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5 Myths and Misconceptions About Haiti

Misconceptions about Haiti

Say they word ‘Haiti’ and ask people what comes to mind you are likely to get many things but most are bound to have a negative connotation.

People form opinions about places based on what they have heard or what they know about these places. Haiti isn’t unique in that sense. But, a lot of information about Haiti, on which people form opinions, are sometimes half true or completely false.
Most of the misconceptions about Haiti are based on a single story or vague perceptions of Haiti. All of these, along with Haiti’s self-inflicted issues, have contributed to an unflattering image of the country.
Haiti is poor, that part of true. I’m sure you know this by now, it’s the first they mention about Haiti each and every time. Like that’s the only characteristic of a country of 10+ million people. Tourism contributes greatly to Haiti’s GDP. That’s why it’s important to clarify some misconceptions about Haiti, some of them are hurtful to the country and its people. I recently wrote about 10 reasons you should visit Haiti (here). Let’s take a look at 5 misconceptions about Haiti.
  1. All of Haiti is a tent city 
Misconceptions about Haiti
This photo shows the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake. The most populated areas of Haiti were directly affected. Fortunately, not the entire country, as many are left to believe.

The 2010 earthquake ravaged the country. The infrastructure in Haiti was already weak and the earthquake occurred in a densely populated area, the metropolitan area around the capital Port-au-prince. Utter disaster! I lost former classmates in that earthquake. While this specific area is still recovering, the entire country wasn’t directly hit by the earthquake, indirectly and economically affected, no doubt.

The tents and destroyed houses you might see on TV don’t mean that the entire country looks like a war zone and it’s all slums there. You will find many beautiful houses and neighborhoods, natural wonders, and historical sites throughout the country. If you were to go to North Haiti, for example, you won’t see signs of the earthquake, because this region was not directly hit by this natural disaster.
Hudjy and Michael, of Boyio Tours, at a hotel in Cap-Haitien, Haiti. May 2017.
2. Haiti is very unsafe, high crime rates
Haiti has many issues but it’s not in the top 10 in the Caribbean when it comes to crime. Every country has some good and bad areas. It’s important that one stays alerted while traveling. Because of poverty, some people automatically assume Haiti is a very unsafe place, but it’s not nearly unsafe as some population Caribbean destinations.
According to UN statistics, you are more likely to get robbed in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Belize than in Haiti. It’s not that crimes don’t happen in Haiti, it’s just that crime rates over there are on par with many developed countries. Recently, someone inaccurately commented on our Facebook page abouta  high number of crimes in Haiti. It’s even lower outside of large urban areas like Port-au-prince.
3. Deforestation is rampant, few trees
You might hear that Haiti is one of the worst cases of deforestation in the world. This has been debunked multiple times. Sometimes there are side-to-side aerial pictures showing the Dominican Republic as nice and beautiful while Haiti is naked and ravaged.
When it comes to Haiti, news media at times don’t bother to fact-check. There seems to be an obsession for “poor Haiti” stories. Recently, a meteorologist at the Weather Channel said on live TV that children in Haiti eat trees. So absurd, I laugh at this one.

For years news outlets have perpetuated the myth that Haiti only have 2% forest cover. Peter Wampler, a university professor and geologist, led a research project that concluded that Haiti has more than 30% forest cover, a number similar to that of the U.S. and Germany.

Misconceptions about Haiti
Photo courtesy: Vice News.

 

4. French is widely spoken 

This one is probably an honest mistake. Haitian Creole is spoken by close to 14 million people worldwide. It’s the most spoken Creole language in the world and is Haiti’s main language. Yes, it’s a language recognized by the UN, not a dialect, French meanwhile is the language that Haitians are required to learn in school, it’s not a mother tongue there.
Most Haitians who have at least completed high school should be able to read and write French, and understand some spoken French but unlikely to be fluent in it, as in holding a long conversation. Because French is rarely spoken at home, unless you are part of the Haitian elite, it’s difficult for at least 70% of the population to truly gain and retain fluency in this language. Both French and Creole are official languages in Haiti.
5. Haiti just needs more charity

I can make the argument that Haiti doesn’t need more charity, both literally –nonprofits– and figuratively –handouts. Haiti is the charity capital of the world. There are more charities per capita there than any other place.

I have a nonprofit background (my graduate degree -MPA- focused on nonprofit management) and I believe most nonprofits make a positive impact. I may be a bit biased. They do work that governments are either unable or unwilling to do. But, too much reliance on charities can have negative externalities, no country in the world became developed because of international aid.

Haiti needs help in better utilizing its natural resources, building more infrastructure, increasing the number of highly skilled professionals and having more tourists at its hotels, restaurants and beaches. Not donations that seem to disappear into an abyss.

Take the next step: 

We offer customized tour packages to Haiti. Book your Haiti trip with us today. It will be an authentic, exciting and transformative experience

Hudjy Dolce
About the author

Hudjy Dolce is the Founder of UpCultured and Owner of Boyio Tours. He loves cultural heritage and traveling. He's devoted to social impact through responsible travel. He holds a master's degree in public administration (MPA) from Rutgers University. You can reach him at hdolce@boyiotours.com.

About Us

We are a small tour company based in Guttenberg, NJ. We provide exciting and customized small-group tour packages. It's not a Caribbean vacation, it's an adventure.