Ghislaine Pierre, seven months pregnant, walked several painful miles from her home to the downtown Roman Catholic cathedral Monday because she can't afford the 33 cents to ride a tap-tap bus.
A few months ago, it cost 20 cents to take one of the multicolored, covered pickup trucks with benches in the back, which serve as the main means of public transportation in the Haitian capital.But the worldwide trade embargo has sent gasoline prices skyrocketing, and recent tightening up along the border with the Dominican Republic has pushed them even higher.
Resourceful Haitians smuggle their gas from their eastern neighbor on the island of Hispaniola, usually crossing at night and bringing contraband into Port-au-Prince in the early morning.
A U.S.-led international team plans to start patrolling the border by helicopter and land next week in an effort to shut off the gas spigot. In anticipation, things are already getting tougher.
"The Dominicans are beating Haitians with sticks, and it's a lot more difficult to cross the border now," said Sianne Fils as she poured gasoline from a plastic detergent bottle into the tank of a waiting car. "The Dominicans are putting more security on the border."
Added Gerard Ostine, another contraband gas salesman: "Barricades and soldiers are all over the border now."
Just last week, black market gasoline sold in the bustling quarter of Port-au-Prince known as "Kuwait City" for $7.60 a gallon. This week it's up to $9 a gallon.
The tap-taps, vans and trucks carrying people are still running, still bearing their myriad religious messages, such as: "Pray ceaselessly," "Patience," and "Hand of God."
But the streets also are teeming with people purposefully walking, many carrying heavy loads in their arms or balanced on their heads.
"I have no money to take the tap-tap to town," said Pierre, stomach bulging under her sky-blue dress, young daughter tugging at her hand. "I used to take the tap-tap all the time when life was normal."
When life was "normal," Pierre worked in a clothing factory, but the factory was shut down by the trade embargo.
"The embargo kicked us down," said an angry Georges Cherinot, trudging alongside a sun-baked avenue. He blamed the short rule of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Haiti's first popularly elected president, overthrown in a 1991 military coup.
"We are on foot now because we have no money. We are on foot because Aristide was a criminal president."
But others blame the military leaders who deposed Aristide and still run the country.
Joshua Jonathas spends hours a day walking from the north side of Port-au-Prince to his job in Petionville, a suburb in the hills above the capital.
Jonathas, who has two daughters, says the bus would cost him $1.65 a day, while he only earns $45 a month.
"I have to use the money to buy food," he said. "The reason we're in this situation is because they kicked Aristide out."