As much as I would have loved to learn that the citizens of this marginal, cliff-like community had banded together into a decorative council something like the competitive gardeners of Brooklyn front yards, I knew, or should I say I was quite certain, that some more grand imperial hand must be at work. How on earth did all these houses get painted in such a uniformly random cataclysm of colors? I asked our driver.
"Mateli te fel," he replied. President Martelly did it.
Not personally, I imagined.
Jobs had been created, I was assured, the people are really happy about it.
"They are intending to paint all of them," said my friend. "Eventually." One often finds in Haiti that things are wrapped in multiple layers of meaning. Often there is a surface explanation for events that, like a brilliant coat of tropically-themed paint, obscures other realities beneath. My friend decided that my pronounced interest merited the peeling off of some of the onion skin. "What I heard," he went on conspiratorially, "was that the owners of your hotel and some of the other new constructions around Petionville were complaining."
Our team was staying at the Oasis, a brand new, international style flying vee of a hotel, distressingly multi-storied in the still earthquake-ravaged country. I can attest that many of its rooms enjoy a panoramic view of the brightly painted cinderblock homes on the opposite hill.
"They spent all this money to build, but their guests were not seeing a pretty picture."
All that poverty was sullying the view, and nothing says "happy, contented natives" like lemon-yellow, guava-pink, passionate-purple, palm-frond-green and azure-blue.
Do I hate cynicism, revile and despise it? If so, then in this particular case I must confess I am filled with self-loathing.