La Gonave: Gold in the Trash
Gonâve, once called the island of Gonaïve, is an island of the Caribbean incorporated in Haiti. It is located in the Gulf of La Gonâve with an area of 689, 62 km2. It is the largest of the three islands of Haiti. As a native of La Gonave, I am shocked and saddened by the lack of knowledge of the island by Haitians and foreigners. The island is divided into two communes including Pointe-à-Raquette the second city and Anse-à-Galet the first.
Many people don’t know much about La Gonave so I will list some interesting facts about the island. It is one of three offshore islands that is part of Haitian territory. The others are Ile De Tortue and Ile A Vache. Navassa is another offshore island that is considered Haitian territory, but it currently being disputed by the United States of America. La Gonave is known for its environments and was called a hotspot of biodiversity by the Haiti National Trust organization. The island was not affected physically by the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, but there were issues with accessing food and supplies because of their dependence on the mainland. Famous British singer Cliff Richard released a song titled La Gonave due to his love for the island. In 1926, the people of La Gonave named a white man named Faustin E. Wirkus king. He was from the United States and was later kicked out of Haiti. A book was released about his life titled The White King of La Gonave. The island has a professional football (soccer) team called Roulado FC in top professional football league (Ligue Haitienne) in Haiti. There were two devastating ferry accidents in 1986 and 1997 where many lives were lost. Many of the videos on the internet about La Gonave are about people’s visits to the island, the beaches, travel excursions, and projects conducted by aid and religious organizations. There are also videos about the problems on the island including a documentary released in 2013 called. Mud and Guts: The Search for Water on La Gonave.
I was born in Anse à Galets, because at the time and until now there was no hospital in Pointe-à-Raquette where my parents lived, there was only one clinic. Suddenly I find myself attached to the two towns. I lived in La Gonave for 7 years, during my childhood, I did not want to detach myself from it. There was life on the island, friendliness, calm is what I remember most. The song of birds reminded you that you were on earth, that nature still existed, you could hear children playing from far away because everything was peaceful. From a security point of view, I do not even mention it. It’s as if everyone knew each other. But I had to leave home, to go to Port au Prince, because the schools became less and less efficient. There was not a year going by without me coming home. It was the best time of the year. Go back to embrace all the memories I left there and add some. Go fishing for conch and all that one can take others with my cousins, run on the sand. Take a trip to the mountains, and eat all the fruits we found on our way. Every Tuesday we went to the market with Grandma, people were always happy to see us. Not to mention the famous FÊTE SAINT LOUIS, the patronal feast of Pointe-à-Raquette, everyone was waiting for that. At that moment the calm had vanished, it was the party in Pointe-à-Raquette, people came from everywhere, especially from abroad, the city suffocated Diaspora, it was the perfect time for the children of collect money. I could not wait for the summer to go there, every year, the same appointment.
Over time I was less and less enthusiastic to go there, not because my love for the island was diminishing, no no, it’s because every time I went there I could not have fun anymore as I did child, carefree, unconscious, innocent, now I look around me and having fun, I see sad faces, I do not see my friends who had fun with me every year I see young people of my age even younger than me, already mothers or fathers. I do not even notice a library, I see young people who have not even completed primary school, I do not see a vocational school, but I notice this same clinic 21 years ago. I see sadness, I see resignation, I see despair, I see hunger, I do not see a road, I see agriculture disappear, I see fishing as the main resort in 2019 for a population of about 100,000 inhabitants. I see betrayal on the part of politicians I see an island that I knew fresh fading, I see an island that I knew living deserted, I see gold being thrown in the garbage, I see the negligence of the state, I see the negligence of the sons and daughters of La Gonave.
Detached from Haiti, La Gonâve could be one of the main tourist destinations of the country, and many other things besides. There are always stories about the possibilities of investment on the island. Currently properties like Moulin Sur Mer, Royal Decameron Indigo Beach Resort & Spa, and Wahoo Bay Beach Club offer trips to visit the island. HaitianInternet.com published a story in 2016 where they stated an organization (Global Renewable Energy, Ltd.) wants to redevelop the island with a proposed $48 billion over 20 years. GRE even released a video and presentation of their plans for redeveloping the island. It was reported by some news outlets in 2016 the government considered selling the island to developers, but nothing really came of the story. A lot of people outside of Haiti see the potential for the island. Roots of Development, an organization based in the United States, has advocated and worked to develop the island for years. On their website, they list a variety of projects completed and want to complete on the island. Aside from them, there are other organizations like La Gonave Partners also based in the United States that have done things to help the people of La Gonave. Unfortunately, several governments in Haiti have ignored the island and its problems does not get the attention it deserves. As problems continue to mount in Haiti, La Gonave will continue to be ignored. According to some news stories, there have been calls from some on the island to breakaway from Haiti.
I still believe it in the potential of La Gonave, but right now thousands of people are prisoners because currently people can not leave the island due to the lack of fuel. The boats cannot travel, the reserves are exhausted, and the Gonavian population is in great difficulty. Recently, Ayibpost.com published a story about the conditions on the island with the headline 87,000 Citizens Practically Imprisoned on the Island of La Gonave. What is done in consequence? Nothing.
If the state does not have the height to see what represents the Gonave, we the children of this island who lived there, who share the love for this piece of land, join forces, and act to raise La Gonave in the place that is due to him. Me, I commit myself, and you?