Latin America


When the earthquake hit Haiti last week, more than 40,000 Americans were living there. Many of them are Haitian-Americans, including some who retired in the country of their birth.

NPR's Corey Flintoff has the story of one such man he encountered in a wrecked hillside slum.

COREY FLINTOFF: People gather when you do interviews on the street, especially people in deep distress like the ones who surround us in the ruined district called Carrefour-Feuilles. One man is insistent, he is speaking through an interpreter.

Unidentified Man: Things can be very important. There is an American lying here, he's very sick. They call for American people to come in, and he would like to go. He's so sick, but they cannot help him.

FLINTOFF: The man leads the way through a courtyard jammed with people who have lost their homes. The American proves to be an aged man lying on a mattress, half naked under a thin blanket. A plastic tube trails out from under the blanket, emptying into a urine-spattered bucket. He's hard of hearing, confused and irritated by the crowd around him. In response to shouted questions from an interpreter, he says his name was Yves Malbranche.

Mr. YVES MALBRANCHE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He is 86 and frail, but when asked where he comes from, he speaks up.

Mr. MALBRANCHE: Belmont Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, senior citizen.

FLINTOFF: Belmont Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, senior citizen. American citizen, too, though he says his passport has expired and he somehow never got around to renewing it. He says proudly that he has his Medicare and Social Security cards. Mr. Malbranche says he moved back to Haiti in 2004 to live with a brother who has since died of cancer.

Ms. MARIE-CARMEL BARTELME: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: A neighbor, Marie-Carmel Bartelme, says that she is helping to take care of him. He has a nephew in the U.S. who helped to arrange for his medical care in the past, but since the earthquake, no one has been able to contact him.

Ms. BARTELME: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Marie-Carmel says Mr. Malbranche is sleeping outside because his house is damaged and too dangerous to stay in. It's noisy, crowded and dirty in the courtyard.

Mr. MALBRANCHE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Annoyed, Mr. Malbranche shoos away a crowd of curious children.

Mr. MALBRANCHE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: He says he regrets the decision to come back to his homeland and only wants one thing.

Mr. MALBRANCHE: (Through translator) I wanted to go back to the United States.

FLINTOFF: Yves Malbranche, old and ill, lying outside a house he can't use, in a ruined, chaotic city, a senior citizen, an American citizen, and he wants to go home.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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