Cause For Return

Haitian radio host Marcus Garcia's work in Miami is done. It's time for him to go home.

Garcia and Etheart aren't ruling out the possibility. They already have a bureau in Port-au-Prince, which will become their main office after the move. (They still plan to print the paper in Miami, however, because distribution costs are lower.) "It would be very good to have a daily paper," Etheart dreams aloud. But first there is the task of raising up to $150,000 to get the radio station on the air. And then there is the challenge of making it a commercial success. "I think it is a definite plus that they are coming back," says Michele Montas, the news director of Radio Ha•ti-Inter who was expelled along with Garcia and Etheart. "But I don't know if they realize how difficult it is. In 1980 there were four major radio stations. Now there are about 30."

It is 4:00 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon in June, and Garcia and Etheart are rushing to prepare Ha•ti en Marche for the printer. "This is page eleven, and I want it nice. So don't touch!" Garcia admonishes Etheart as she peers over his shoulder at a computer screen alight with text.

Their office is a small room opening onto Etheart's living room. It is a claustrophobic space crammed with a flowered sofa, a computer, four filing cabinets and a printer, yet they work together easily. Etheart scoops up the pages from the printer and checks them for typos while Garcia tinkers with the layout, cheerfully muttering to himself.

Their houses -- they each found tidy Key West-style bungalows -- are only a few blocks from each other in a tranquil, lushly landscaped section of Miami Shores. In the next six months, they will either be sold or rented out because dual residences are too expensive to maintain. The prospect evokes conflicting emotions.

"The community is populated by people who don't need us as they did before," Garcia says wistfully. The rural villagers who relied on them to explain life in the U.S. are now savvy Americans, owning businesses, paying taxes, and worrying about the quality of neighborhood schools. Many have moved away from Little Haiti to more affluent suburbs. Their children barely speak Creole, much less read French.

In contrast, everything is needed in Haiti. "There is so much you can do there," Garcia says with animation. "Just being there is a lot." Garcia and Etheart will start out with a 15,000-watt station, playing music and offering some news and commentary. "We believe today more than ever in doing slow work," Garcia says. "Step by step. A return to the old way." He interrupts himself and lets out a long, deep chuckle as he relishes his memories. "I don't think it's going to be easy, but I think democracy is the only chance, the only opportunity for real change."

Etheart and Garcia move to the dining room table to assemble the paper, carefully attaching photographs and ads to their corresponding pages. "It was such a long way to come from nothing," Garcia muses, suddenly hit by a wave of melancholy. "It's an experience I would never be able to do again. It's so hard that you question yourself. Was I right or wrong to fight that battle [against the dictatorship in Haiti]? Maybe I should have done nothing, like everybody else."

But disengagement was clearly never an option and is even less so today. Within minutes Garcia has shaken his mood and is nagging Etheart to finish up. They load the camera-ready pages into her car and set off for the printer in downtown Miami. "This time I am not going to leave, no matter what happens," Garcia promises as he presses lightly on the accelerator, heading south from Little Haiti. "This time is going to be for good.

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