Title: Carrying the gospel of health to Haiti
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00028492/00001
 Material Information
Title: Carrying the gospel of health to Haiti
Series Title: Carrying the gospel of health to Haiti
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Dunlap, Maurice
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Bibliographic ID: UF00028492
Volume ID: VID00001
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Full Text

Carrying the Gospel of Health.

to Haiti

U. S. Consular Service

W E LEAVE Port au Prince, the gently-
perspiring city on the blue Caribbean,
at an early hour. Port au Prince' is the
capital of the Negro Republic of Haiti,
and we are going inland over the arid plains
and on up into the mountains. There are
three of us, Dr. Peterson, Dr. Kennedy, and
I. The doctors have been loaned by the
United States Navy to the Sanitary Engi-
neer to help carry the gospel of health to
Haiti; and this i- to be one more of those
countless trips that the spreading of that
gospel demands.
Certainly Port au Prince, smug and
glistening in the first rays of the sun, seems
in need of no sanitary redemption. There
are plenty of dusky natives about, and these
may not be overly clean. But the streets
seem well tended and even the market
places, crowded in spite of the early hour,
do not offend the sense of sight or smell.
That is because the gospel came to Port au

Prince at least nine years ago, after a treaty
between the Republic of Haiti and the
United States had sanctioned this health
A Trip into the Hills
We are bound far inland, for Fond-
Verrettes, a mountain village that is one of
the last outposts of the unsanitary past.
Haiti, be it remembered, was discovered by
Columbus in 1492. It is on an island
bountifully endowed by nature, which early
maintained colonies, first Spanish, then
French. Save for the Creole language, a
corruption of French, the influence of those
days has largely vanished. As early as 1532
slaves from Africa were imported, and their
descendants now possess the land. They hold
the western end of this island that they share
with Santo Domingo, and theirs has been an
interesting history. Haiti is the first state to
be peopled and governed on constitutional
lines wholly by Negroes.
But also it has been a land
of continued turmoil, re-
current bloodshed, and fre-
quent misrule. Material
F progress has been slow, and
sanitation was unknown
when the United States
took a handing 915. That
is why the United States
undertook to carry the gos-
S' pel of health through the
land, and that is why we are
starting early in the morn-
ing for Fond-Verrettes.
Our automobile glides
Along shaded by-ways,
through the town gate,
and along the main
highway over the plain
AT A CLINIC of Cul de Sac toward the
patients a day. mountains. A haze hangs

Within, an energetic American doctor receives 300 pi



over the ranges, enhancing the glories of
peak and valley; a grateful breeze blows in
from the sapphire waters of the bay. A
steady column of women on the native
burros plod along to reach the shelter of
market stalls before the heat descends.
They discreetly leave room for these
whizzing automobiles of the Americans.
We reach Croix des Bouquets, one of
the larger towns of the interior. A heroic
figure of the Saviour hangs from a cross
in the shrine. Mud huts with straw
thatches are scattered about. It is an
African village in spite of the cross and the
fair-sounding name. In it lie stretches of
sun-baked mud, thorn bushes, grotesque
cacti reaching with half-human arms like
creatures from Dante's Inferno.
Once a Proud French Colony
In the environs of Croix des Bouquets
we see evidences that this is not merely an
African town. Fields of sugar cane indi-
cate the agricultural progress made in the
past few years, while extensive ruins of
sugar-mills, stone aqueducts that still
irrigate, solid bridges and crumbled ch&-
teaux remind us that Haiti was once the
proudest of French colonies. Busily seeking
signs of those romantic old days, I was sur-
prised to hear a doctor calling attention to
an unattractive out-house.

