The art gallery has been dark for more than a year. Paintings of lush Haitian landscapes and dark voodoo ceremonies, priced as high as $20,000, are covered in dust, and the mahogany sculptures, priced at $10,000, are stacked like firewood in the middle of the floor.
The gallery's owner, Johnny Saba, is one of Haiti's wealthy elite, the collection of old families and rich newcomers who backed the coup that toppled the populist president, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, on Sept. 30, 1991.As Haiti nears the third anniversary of that coup, his business, like others here, has all but died.
He cannot export the art because of the U.N. embargo, and his local customers, whose own businesses have closed or dwindled to nothing, are not buying.
When American troops landed in Haiti this week to restore Aristide, Saba, like many others among the elite, was not so much angry as relieved.
The elite cheered when Aristide, whose talk of redistributing Haiti's wealth frightened them, was removed from power. But after three years of the slow disintegration of the economy and society as a whole, many rich Haitians will welcome him back if his return will breathe economic life back into the country.
"The people are tired of this situation," Saba said. "The people I talk to were happy to see the U.S. soldiers. We want them. Aristide is not the issue. Aristide is secondary to ending the embargo, and ending the situation we have lived under."
Saba and others of the elite did not go into the streets to welcome the soldiers the way the poor Haitians did. But all through Pe-tion-ville, a wealthy suburb up the mountain from Port-au-Prince, people talked with enthusiasm about Haiti's future.
"Things could not have gotten much worse," Saba said.
Not everyone is as welcoming as Saba. The richest families, many of them insulated by their huge wealth, could have ridden out an endless embargo, continuing to live in comfort behind high rock walls and armed guards.
Some older families, in particular, are insulted by the presence of the Americans, and they will never accept a government headed by a man elected by the largely illiterate masses.
Aristide, a dark-skinned man, was disregarded by many in the elite, most of whom are lighter-skinned people, what used to be called Creole.
"It was a social thing," said Marie Henritte Roux, a dancer and artist. "It's a superiority complex. Some people would rather have 30,000 U.S. soldiers than one Aristide."