An Unwelcoming Welcome

Haiti – July 2018

We’ve been making our way over the past few days north from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic to the border town of Dajabón, which will see our crossing into Haiti and on to Cap-Haïtien for the next few days. Twice a week the town also serves as a massive market and we happen to be here on one of these days. The market is completely fenced in from the rest of the Dominican Republic and the road out of Dajabón has numerous military checkpoints to prevent Haitians from entering the country. Most of what the Haitians sell are used clothes and shoes, bulk dry goods, and housewares.

We meet our Haitian guide and driver at the Dominican side of the border after exiting the country, and they drive us across the bridge over the Massacre River to the Haitian side of Ouanaminthe, where entering the country is a much simpler and less hectic affair. We’re on the road for about twenty minutes before we come across our first Haitian checkpoint and our SUV is asked to pull over. An already agitated and well-armed officer comes to speak to our driver and guide. My wife is growing uneasy as his rifle is on her side of the vehicle, pointed at her window. As they converse, his agitation increases, and he soon asks for our passports. We’ve made it twenty minutes before running into trouble.

The officer heads over to another official sitting in the shade, so I’m assuming he’s the one in charge. He hands him our passports and they speak for a while. Time passes. Our guide is young and seemed to be arguing with the agitated officer earlier, which is never a good idea, so we are pleased to see that our driver, who is far more mellow, is the one to leave the vehicle and go speak with the one in charge. More time passes. Our driver finally returns with our passports and we’re back on the road.

“Is this a common occurrence?” we ask our guide. “You never know,” he says. “There are lots of checkpoints and it depends on their mood.” Welcome to Haiti.

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