"Look!" he said gleefully. "That place
has sanitation!"
"And over the way!" noted the other
doctor. "Nearly every farm seems to have
an out-house now. You should have seen
this district a few years ago!"
By eight o'clock we reach Ganthier.
For some time we have been bumping over
an uncertain road; here a ditch, there a
stony ravine. At Ganthier Nature says
"Stop" to the most venturesome motorist.
The rest of the trip is made on horseback.
A captain of the gendarmerie is waiting
with the horses. Captain Farrell is an-
other American employed by the Haitian
government; and he is on a mission for the
gendarmerie, the rural police organization.
Fond-Verrettes, our destination, has need
of police protection as well as medical at-
tention, and Captain Farrell joins the party
to purchase property for a new police station.
More cactus country, more thorn bushes;
and a ravine where some malicious river
god has piled stones to bar the invader.
Now a gradual rise in the land is noticeable.'
A cliff abruptly blocks the way, but the
dusty trail creeps along the ridge of a hill.
It winds up and up, two thousand feet.
Here the vegetation is gray-green, the
breeze is actually refreshing.
A look back. What a view! We are
directly above the plain, which distance


softens to a tired-looking green with check-
ered squares of brighter hue-the sugar
fields. Beyond the plain another mountain
range cuts into a blue sky. To the left
the sea sparkles under the waxing sun; to
the right another body of water has ap-
peared, a vivid ultramarine fringed with
a white border. Once an extension of the
sea, this is now a brackish lake reaching
beyond the border of Haiti into the neigh-
boring Republic of Santo Domingo. A
world of its own indeed, is this island that
seems like such a small spot on the map.
Ten thousand square miles of it is contained
in the Republic of Haiti, but that is only
a third of it; the other two-thirds are Santo
On a mountain plateau there is a lialt for
lunch. Then we descend into another
valley. A torrent echoes in cavernous
depths; the verdure-clad heights beyond
rise a mile into the air. Down in the valley
by the rushing waters are welcome signs of
habitation. Women beat clothes and rinse
them in wooden tubs.
'Give Me Five Cents!"
"Bon jour, blanc!" Such is the smiling
greeting in these out-of-the-way places
where a white face is a novelty. The
petites filles (" tee-fees," they are called in
Creole) will not refuse a cigaret, and sit
quite nicely for a photo at five cents per.
"Give me five cents!" is their friendly
challenge. It is the most universally known

I r7

English expression in Haiti. Many doubt-
less believe it American for "Good morn-
ing." The Haitians are not a mercenary
people in spite of the five-cent greeting.
Even the peasants in remote spots are gentle
and well-mannered, doffing a ragged hat to
the passing stranger.
Medical Missionaries
Along the stream our path now leads us.
Nature is more bountiful here. Mango,
orange, banana and bread-fruit trees are
in flower or fruit. Here is a tree called
"women's tongues" in Creole, with dry
pods whispering incessantly. A lizard with
a blue tail basking by the wayside scurries
noisily away. Orioles people one big tree as
though it were an apartment house. In
fact, much bird life is seen-canaries, crows,
paroquets, humming-birds, a chicken hawk
swinging in lazy circles. And butterflies,
sometimes in swarms like snow.
Now we ascend once more. This is
another hard road: stones, stones. The
rugged mountain sides are covered with
pines, welcome sight for a Nordic. Pines
a hundred feet tall droop their branches
with a burden of tropical moss.
One vale of stones seems more endless
than the others. Our train spreads out
and I find myself riding quite alone, no
living thing in sight. My thoughts turn
back to other days, similar days, when I had
seen eager doctors from the North bringing
the gospel of health to other regions; in
Kashmir, behind the Hima-
layas, the medical mission-
ary, Protestant or Catho-
lic, justifying his calling by
saving bodies as well as
souls; in China and Siam,
energetic physicians from
the occident stemming the
tide of plagues; in Manila,
American doctors turning
a place that was a byword
for pestilence into a health
resort. The vigorous
methods of our sanitary
experts in the Philippines
have now borne fruit; no
tropical orientals seem so
sound in health as the
Filipinos. Perhaps a sim-
- ilar transformation will
some day be evident here.
DUCED At about two in the
t before which they afternoon, Fond-Verrettes

A Haitian home. All the people in this picture live in the hu
are standing.



