Oh, Haiti. It’s hard to believe that you were the Caribbean’s “it” destination at one point. Movie stars and musicians flocked to the western half of Hispaniola in the 1950s. Then Papa Doc, a brutal despot, was elected president. Political instability and extreme poverty followed. Devastating hurricanes didn’t help either. Things were supposed to change with the 2017 election of Jovenel Moïse. But protests and street demonstrations quickly intensified. Haiti’s next tourism boom was put on hold. Again.
Things have gotten so bad that some parts of the country want out. Immediately. They’re calling for secession and demanding their independence. A surprising spot is spearheading the movement. Gonâve Island is part of Ouest, the department that’s home to Port-au-Prince. The limestone island, ringed by reefs, sits 34 miles off the coast in the Gulf of Gonâve. Ferries run back and forth between the chaotic capital and Anse-à-Galets. Tourists should be flocking here for day trips.
Colonists never occupied the 38-square-mile island. So it became a refuge for the indigenous Taíno people. They flocked here during their battles with the Spanish. They returned as runaway slaves when the French ruled. With few natural resources, the island quickly became overpopulated, though. Help from Port-au-Prince was nonexistent. Gonâve Island is now one of the poorest parts of Haiti.
There is potential here. The fishing industry would play a major part. So would tourism. There are currently no hotels on the island. Airbnb is the only option for overnight visits. Those who stay enjoy a charming fishing town and exciting snorkeling trips. They find azure water, hidden sandbanks, schools of colorful fish, and pods of dolphins. They also find hope. Now Gonâve Island just needs to find its own path. It’ll be hard to remain neglected if you’re lighting the way forward.