Yogis and yoginis, my heart breaks for Haiti and its people. Looking at the images and watching the news makes me cry inconsolably. The devastation, the loss, and the suffering is so overwhelming that it almost mutes the few miracles that occur. It is hard to find hope when signs of death are all around. There is so much I want to say but I can’t find the words.
These last few days, I have thought about how natural disasters have even graver consequences for people living in poverty. There is a connection between poverty and vulnerability and as we’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina, the same effect is is seen in Haiti with more dire consequences. The combination of lack of infrastructure and a weak government have created road blocks to aid, food, water, medicine, equipment, and communication, etc.
How did the once richest and most prosperous country become the poorest in the Western hemisphere today? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never learned about Haitian history in school and it was only until I got to graduate school and took a course in African-American studies did I learn a little about this country that was once the pearl of the Antilles. The following pithy summary of the country’s political economic history may give you insight into how vulnerable Haiti is today to natural disasters.
Once a colony France, slaves taken from West Africa worked the sugar and coffee plantations for trade. The French Revolution that began in 1789, which was highly influenced by the American Revolution decades earlier, had a great impact on the people. Through the military leadership of General Toussaint L’ouverture, African slaves and Afro-Haitians successfully revolted against the French, freeing themselves from their colonizers and abolishing slavery by 1804. Haiti would become the oldest black republic in the world and the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere, only after the US. Think about it folks. 1804. Imperialism and colonialism abounded. But in Haiti, black people were free while the institution of slavery flourished worldwide including our very own United States. Despite gaining freedom, Haiti had to pay the equivalent of billions of dollars of reparations to France for successfully revolting. Nations refused to recognize this new black republic and therefore, refused to trade with it. In essence, Haiti lived in total isolation despite its ability to produce sugar and coffee. With no source of income and shouldered with debt, it laid the foundation for the country’s poverty over the next 200+ years. Decades and decades of political instability culminated in an American invasion in 1915, occupying the country militarily for 25 years. Our country backed up Haiti’s dictators in an effort to support our own interests. By the mid 20th century, the country accelerated its deforestation as a source of income yet the environmental effects are detrimental. Soil erosion decreases land productivity and increases droughts and damages infrastructure projects as well as coastal marine life. Here’s a great article I read recently on Haiti.
As Port au Prince lays in ruins, I am forever reminded that life is precious and every day is blessing. Hug those you love. Tell someone you love them.I do believe that only out of nothing can everything become possible. So my hope and prayer for Haiti is that this devestating tragedy will bring forth opportunities that may one day elevate it to regaining its title of the pearl of the Antilles once again.
If you want to read more about Haiti, check out:
Friends, today I hit my wall in the torture chamber. Attended 5:30pm with Kara, one of my faves. The room was incredibly hot so much so that our towels and our mats were hot to the touch. I could sense it too from Kara who moved around the room, playing with the heaters and opening the windows, and inspiring us with her energy by asking us to reach deep within ourselves to find our strength. But today, I had no mental strength. I knew I was in trouble at pranayama breathing when I struggled with the heat in the second set. By standing bow, I really just wanted to sit down. I struggled through it but lost the battle for the first set of triangle. My second set of triangle was strong so I knew it was mind that was fatigued, not my body even though it is sore. I just couldn’t fight for it any more. I sat out again for the second set of standing separate leg forehead to knee pose. After this pose, I had to find a way to get through class. So I decided to dedicate the rest of my practice to Haiti and the people of Haiti. It helped. I found the strength I needed to get through tree pose and toe stand and the entire floor series.
People were dropping like flies, even those of us who have a regular practice in the front row. By the second set of camel, 90% of the back row didn’t bother sitting up for a second set. Kara even commented, “Whoa, back row! What happened to you? Ka boom boom boom and boom!” By the time we were done with that second set of camel, there were only 10 of us in a room of 60 still in the pose.
Today, my studio offered a huge bowl of grapes and I hungrily partook of them and downed a second liter of water as I sat outside of the locker room for another 15 minutes just trying to recover. I could sense the wall was coming and today, I crashed into it at such a high velocity.