The only true Belgian, goes a long-running joke, is the king of the country. Riven by tensions between its French-speaking Walloons and Dutch-speaking Flemish, and with the identity of Brussels largely defined by it’s being the capital of Europe, rather than Belgium, the country’s existence as a unified nation often seems tenuous at best. But in the last decade, another national institution has come to symbolize what it means—or, at least, might mean—to be Belgian: the national soccer team, known as the Red Devils. Packed with star players well-known from their professional careers in the English Premier League (considered the world’s best), the national squad is also notably for its diversity, with many players from immigrant backgrounds.… Seguir leyendo »
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Flying over the mountains into Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a few years ago, I sat next to a volunteer taking her first trip to the country. “I see trees,” she said, pointing down at the hillsides. “They told us there are no trees.”
Foreign descriptions of the country frequently claim it is almost completely deforested; people often reference a striking 1987 National Geographic photograph of the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, forested on one side and barren on the other, as proof. In the common imagination, Haitians literally devour their forests; last week a meteorologist in Florida, describing the impact of Hurricane Matthew, said, “Even the kids there, they are so hungry they actually eat the trees.”
In fact, about a third of Haiti is covered in trees, and many areas with little forestation have always been that way.… Seguir leyendo »
Haiti wasn’t always the “poorest nation in the Western hemisphere,” though it’s almost impossible to read about the country today without coming across that phrase. In the two years since the earthquake that devastated it, Haiti has experienced political conflict and its first ever cholera epidemic; hundreds of thousands of the displaced are still living in makeshift tents strewn like dusty flags by the sides of highways. It is easy to forget that, for most of the 19th century, Haiti was a site of agricultural innovation, productivity and economic success.
In the wake of the earthquake, many have talked about the need to lay foundations for a better future.… Seguir leyendo »