Cap-Haitien Market
Part of the indoor portion of the Cap-Haïtien Market on March 27, 2024, two days before Good Friday. Photo by Onz Chery for Go West Now

Overview:

Due to the prevailing economic and gang violence crises, a significant number of worshippers will be unable to observe Good Friday in the manner they would prefer. Many in Port-au-Prince, fearing potential gang attacks, will refrain from participating in the Good Friday march. Additionally, economic constraints will prevent others from preparing the traditional meals they would ordinarily enjoy on this day.

CAP-HAITIEN — As Haiti grapples with escalating gang violence and an economic crisis, the usual spike in sales leading up to Easter observances, notably Good Friday, is conspicuously missing this year.

Jacquelin Noël, a 69-year-old vegetable vendor at Cap-Haïtien’s market, jokes about vendors coming to the market merely to sleep due to the scarcity of customers. Noël expresses that this is the most challenging time they've experienced since 1986, as unsold goods remain idle, eventually rotting away.

“For Good Friday, we're going to make do with what we find at home, whether it's a plantain or just a cup of rice,” said Noël. “We're not making sales. After we purchase the products, they just sit there and eventually rot.”

Haitian vendor
Jacquelin Noël sitting near the vegetables he sells at the Cap-Haïtien Market on March 27, 2024. Photo by Onz Chery for Go West Now

Since February 29, the myriad issues plaguing Haiti have been forcing people to flee their homes and exacerbating the hunger crisis. But these problems are also preventing many worshippers from observing Christian holidays as they used to. Good Friday, which will be observed on March 29 this year, is one such holiday that will likely see less participation.

Good Friday, which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is primarily observed by Catholics in Haiti, a group that comprises about 55 percent of the population. Traditionally, thousands of worshippers, clad in white dresses, blouses, T-shirts, or button-up shirts, would march in the streets of Haiti on Good Friday morning. Following the procession, worshippers would attend various church services in the afternoon.

Port-au-Prince in the midst of uncertainty

The ongoing escalation of gang violence renders many believers unable to participate in these acts of worship. No announcements have been made about the procession that usually takes place in the streets of Bourdon and Delmas, where thousands of Catholic faithful are called to march on Good Friday.

Go West Now has unsuccessfully attempted to contact the Haitian Episcopal Conference and the officials of Notre-Dame Parish of Delmas and Immaculate Conception about their preparations for this holy day.

Some Catholic faithful, like Marie Ange Dupas, express concerns that there may not be a procession this year due to the recent surge in violence in Port-au-Prince and its surrounding areas. “Given the current situation in the country, I doubt they'll take that risk,” says Dupas, a devout person concerned about the insecurity. “There will be live masses, but I doubt the procession will take to the streets,” she adds.

Decline in Good Friday sales

Much like Noël in Cap-Haïtien, many street vendors in Port-au-Prince lament the lack of sales. However, they are not letting this situation deter them and continue to restock with new products to display in public markets, especially in Delmas 32.

Despite the insecurity, Delmas 32 is a bustling hub where motorcycles, cars, passengers, and buyers converge. Buyers flock to the vendors, leaving as quickly as they arrive to purchase products such as yams, bananas, potatoes, beets, papayas, meat, onions, etc. However, according to the merchants, “sales are not entirely satisfactory.”

“I've been here since morning and haven't made a single sale yet,” says an oil and seasoning vendor near a moto-taxi station. She notes that, in contrast to previous years, this Holy Week isn't driving the usual sales typically associated with the celebration of Good Friday

Believers who celebrate Good Friday typically abstain from eating meat, opting instead for dishes like rice and beans with fish, or “legim,” a Creole term for a traditional stewed vegetable dish.

For example, at Kervens Sanchez's home in Cap-Haïtien, it's customary for his family to eat rice and peas with ‘mori', the Creole term for codfish. Codfish is a more affordable option compared to other types of fish.

vegetables,
Some of the vegetables at the Delmas 32 Market, which consists of bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, yams and more on March 27, 2024. Photo by Juhakenson Blaise for Go West Now

For some vendors, like a beet seller who sits under an umbrella on the sidewalk in front of a lottery booth, the prevailing insecurity has significantly impacted Holy Week. The usual rush to purchase agricultural products in the markets is absent. “There are not enough customers to buy the products. If you look, I have a lot of papayas that are rotting away,” says the vendor, some of whose merchandise is exposed to the sun.

She recalls that she used to sell her products at the Croix des Bossales market. However, she was forced to flee when armed individuals confiscated her goods and stole her money. Recently, she arrived with a fresh stock of products, including beets commonly used in dishes prepared for Good Friday. Despite the challenges, she is hopeful she won't return home empty-handed. “We continue to sell our products to earn a living,” adds the vendor, who also sells yams.

Some forgo celebrations due to diminished faith

Several people like Kervens Sanchez, a Cap-Haïtien resident, will not be observing Good Friday as they have lost faith in the church.

“I have some questions for the churches,” said Sanchez, 24. “The older I got, the more I started to understand certain things. Are the churches not trying to colonize us? They've been promising for so long that Jesus would return — and heaven. Aren’t these things they made up?”

Sanchez, a computer technician, is among many younger Haitians who will not be observing Good Friday due to their waning faiths.

Jimmy Noradin, who stopped practicing Catholicism when he was 13 in 1988 and later became an atheist, is part of that group.

“I understood things differently,” said Noradin, 49. “There’s nothing serious in religion. I feel like religion is an institution here to make people accept the ideology of a group of people in society.”

Email me at [email protected]
Onz Chery is a Haiti correspondent for Go West Now. Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and Elite Sports New York before joining Go West Now in 2019.

I am Juhakenson Blaise, a journalist based in the city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I cover the news that develops in this city and deals with other subjects related to the experience of Haitians for the Haitian Times newspaper. I am also a lover of poetry.

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