|Haitian National Palace
(Photo by John Carroll, September 15, 2012)
One of the most beautiful and elegant buildings in the Americas was destroyed in less than a minute on January 12, 2010. The Haitian earthquake crumpled the Haitian National Palace. The quake also destroyed almost all of the other Haitian ministry buildings in downtown Port-au-Prince.
The Palace had been built using American engineers when the US occupied Haiti from 1915-1934.
This edifice was twice as large as our White House and it represented Haitian politics, ruthless dictators, and failed presidents. Many Haitians considered it a “den of corruption”.
Sean Penn and his charity recently volunteered to knock down the vestiges of the Palace. During the last several weeks Penn employed 98% Haitian labor, some American engineers, and used big Caterpillar equipment. The sagging cupulos and most of the building is now at ground level.
The street in front of the Palace is blocked off to traffic and a green mesh has been placed interlacing through the fence surrounding the Palace. The final destruction of this building was shrouded by the mesh and semi-hidden from the public.
And now Haitian President Michael Martelly states that he does not know where the funding is going to come from to build a new Palace.
Why build a new Palace?
I can promise you that people are dying just a few blocks away for very stupid reasons. Watching sick three-year olds, thirteen-year olds, young men, and skeletalized old ladies gasping for their last few breaths is horrid. Are their lives not more important than another opulent political building?
Port-au-Prince is a morass of misery. The millions of dollars needed to reconstruct another Palace should be used instead to improve the basics that poor humans require to live with a little dignity. Millions of people in Port-au-Prince are trying to live moment-to-moment, breath-to-breath.
President Martelly, forget the symbolism. Please attend to the living.
The Haitian National Palace is history. Let it be.
John A. Carroll, MD