Let’s go watch the soccer game at the hairdresser’s!
Translated and re-posted with permission from El Blog de Bernardita Ruffinelli: http://bruffinelli.wordpress.com/tag/haiti/
As I arrived in Port-au-Prince, I noticed a commercial pattern that was repeated without interruption: beauty salons and gaming.
In the city you lift a stone and a hairdresser comes up, you walk three steps and you encounter a small gambling shop. And of course, gambling is perfect from the perspective of a population that is full of economic deficiencies and has minimum welfare; for the Haitians this stroke of luck is a light that comes on in the dust of Port-au-Prince.
But why beauty salons? For both men and women, they are the most popular business, attracting clients with colorful paintings of fashionable faces with unique hairstyles and beards perfectly pruned.
I came to understand the social dynamics of the salon the day that Chile qualified for the World Cup. We wanted to see the match, so someone said, ”It’s being shown at the salon down the block.”
At the hairdresser’s? Sure! And then I walked towards it and tied all the ends I could not tie since I arrived: the salon is a place where Haitians spend much of their free time, not only grooming but also socializing inexpensively. The salon has not just scissors and dryers, it also has tables, TV sets, and beer at the same price as in the supermarket, so it’s great business to watch the game at the salon.
The average Haitian has no insured electricity, far less a television or a refrigerator, so the salon is the perfect place to watch the game, discuss current events, have a cold beer and with little money (“with very few lucas” as they say) you also have your beard arranged, twist your hair or retouch a perfect mustache. It’s a great deal with nothing to lose.
I remembered then the films showing the Bronx of the 50s or 60s; those barber shops served by a black man with a white beard and where men took their children to shave for the first time, and where the barber was the counselor and therapist of the neighborhood; those typical hairdressers of movies where the Afro-American women spend hours braiding her long dark hair, making splashes of color and especially talking about the whore on call or the bastard who has failed to pay maintenance payments for their children. And I speak about the movies, because this is totally not my cup of tea; I go once a year to the nearest beauty parlor to ask if they can ‘do something’ with what’s on my head, and I feel strange with the accomplice gender conversation going on there. I guess it is a space for me to explore and observe more.
** My trip and stay in Haiti are part of a collaborative project between The Melton Foundation and America Solidaria Foundation Haiti to train their volunteers and staff in strategic communication support to enable the dissemination and sustainability of the voluntary work performed in 17 health projects, productive development and education, with special focus on children and adolescents where 19 professional volunteers work on this and 6 as part of an executive team in collaboration with various regional partners and local and international organizations. This series of stories about the journey do not necessarily represent the thinking of both organizations and are my sole responsibility.