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Fires burn in downtown Port-au-Prince nearly a week after the Jan. 12 earthquake.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Three months after the earthquake, few stores had reopened on Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines in Port-au-Prince. Instead, street vendors arrived daily in hopes of selling what little merchandise they had.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Sugar cane is sold by the stalk on the boulevard, which is bustling with activity despite the destruction.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Beauticians on the boulevard say business has fallen off since the quake. "More people are doing hair now because there are no jobs in the country," says one. "But ... everyone has to live together. Life is hard."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A mango seller ties up packaging as she prepares to leave Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines at the end of the workday.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A man sells packets of water on the boulevard.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Francois Toto, 28, is a third-generation cobbler. He started coming to work with his father at age 7, but he says he doesn't want his son to do what he does. "There are too many bad people in the streets now," he says. "I'm afraid. I can't walk around like I used to."

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A man maneuvers his shaved-ice cart down the street.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

In the evening, piles of trash are burned along Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines in preparation for the next day's commerce.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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Haiti: Living in Limbo – Island enterprise

Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines in Haiti’s capital was a smoking ruin when Times photographer Carolyn Cole arrived in the aftermath of the January earthquake. Today the shops may still be shattered, but the businesspeople have found a way to go on.

Reporting from Port-au-Prince, Haiti — The shattered stores along Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines may never reopen. But amid the colonial-style columns and wide, arched entries, one group of women won’t let a little dust get in the way of beauty.

They’ve set up a sidewalk salon, where patrons soak their feet in large metal bowls. The stylists work in teams, their clients seated on blocks of concrete or broken chairs, strands of faux hair in their laps.

“We just started doing hair at this corner,” Marie Eliz St. Floren says.

A wig costs $25 and a weave less than $5, but in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake, the competition is growing, she says as she twists and ties her client’s long, black braids.

“More people are doing hair now because there are no jobs in the country,” she says. “But I don’t have a problem with it, because everyone has to live together. Life is hard.”

The boulevard is bustling with activity. Women and men walk along with baskets on their heads selling used socks, stalks of sugar cane, a bit of everything. But hardly anyone is buying.

Cobbler Francois Toto rests his elbows on an ancient Singer sewing machine as he waits for customers.

“It used to be a good place to work,” the 28-year-old says of a life spent making shoes under covered walkways that once sheltered wealthy shoppers. “I don’t like it here now, but this is where we have to survive.”

At the street salon, beautician Guerline Desir remembers good times too.

“There was electricity at night. We used to have a street club with music and dancing, girls and boys mixing. It used to be fun.”

But the 38-year-old remains positive. “It’s possible that it will come back…. It could even be much better.”

A few feet away, a woman rides off on a motorcycle taxi, her hair and nails beautiful for the weekend ahead.

View other installments in this series:

Haiti: Living in limbo – Clinging to dreams

Haiti: Living in limbo – Small steps forward

Haiti: Living in limbo – Penny candy prayers

Haiti: Living in Limbo – Days of remembrance

1 Comment

  1. December 10, 2010, 10:54 pm

    […] kicked the year off with the devastating earthquake in Haiti, followed by a massive oil spill that would leave the Gulf Coast in environmental disarray, a […]

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