The U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince issued the following Warden Message on February 22, 2011:
"The U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, Haiti is issuing this Warden Message to inform that this year’s Carnival celebrations are officially scheduled to take place in Port-au-Prince from March 5 – 8. As part of these celebrations Ra-Ra Bands will be out in the streets, with increased frequency on Sunday afternoons and evenings leading up to Carnival. Bands generally remain non-violent, but band members may crowd around vehicles, blocking them in, banging on windows, cracking bull whips, twirling knives and machetes, and making a lot of noise. It can be a potentially dangerous situation."
Should you get caught in a ra-ra*, "Keep windows rolled up and the doors locked. Put the car in park until the band passes. You will be in the most danger if you attempt to drive through the crowd."
(http://haiti.usembassy.gov/service/us-citizen-services/warden-messages/carnival-season-security.html) This of course assumes that you will be trying to drive through the crowd as opposed to dancing in the street with the crowd.
Indeed, Haiti is full on into Kanaval season, which starts on the second Sunday of January and gains intensity each week until the 3 official Kanaval days culminate on Fat Tuesday. Jacmel's Kanaval celebration - famous for its characterization of Haitian history and culture with elaborate paper mache costumes and street theater (check out our pics from 2009) - is always the weekend before the celebration in Port-au-Prince. That makes it... this weekend. We'll be there, wearing lots of sunscreen and close-toed shoes so that we can dance without getting stepped on. I can't wait!
* Not to be picky, but technically ra-ras are only thus called after Ash Wednesday, when ra-ra season coincides with Lent. Until then, they are simply bandapye (literally, foot bands). Ra-ra music is played on wooden drums, whistles, horns made out of sheet metal (each of which only play a single note) and bamboo flutes. It's a totally distinctive sound with a complex religious, political and social significance.