Haiti - a poverty-stricken land of urban overpopulation, denuded hillsides and people suffering wounds of civil strife and oppression - is also full of colorful art, fantastic music, cloud forests and an intensely spiritual people whose humor and passion are legendary. The modern world's first black-led republic boasts a unique culture and incredible artistic tradition. The language, dance and music of Haitian people reflect a syncopation between spiritual and material worlds that shouldn't be missed. Vodoo, long misunderstood, is a rich religion smuggled from Africa and hidden among Catholic rituals of European missionaries. Haiti's colonial architecture, all gingerbread and plazas, is alive with the music of Africa. Its fine cuisine, of Caribbean ingredients prepared according to classical French methods, attracts gourmets from the other side of the island. Though human need has torn down much of Haiti's forests and jungles, there is still unspoiled nature ecotourism can preserve. The open-minded adventurer will find a country whose contradictions will linger in mind, heart and spirit.
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