Venance Lafrance Is Not Dead
Credit: Photograph by Ben Lowy
The Rue Dalencourt winds down then up the steep valley between the Avenue John Brown and Canapé Vert. Before the quake, this had been a shady street of small houses and apartment complexes. The largest of these apartment complexes, a homicidal five-story monster, had come down. A few surviving relatives – a young woman, her brother, some friends – had hired a group of young men to do the dangerous work of pawing through the rubble. I sat outside and watched the diggers for a few minutes. Not far from us on the ground was a charred spinal cord and skull. The smell of decomposing flesh was quite strong in the air. Later, the diggers came up with the body of the young woman's sister – a large woman, to judge by the six men needed to carry her. Haiti is a country where women take pride in their voluptuous displays of grief – there exists an entire profession of paid mourners, whose copious tears and loud wailings are taken as a tribute to the qualities of the departed. I had been at a funeral not long before the quake where distant lady friends of the deceased had attempted to throw themselves bodily into the coffin. Now this young woman walked over, identified her sister, and walked back with a cool smile on her face.

This was like another country than the one I thought I knew.