South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
A journey of the heart leads to the real Haiti
Marci Shatzman firstname.lastname@example.org
10:17 AM EST, December 26, 2012
When Diana Pierre-Louis entered a contest to rebrand her husband's native country of Haiti, she didn't know she would win, let alone be a guest of the president. Twice.
Now this Fort Lauderdale native turned West Boca media guru is helping the tourism ministry pro bono. She wants the world to know that most of Haiti is open for visitors and business, after the January 2010 earthquake left only those images. "Actually, most of the island was unaffected," she said.
That's her slogan Experience It! in the new logo with the red hibiscus. "The logo designer is Xavier Delatour [who] lives in Haiti. I was the slogan winner and they combined his logo with my slogan," she said in an email, after a visit to the couple's home off U.S. Highway 441.
There's even a billboard with the new logo on Interstate 95 at 79th Street in Miami, Pierre-Louis said, showing an image on her iPad. She started TheRealHaiti.Com, a website that grew out of her blog, and has her own line of island jewelry. "Every piece tells a story," she said.
Pierre-Louis was surprised to have found herself on the front row at the business forum on the Haitian dispora at the North Miami Beach Library. She received the invitation from Haiti's vice consul in Miami, Guy Francois, she said. Her husband, Endy, was allowed to come later for President Michel Martelly's State of the Country address from the nearby Gwen Margolis Amphitheater on Dec. 10. The first lady knew her name, she said.
Now both 29, Endy is a registered nurse in the ER at Delray Medical Center. She has degrees from Florida Atlantic and Lynn universities, and is the digital media specialist for Palm Beach State College. She works on the Boca Raton campus once a week.
Diana met Endy through a fix up, and they were a couple for years before they married a year and a half ago. He has been in the U.S. since 1998, a native of Petit-Goaves, a coastal town. His nickname is the Haitian Sensation, he said laughing.
It took her immediate family awhile to come around. The T-shirt she's wearing on her business cards says: "What do you mean I don't look Haitian?"
But their differences were more than skin deep. "It took a while for me to understand the cultural differences," she said.
"The hardest part for her was, we're more laid back," he said.
But it wasn't until her a visit to Labadee, a private resort, aboard a cruise ship in 2008, and a 10-day trip with Endy's relatives that included the ruins of the mountaintop fortress La Citadelle that she became all things Haitian. She loves to show off photos of the stunning views. "It couldn't believe my eyes," she said.
So in March, she entered the contest she saw on the ministry's Facebook page, and in May discovered she had won via a website. "I saw my name and I freaked out," she said. In June she and Endy flew to Haiti to meet Martelly, receive her plaque and hand-beaded flag emblem, and in August they used the hotel package she won.
"This can't be the end. I want to continue promoting the country," she remembers thinking. Then in October, "they made me an official partner…"
The couple knows they're on a journey and they're excited at where this could take them. Endy is proud of his wife's commitment to his country and the Haitian people. "When you stay at a hotel, you feel like you're at someone's home," she said. "By the end of the trip, you're friends."
Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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