Haiti ( ( listen); French: Haïti [a.iti]; Haitian Creole: Ayiti [ajiti]), officially the Republic of Haiti (French: République d'Haïti; Haitian Creole: Repiblik Ayiti) and formerly called Hayti, is a country located on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean Sea. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) in size and has an estimated 10.8 million people, making it the most populous country in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the second-most populous country in the Caribbean as a whole.
The region was originally inhabited by the indigenous Taíno people. Spain landed on the island on 5 December 1492 during the first voyage of Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic. When Columbus initially landed in Haiti, he had thought he had found India or China. On Christmas Day 1492, Columbus' flagship the Santa Maria ran aground north of what is now Limonade. As a consequence, Columbus ordered his men to salvage what they could from the ship, and he created the first European settlement in the Americas, naming it La Navidad after the day the ship was destroyed.
The island was named La Española and claimed by Spain, which ruled until the early 17th century. Competing claims and settlements by the French led to the western portion of the island being ceded to France, which named it Saint-Domingue. Sugarcane plantations, worked by slaves brought from Africa, were established by colonists.
The Haitian Revolution
(1791-1804) was the most successful of the many African slave rebellions
in the Western Hemisphere and established Haiti
as a free, black republic
, the first of its kind. At the time of the revolution, Haiti was a colony of France
known as Saint-Domingue
. By means of this revolution, Africans and people of African ancestry freed themselves from French colonization and from slavery.
Haiti is the first black republic in modern history. It went directly from being a French colony to self-governance through a process that has had lasting effect on the nation. The system established by slaveholders demonstrated the effectiveness of violence and force in controlling the majority. This system survived the revolution and continued under the nascent black republic. A light-skinned elite took control of political and economic power.
Did you know...
- ...that in 2004, Hurricane Jeanne hit the coastal city of Gonaïves, where it affected about 80,000 of the city's 100,000 residents? And that official reports counted 3,006 people dead, with 2,826 of those in Gonaïves alone?
- ...that Gens de couleur were Free people of color in French colonial Haiti? And that the Gens de couleur could own plantations, and often owned large numbers of slaves themselves?
- ...that former President of Haiti Jean-Claude Duvalier, also known as "Baby Doc" was exiled to France after his disposition in 1986? And that he lost most of his wealth due to his divorce from his wife Michèle?
- ...that Restavec refers to a social system in Haiti whereby parents unable to care for their children send them to relatives or strangers? And that while some restavecs receive food and housing (and sometimes an education) in exchange for light housework, others have alleged widespread abuses within the system?
- ...that in 2007, the Haitian national football team beat recent FIFA World cup finalists Trinidad and Tobago 2-1, to win the Caribbean Cup for the first time?
- ...that La Visite National Park is one of the two national parks in Haiti? And that it is located in the southeast of the country and contains the country's highest mountain, Pic de la Selle?
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In the news
- November 5: Hurricane Tomas reached westernmost tip of Haiti, causing torrential rains and tropical storm force winds, killing at least seven people.
- October 23: An outbreak of cholera has occurred in the Saint-Marc region, killing at least 442 people and hospitalizing thousands more.
- August 10: Haiti has created an independent commission to investigate the slayings of the eight journalists killed in Haiti since 2000
(International Herald Tribune)