Clipped From Lebanon Daily News
Haiti Is Most Exciting Country In Caribbean PORT-AU-PRINPIT. UoUl Rronoh hv l-mmiaoa " • . .*—'„ , .. ..*'.. PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (UPI)-Haiti has to be one of the most colorful and excitirte countries in the Caribbean. It is a land of exotic beauty— of green-mantled mountains crystal-clear waterfalls and primeval jungles. It is a land of contrasts, of the old and the new, of want and wealth, < It is also a land of a proud people. For Haiti was the first Negro republic in the New World, with former slaves winning independence in the early 1800s by defeating the armies of Napoleon's France. Then there's its unique heritage, a blending of African, French and West Indian cultures and traditions. As the late President Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier once put it; Haitians are Africans by race, Americans by geography and French by language. Haiti was a popular port-of- call for years but tourism dropped to virtually nothing in the 1960s because of troubles during Papa Doc's regime. But the picture changed after his death in 1971 and the disbandment of his dreaded secret police known as the Tonton Macoutes. Since Jean Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier succeeded his father, in the Presidential Palace, many of the old fears faded away. As a .result, American and other tourists have been coming back by plane and ship—more than 172,000 in the first nine months of 1973 for a new record, according to official reports. I visited Haiti with other American travel writers in conjunction with a series of inaugurals by Eastern Air Lines to 13 new island destinations in theCarbibbean. In addition to Haiti, they include Jamaica, St. Thomas, Trinidad-Tobago, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, Antigua, Barbados and St. Lucia. It was my second trip to Haiti—my first was in 1965 for the opening of the Duvalier International Airport. Then I was shaken by the grinding poverty of the people and the atmosphere of tension. This time, Haitians in the markets, streets and elsewhere seemed to laugh more readily and talk more freely. The signs of poverty, however, are still there—in the ragged clothes of young and old and the tumbledown shacks in the slums and the courtryskJe. About 90 per cent of the estimated 5 million population are of African descent. The rest are mainly of mixed Afr'ca" French ancestry. Roman Catholicism is the state religion but other church groups are active. Most Haitians profess Christianity but without g'v'ng iip ancestral voodoo traditions. The throbbing of voodoo drums can often be heard echoing through the hills during the night. Port-au-Prince, the capital and main port, fronting on the sea and flanked by mountains up to 7,000 feet, is a colorful city of massive stone and old wooden colonial buildings, and of ornate gingerbread houses and tin-roofed hovels. There are several top-rated hotels in Port-au-Prince, inch'ding the storied Grand Hotel Olofsson, owned by American Al Seitz. But most of the resorts catering to tourists are located in Petittonville. ab<nit 1.590-feet up in the cool hi!ls. All have pools and can help make arrangements for the use of golf, tennis and other sport facilities as well as the beach. We stayH at the Villa Creole, which offers 66 air conditioned rooms on two levels, with terraces providing breathtaking vistas of the mountains and sea. We breakfasted abound the pool shaded by palm and other tropical trees, and there also are a cocktail lounge and delightful restaurant'featuring French and Creole cii'sire. You have to believe the home-made peanut butter is out of this world.