowly turned to face my fears, I realized that Iwa had found me in the form of the very woman I had avoided. I’m not sure how she found me but I didn’t really care. As I was drawn slowly back into the room, I realized that I felt closer to my messenger, closer to the ceremony and closer to Saint Domingue. I had been possessed in Haiti and in the end it was quite comforting.