The Bel Air neighborhood in downtown Port-au-Prince has seen its share of troubles including poverty, high unemployment, gang violence and other social ills. But nothing prepared the usually resilient community for the earthquake that struck on January 12.
There is surely no more symbolic site in Haiti than Champs de Mars, Port-au-Prince's main park and place of political power. On the park’s west side sits the now ruined Presidential Palace. To the north is the Dessalines barracks—which has been reduced to a façade—named after Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a leader of the Haitian independence movement. Looming over the park is an unfinished tower built to mark the bicentennial of the founding of the free Republic of Haiti but never completed because of political turmoil.