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Not a great deal is actually said to describe Haiti in the introduction of Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World. The one comment about Haiti describes it as a "desperately poor country" (p. 1). Instead, the introduction is dedicated more to describing Dr. Paul Farmer's work in Haiti and how the journalist and author Kidder had followed him to the prisons of Moscow and Siberia, where Farmer treated tuberculosis.
However, more descriptions of Haiti are given in subsequent chapters. In the first chapter, Kidder explains exactly why Haiti is such a poor country. He explains that the poverty is rooted in the French colonialism of the 1700s, because France turned Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti, into "a major hub for slave trading" (p. 13). Though the Haitians were eventually freed, the fact remains that they "have been exploited for 250 years" (p. 13). First, the French were their masters; then, once freed, "their new masters were poverty, illiteracy, and lack of economic opportunity" (p. 13).
Later, in Chapter 2, Kidder describes another cause of their poverty, which he came to understand on a trip with Farmer to Morne Michel to ensure a patient received his tuberculosis medication. On that trip, Farmer pointed to the Péligre Dam that was funded by the US and built by the Army Corps of Engineers. The dam provides cheap electricity to assembly plants foreign countries own in Port-au-Prince and essentially benefits only Haiti's wealthy and elite. The dam floods the most fertile farmland in the area, farmland that would have been farmed by the peasants, providing them with a means of prosperity. Instead, the farmland is nothing but a lake, and the flooding has driven farmers up the hills, where they farm in "famine-like conditions" (p. 41).
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