comes into view. On an abrupt hillside,
perched above us, gleams a white church
with a shrine containing three large crosses.
Behind the village the hills dip, suggesting
a pass to some land of mystery. Above the
pine-covered heights the skyis an azure blue.
We dismount. The jaded horses, their
pack-saddles removed, are led to pasture.
But the doctors show never a sign of fa-
"Much sickness here?" queries one, ad-
dressing the native police inspector in
"Only-some," answers the inspector.
Even less pessimistic is a woman in the
bazaars when addressed the same question:
"Non." She smiles and shakes her head,
arranging her small exhibit of fish and
vegetables. Another woman is shelling a
bowl of peanuts.
What about this?" Dr. Kennedy points
to the neck of a man about to make a
purchase. He bends his head; there is
a mass of raw sores. The woman smiles
and shrugs her shoulders.
"Fever here?" questions the doctor.
"Non." Smiles and shrug from saleslady.
A girl passes by. She is clothed in ragged
blue calico. The doctor touches a scrawny
"Are you ill? he asks in a kindly manner.
The young woman hesitates a moment,
"Not very well," she answers.
The doctor notes the swollen glands of
the arm.

"Syphilis," he says to his companion;
and to the girl, "You are sick, but we have
come to cure you."
The girl laughs in a doubtful manner and
runs away. Within five minutes she re-
turns with a friend. The woman has
a swollen foot bound up with a rag.
The doctor wrinkles his brow sympa-
The woman nods timidly.
"Foot very cold," she explains on en-
couragement. "Can not keep warm."
A man, more bold, stands in the physi-
cian's path. He touches his chest. "Much
pain here," he murmurs with a dull look
in his eyes.
Bringing the Gospel of Health
Up and down the main street of that
dirty village the news has spread: the doc-
tors have come! The people leave their
huts. They swarm over piles of fly-infested
rubbish that lie in the street, they bring
out human remnants that had been hidden
away-children with bodies eaten by sores,
old people propped in chairs.
Magnificent surroundings of pine-clad
mountains, clear blue sky above. With all
God's gifts of nature, was ever place so God-
forsaken? After an afternoon's inspec-
tion it becomes evident that at least half
the populace have syphilis, while the rav-
ages of smallpox, malaria and intestinal
worms are everywhere.
Why select this forlorn place, remote


The American-made sewing machine on the chair in this pic-
ture was one of the few evidences of the Twentieth Century
found in Fond-Verrettes by the American naval doctors.

from the world, to bring the gospel of sani-
tary living? Are there not nearer, larger,
communities in need of it?
"Fond-Verrettes," explains one doctor,
"is the last outpost in our campaign. The
Haitian Sanitary Service, under Capt. C. S.
Butler of the American Navy, has been
spreading its net gradually over the Re-
public; Fond-Verrettes, at the end of this
wild valley, is being reached only to-day.
"Even then," I ask, "are there enough
inhabitants in this one village to warrant
a clinic?"
"You should see the town on a market
day!" replies the doctor. "Thousands of
people swarm down from the mountains.
The whole district might be cleaned up in
a short time if a clinic is established here."
An Essentially Moral People
The presence of disease in loathsome
forms, it seems, does not necessarily indi-
cate immorality. Through centuries of
war and unrest, syphilis has spread among
this primitive people, who had no medical
knowledge to protect themselves. The
Haitian peasants are essentially moral.
Each man usually takes a wife after the
biblical formula, although the marriage
ceremony is not always performed by the

Church. Catholic wedlock has been an
expensive luxury in the past. To be mar-
ried signified comparative plutocracy.
Here is a man with a face disfigured by
black eruptions.
"Yaws," says the doctor, and tells him,
"Come to Ganthier next Tuesday, nine
A young mother brings a baby, its mouth
eaten with ulcers: "Come to Ganthier,
next Tuesday, nine o'clock. We will cure
the baby." The woman's eyes smile grati-
tude, and she nods in faith.
A Promise of Health to Come
Some men have been grinding petit maiz,
the native corn. They leave their work and
cluster around the doctors, whose tour has
become a triumphal procession. Dr. Ken-
nedy stops on a mound behind the church
where a woman is pounding seeds in a crude
"To make oil for lamp," she explains,
pleasantly. But she ceases to pound and
gazes up at the stranger.
A large girl in a faded pink dress hurries
into a doorway and immediately reappears
helping an old woman. She arranges her
on a chair with sturdy arm while the old
crone shakes like a leaf. Her skin is
warped by disease, but there is no trace of
displeasure in the doctor's manner as he
touches this wreck of humanity with deft
and kindly hands.
"Sick?" he queries.
The woman's hopeless nod tells the story.
"Come to Ganthier, Tuesday, nine
o'clock. We will make you well," is the
cheerful promise.
She shakes her head. "Too old, too
old," she moans.
"She can not come," explains the girl.
"She can not walk."
"On muleback," suggests the doctor
"Too old, too old," mutters the crone.
But the doctor is still cheerful. "Never
mind, in two months we shall come to
The woman smiles faintly.
Now the doctor distributes cigarettes,
and there is a joke or two. The crowd is
Meanwhile the quick tropic night is
closing in. No drinking water has as yet
been available for the thirsty strangers, but
water was set boiling the moment of ar-
rival and now it is cool enough to drink.


