Shooting video with Haiti’s “women of the mountains”

Haiti’s minister of women’s affairs Marie Yanick Mezile told us that women like our subject Madame Gerard, a madam sara from Ka-Blain, are known as “women of the mountains.” I learned what she meant, and then some, hoofing it to the high reaches of Gerard’s work places on the mountainous Seguin route.

If it sounds hard to wake up at 3 a.m. and travel three hours first by motorcycle and then on foot with a load of video gear to reach a high, cold place — Kajak — where no vehicle can go, consider that women like Gerard walk this route almost every day in two hours, most of them carrying sacks of beets or carrots weighing a lot more than my dslr kit. It was Madam Gerard’s first buying trip after Hurricane Sandy, and my last shoot with Talitha Stam in Haiti.

As we went up the mountain, we were definitely not alone. Men were walking to their gardens, women with bundles were on the move to sell their produce, and children were walking to school in a constant stream of traffic. Several women warned us in passing that the trails to Kajak had been washed out by the storm. “You’re committing suicide,” said one. “You’re going to die,” said another, and “Oh, well, we all die sometime,” said a third, underscoring the Haitian sense of drama and humor.

Well, we didn’t die, but we did get a little punchy, as in, “Can you believe tourists pay to do stuff like this?” and returned so pooched that we fell asleep almost immediately.

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