CAP-HAITIEN — In Cap Haitien, people began taking to the streets in the evenings to dance at bals, support the builders creating carnival floats and take part in local processions. In Jacmel, the town known for its amazing papier-mache creations held carnivals on three different Sundays. And Hinche was abuzz in anticipation of seeing some of Haiti’s top musical acts perform.
By the time that interim Prime Minister officially declared three national holidays this, many Haitians were well in spirit, grateful for the distraction carnival offers.
“We can’t be stressed all the time,” said Max “DJ Sapadenm” Deguerre, an entertainer based in Cap-Haitien who is among several playing from the city’s carnival floats. “If we keep stressing, not seek a solution and don’t put joy in our heart, we’ll all fall apart.”
With the country battling crisis after crisis — including ongoing gang violence in Port-au-Prince — and the national carnival being canceled again this year, residents of cities across Haiti kicked off local carnivals last month. Hungry for a chance to escape from the hardships and stresses they face daily.
Schools and many businesses are closed through March 3 for the carnival. This year, there is no national carnival in a designated city, but a variety of locales organized their own smaller celebrations. Among them Port-au-Prince, Jeremie, Cap-Haitien and Hinche.
Jacmel’s carnival, known for its flamboyant festivals, held celebrations over three Sundays in February.
One of the most talked-about so far is the Hinche carnival because it features popular music acts Kreyol La, RAM and Mass Konpa and renowned solo artist Roody Roodboy.
Many residents have been heavily criticizing organizers for holding carnivals while Haiti is going through different crises and its president, Jovenel Moise, was assassinated Jul. 7. But to some, it’s a must.
“It’s a tradition,” said Jean Alix Rebecca, better known as Alix B.E.T., a member of the Boulva Naval Committee in Cap-Haitien. “It’s been happening since before they were born, they can’t just say no to do it.”