f Cots have been prepared
outside the temporary
police hut, with mosquito
nets over them.
A crescent moon shed a
vague light; the stars were
bright above silhouettes
of mountains. Someone
had kindled a small fire
before the shrine, and a
mantle of smoke hung
around the three crosses.
The sordidness of the vil-
lage faded; the scene be-
came strange and beauti- -
ful. Under one roof a THE PR
tom-tom sounded its Port-au-Prince, capi
muffled beat. paved streets and au
Sun-up. An energetic
doctor is already calling for sugar for the
coffee he has boiled, but there is not a grain
in town.
"What do Haitians use for sugar, any-
way," I ask.
There is plenty of this sugar-cane product
to be had in the bazaars. It comes in fat
sticks, bound around with leaves, and has
an agreeable taste like maple sugar-but it
is not to be recommended for coffee.
Dr. Kennedy has assumed the duties of
the frying pan.
"We are having a change of menu," he
calls cheerily. "Last night we had eggs,
spaghetti and bacon; this morning we will
have eggs, pork and beans and bacon."
But eventually the pork and beans prove
too difficult to remove from the can, so that
we breakfast on fried eggs, bacon and
rapadu coffee. These doctors visit rural
clinics under similar conditions about six
days in every week, so they are hardened
to dusty trails and rapadu. I was beginning
to learn why "docteur" is such a term of
respect throughout Haiti.
The sun was hardly over the hills before
there was more excitement in Fond-Ver-
rettes. People were assembling on a hill
overlooking the town; men gesticulated,
women ran to and fro.
Someone had come to buy land.
The tailor left his American sewing ma-
chine on his primitive table; the boy cutting
leather for sheaths threw aside the knife;
the youth plaiting hats left an unfinished
chapeau on the ground; women forgot
household duties to follow the crowd.
Who owned this land that Captain

tal of Haiti, contains fine modem buildings like this, and has
itomobiles, but the rest of the country remains quite primitive.

Farrell of the gendarmes wanted to buy?
First one claimant appeared, then an-
other. It was a tiny stone-covered plot,
but it commanded a view of the valley
that made it an excellent site for the new
police station. It could be had for about
-forty dollars. A surveyor came. Stakes
were driven in to mark the corners of the
property. It was like some religious rite.
By this time five persons stood as claim-
ants to the lot, exhibiting their titles. The
agreement was drawn up, but not one of
the owners could sign his name. Each
made a cross, duly witnessed.
We packed to make an early start for
Port au Prince, and even while bags were
being put in order and horses saddled,
people kept asking for "docteur."
"Tell them to come to Ganthier," shouts
one of the doctors as the horses carefully
take the stony trail. "Everybody sick
should come. Tuesday, nine o'clock. If
they can not come, we'll be back in two
months to cure them here."
The ragged crowd falls back. There are
only smiles and a timid "au revoir" from
one or two. As we leave, I notice a heavy
cloud down over the end of the vale, as
though barring our exit. Suddenly a rain-
bow gleams there, and the arc seems to
rest behind the shrine with the three crosses.
An old woman raises her eyes to the image
of Christ, and makes the holy sign. Has
this a deeper significance? Is there, perhaps,
a ray of hope for this valley so benighted
that it does not appreciate its own misery?
This may be the view of a sentimentalist;
the doctors are too busy to notice these

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