Magazine article The New Yorker

Far from Haiti

Magazine article The New Yorker

Far from Haiti

Article excerpt

Rose Du-Jour, a Haitian immigrant with an accent more Queens than Port-au-Prince, was in Great Neck the other night, waiting to confront a politician. "You gotta catch them off guard, ask them questions they aren't prepared for," she said, lowering her voice. "You know, like, How long have you been married? Has it always been good? Your wife and your child are both in an accident and you can only save one--what do you do?"

The politician under interrogation was not one of the candidates for surrogate's court judge or North Hempstead receiver, with campaign signs posted along Northern Boulevard. It was Michel Martelly, the Michael Jackson of Haitian pop, who goes by the name Sweet Micky and is one of nineteen candidates for Haiti's Presidency. Following whistle stops in Miami and Montreal, Martelly was on Long Island for a fund-raiser. Other candidates were campaigning at an airport in Queens and at a night club in Brooklyn--fifteen hundred miles from anyone who could actually vote for them. "The campaign requires a lot of money," another immigrant, Herson St. Louis, said, twirling the stick of olives in his Martini, explaining why Haitian politicians are stumping in New York. Michel Dessources, a documentary filmmaker who left Haiti in 1997, added, "It's easy for me to call friends or cousins in Haiti. I tell them, 'I'm supporting Micky.' And they'll listen to me."

Martelly's fund-raiser was held across the street from Parts and Polish Motoring Accessories, at a wedding hall with a columned facade not unlike Haiti's earthquake-ravaged Presidential home. The candidate, who has been known to perform while drinking rum and wearing only a diaper, once declared, "If I am elected President, I will perform nude on top of the National Palace." In the past month, he has been more on message. He took questions, fully clothed in a tuxedo, in the wedding hall's bridal suite.

A poll showed you at No. 3 in the race--what do you make of it?

"I really don't go by the polls."

If you lose, would you accept a lesser position?

"Only God holds these answers."

Why so serious, Michel?

"He's thinking about Haiti," an aide said, straightening Martelly's carnation boutonniere. After a pause, the candidate said, "That's true."

Michael Jackson's "Heal the World" played over a loudspeaker as Martelly bounded from the bridal suite into a banquet room, where patrons had purchased seats for as much as a thousand dollars--more than most Haitians earn in a year. …

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