Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

As protests continue in the wake of Trump's alleged remarks regarding immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, the Caribbean has responded with one voice, in particular with regard to Haiti.

The official reaction from governments and associations across the region condemned Trump's language.

Haiti is a member of the 15-nation Caricom, or Caribbean Community, and its leaders lashed out in a strong statement, condemning the "unenlightened views" expressed by Trump as an insult to the country and its people.

"Of additional concern is this pattern of denigrating Haiti and its citizens in what seems to be a concerted attempt to perpetuate a negative narrative of the country," Caricom said. "We are especially saddened that such narrative emerged at the time of the anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake, which took so many lives."

The group also pointed out that Haiti is the second democracy in the Western hemisphere (1804) after the U.S. (1776) and that "Haiti continues to contribute significantly to the global community, and in particular the U.S."

The blowback of criticism included comments from Hilary Beckles, vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies. The Haitian government issued a statement saying that the statements "in no way reflect the virtues of wisdom, restraint and discernment that must by cultivated by any high political authority."

Paul Altidor, Haiti's ambassador to the U.S., told CNN that Trump's words "did hurt the community, did hurt the country. They insult our dignity." He extended an invitation to Trump to visit Haiti but said that the invitation does not excuse an apology for what was said.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association invited its Facebook followers to celebrate Haiti, "one of the most glorious countries that make up our diverse Caribbean," by sharing stories and images.

An editorial in a Barbados newspaper called for Caribbean immigrants to use their political power to "determine how they will mobilize and to assert their dignity as human beings and influence U.S. public policy."

Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda's ambassador to the U.S. and the Organization of American States, wrote in his weekly column: "Every Caribbean person should make it abundantly clear that we resent this depiction of Haiti, and we call for acknowledgement by all who have exploited it."

On a lighter note, Haitian native Fabien Dodard, a creative director at Parkour Studio in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to run "sh**hole-themed ads for Haiti in Washington, D.C.," according to AdFreak, the daily blog of the Adweek publication. Mockups have already been produced for billboards with headlines like "A majestic sh**hole awaits" set against the backdrop of magnificent waterfall and the hashtag #LoveHaiti. My favorite is "Our sh**hole beaches go on for days" superimposed on an image of a long stretch of turquoise water and white sand.

The campaign is not connected to the Haiti government or its tourism agency. The idea for the campaign began with the Haitian community's activity on social media, sharing images of the country.

"In terms of making a campaign out of it, that was driven by our willingness to change the narrative around our country," Dodard told AdFreak.

Billboards may help, rhetoric may fire up interest in Haiti, but tourists to Haiti will have the most benefit. Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, has been offering small-group adventure tours to Haiti since 2015.

"Tourism is one of the main ways we can redistribute wealth to countries that need it," he said. "Haiti still is rebuilding, but it is a beautiful country with a lot to offer. I'm proud our travelers are helping make a difference to the lives of the people who live there and have had to endure so much."


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