EDITED BY PETER ORNER AND LAURA LAMPTON SCOTT
Jean conducts an interview for Lavil.
Jean Marseille recorded these dispatches on his phone while surviving on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from October through December 2022. As the chaos that followed the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse in July 2021 devolved into further lawlessness, Jean witnessed firsthand a city in free fall.
As Jean has said himself about Lavil (Kreyòl for “the city,” which is what Haitians call Port-au-Prince): “They’re hustling. Everywhere. In every neighborhood you go, you will find people selling. Yes, everybody’s selling something. That’s the life in Port-au-Prince. Everybody’s making commerce. You don’t make much, but you make something for tomorrow.” — Peter Orner
Dispatch #5: 11/02/22
Today is the second of November 2022. This is me, Jean Marsielle, in Haiti.
It seems like the stories that have to do with Haiti are too much. You don’t know where to start. Like today, already something has happened. A flood of people came running towards Delmas 75 section—that’s the section where I’m staying. They were running because of the massive killing that’s been going on in Canaan and those areas.
Let me try and explain: In 2011, Sean Penn, the Red Cross, and Oxfam and many other organizations came from all over the world to try and help all the people who were still homeless from the earthquake of January 12, 2010. Thousands of people were still living in camps in the city center and Delmas. These organizations were trying to find a solution. This was when President Préval was in power. So the Haitian government and all these international organizations, they put their heads together and decided to build big camps for these people north of the city, near the sea. The camps were only supposed to be temporary, five years maximum. But it’s 2022, and guess what? They’re still there.
The Haitian people, they gave their own names to these places: Onaville. Jerusalem. Canaan. You know, names of places in the Bible. They called it the Promised Land. Some people even built houses. But now Canaan is no promised land. It’s the dead land. It’s the people dying land. Right now, it’s become a real dangerous place. Back in the day, it was a very beautiful place, because it’s near where the boats come in.
You see what’s been happening is there’s a deputy minister—some deputy minister of something—and he’s responsible for Canaan and the surrounding areas. Well, he came to the conclusion that it’s time to just get rid of everybody. I guess he wants the land. It’s across from the sea. It could be like a tourist attraction or something.
That’s when all the massive killings started. And so now in this place you’ve got this gang leader. He’s from a part of the Carrefour area, a gang they call Five Seconds. His name is Izo. And he’s working with the deputy minister, trying to get rid of people. Izo did the deputy’s dirty work. He sends his group of guys into Canaan and other camps and they’re just slaughtering people. And these poor people, the ones that aren’t killed, they have nowhere to go.
That’s what’s going on in Canaan, the Promised Land. Okay, it’s me, Jean. That’s all for today.