Haiti is a country with a troubled past, and its future still remains uncertain, most notably due to the powerful earthquake on January 12, 2010 that rocked the city of Port-au-Prince. Furthermore, decades of poverty, environmental degradation, violence, instability, dictatorship and coups have left it the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Less than 600 miles from Miami, a country and its people have been left to rot in a technological, and social mediocrity gap while they make the shirts, socks and shorts that you wear, clean in your washer and dryer and laugh and smile in.
Tourists who are unsettled by grinding poverty probably should visit elsewhere. Those with images of witchcraft, sinister vodou (voodoo) priests and rude people will find much to reinforce these stereotypes. However, for those with patience and an open mind, Haiti reveals a rich culture that is unique among post-colonial nations. It is extremely helpful when traveling in Haiti to have a local contact, through a church, a hotel, or just through making friends with someone. Experiences like dining locally, riding on a tap-tap, or strolling through one of the insanely crowded outdoor markets are great fun and very worth doing, but much safer and easier if you have a trusted Haitian to go along as a guide and interpreter.