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Lost innocence article from haiti-today.com (Feb 2010)


Port-au-Prince – As street life starts again, so is the oldest profession of the world. And there’s a lot of new apprentices coming up town to work.

The vultures and amateurs of young, clean flesh are having a good time. The street prices are at their lowest, and there are plenty of women to choose from.

I found some of the new girls in mini-brothels, set up in court yards that look just like any camp.

Away from the bustle of the main streets, I wouldn’t have guessed that behind this rusty galvanized fence, school girls were learning their new trade.

All I see is a dog chewing on some garbage, and an old lady selling Tafia (homemade, high-proof rum) by the entrance.

All is quiet, except for a few Johns doing their shopping in darker corners.


As I have to do is wait for the place to be less busy, to wait for the Johns to finish their glorious deeds, to find a girl willing to tell me her story. We join the “party” sitting by a Tafia stand, where we could chat with the “street bosses”.

Tafia is a high proof home made rum containing tree bark and leafs that will “make da man strong”.


Tafia will intently lobotomize the rotten parts of your brains containing these memories and images you don’t want to carry with you.

Tafia will sweat the smells of the earthquake right out of your skin.

Tafia will free you from this tenacious diarrhea constantly reminding you that you are just a white boy and should stop eating out of side street food stalls.

It is a perfect choice to accompany the suffocating smell of burning trash that fills the neighborhood.

This is not a street party, just a dark and gloomy reflection of one. As you walk these dark streets, you watch your step so as not to stumble on families trying to sleep on side steps and hidden corners. On these streets, it’s hard to differentiate the “working” mothers from the ones that haven’t given in yet.

As things slowed down, I got to talk to “Johanne”. She barely had the energy to understand my questions. Her scorched voice, red eyes and already fading youth made me question what I was doing here.

But she had to tell her story, even though I could write it just by looking at her.


As we started talking, it seemed like she was waking up from a bad dream. She told me her story like she was hearing it herself for the first time. Johanne became more and more emotional, as if her mind had shut down since the 12th and now the numbness was wearing off.

Her story is a classic. At 19 (older than the others), she was still at school and working from home by doing laundry and cooking for people. When her house collapsed her and her two babies found themselves sleeping on the streets (where she still is today).

She used to live with her brother and her cousin, but now she doesn’t know where they are.

After she kept failing getting food in the early line ups, she started to sell herself to get money for food.

She charges from $3 to $6, the higher price for the richer clients driving a car. To give you an idea of what that will buy – a beer or a bottle of water is $1.50; a meal is $4 to $8.

Johanne tells me this is just temporary, that working the streets will allow her to save a little money to maybe go back to school, feed and send her kids to school, get a job, build a new life. But even though she is very pretty, business has been tough until tonight. There is lots of competition on the street, and prices are dropping.

“Johanne”, I wish you all the strength you will need, and I hope the whack of dollar bills I gave you won’t go to your pimp.

I hope you and your girlfriends can get out of this very soon.

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