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Recalled Haitian ambassador was revered, made the embassy feel like ‘home,’ Haitian Americans say

Ambassador Paul Altidor (center) with guests at a holiday pop up shop at the Haitian Embassy, December 2018. Samira Rashid

By Claire Savage

Haitian Ambassador Paul Altidor transformed his country’s image and connected the Haitian community by showcasing culture over strife, Haitian Americans said following news of his forced departure.

Altidor’s role at the Haitian Embassy was discontinued earlier this month as protests rocked the country, and Haitian Americans expressed surprise and regret at his termination.

By opening the embassy doors and showcasing the country’s culture, Altidor dedicated himself to “changing the narrative” for Haiti in the United States, according to Carla Durandisse.

Durandisse, 31, runs the Official DMV Haitians Instagram account, which has more than 3,000 followers. Durandisse said she created the account in 2016 to connect Haitians in the District-Maryland-Virginia area, and it expanded from there.

“As soon as I started the DMV Haitians account, the embassy of Haiti was the first place to open its doors to me,” Durandisse said.

A cultural hotspot

Throughout his tenure, Altidor was known for opening the doors of the embassy to both the community and those not familiar with Haitian culture. He often sponsored a variety of events — from fashion shows to panel discussions– in the palatial space that’s ordained with colorful pieces of Haitian artwork.

Durandisse said the ambassador understood how vital it was to portray Haiti beyond natural disasters and political turmoil.

“We are a country and we can stand on our own two feet. We have a vast culture. We have so many things to offer to the world,” Durandisse said. “We don’t need reactionary approach from people when a tragedy strikes Haiti. We want people to appreciate Haiti as it is now and as it has always been.”

Sabine Bernard, who works for a Washington, D.C. nonprofit, called Altidor a “rare gem” in the political world.

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Claire Savage

Claire Savage

Claire Savage is a freelance journalist who specializes in covering international news. She earned her bachelor's degree in Spanish and International Business at Washington University in St. Louis and her master's degree in journalism at American University in Washington, D.C.
Claire Savage
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Feb. 27, 2019