Haiti splashes slum with psychedelic colors

Tuesday - 3/26/2013, 4:04am EDT

In this March 21, 2013 photo, a resident uses a piece of broken mirror as she puts make-up on, as she stands on her home's green and orange balcony in Jalousie, a cinder block shantytown in Petionville, Haiti. Workers began painting the concrete facades of buildings in Jalousie slum a rainbow of colors, inspired by the works of Haitian painter Prefete Duffaut, who died last year. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

TRENTON DANIEL
Associated Press

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- One of Haiti's biggest shantytowns, a vast expanse of grim cinderblock homes on a mountainside in the nation's capital, is getting a psychedelic makeover that aims to be part art and part homage.

Workers this month began painting the concrete facades of buildings in Jalousie slum a rainbow of purple, peach, lime and cream, inspired by the dazzling "cities-in-the-skies" of well-known Haitian painter Prefete Duffaut, who died last year.

The $1.4 million effort titled "Beauty versus Poverty: Jalousie in Colors" is part of a government project to relocate people from the displacement camps that sprouted up after Haiti's 2010 earthquake. The relocation has targeted a handful of high-profile camps in Port-au-Prince by paying a year's worth of rent subsidies for residents to move into neighborhoods like Jalousie. The government is now trying to spruce up these poor neighborhoods and introduce city services.

"We're not trying to do Coconut Grove. We're not trying to do South Beach," said Clement Belizaire, director of the government's housing relocation program, referring to Miami neighborhoods. "The goal that we are shooting for is a neighborhood that is modest but decent, where residents are proud to be from that area."

While most residents welcome the attempt to beautify Jalousie, a slum of 45,000 inhabitants, critics say the project is the latest example of cosmetic changes carried out by a government that has done little to improve people's lives in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.

"This is just to make it look like they're doing something for the people but in reality they are not," said Sen. Moise Jean-Charles, an outspoken critic of President Michel Martelly, arguing that the money could have been better spent.

Amid its narrow corridors and steep steps, Jalousie has no traditional sewage system or electric grid. The slum is lit at night by candles and a web of wires
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