Haiti

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Republic of Haiti
Motto"L'Union Fait La Force"(French)

"Unity Creates Strength"
AnthemLa Dessalinienne
Capital
(and largest city)
Port-au-Prince
18°32′N 72°20′W / 18.533°N °W / 18.533; -72.333
Official language(s) French, Haitian Creole[1]
Ethnic groups  90% black, 10% mulatto and white[2]
Demonym Haitian
Government Semi-presidential republic
 -  President René Préval
 -  Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive
Formation
 -  French colony declared
(Treaty of Ryswick)
30 October 1697 
 -  Independence declared 1 January 1804 
 -  Independence recognized from France 17 April 1825 
Area
 -  Total 27,750 km2 (140th)
10,714 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.7
Population
 -  2009 estimate 10,188,000[2] (82nd)
 -  Density 325.59/km2 (31st)
843.31/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 estimate
 -  Total $11.976 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $1,338[3] 
GDP (nominal) 2009 estimate
 -  Total $6.558 billion[3] 
 -  Per capita $733[3] 
Gini (2001) 59.2 (high
HDI (2010) 0.404[4] (low) (145th)
Currency Gourde (HTG)
Time zone (UTC-5)
Drives on the right
Internet TLD .ht
Calling code 509

Haiti (; French Haïti, ; Haitian Creole: Ayiti, ), officially the Republic of Haiti (République d'Haïti ; Repiblik Ayiti) is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti (land of high mountains) was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the mountainous western side of the island. The country's highest point is Pic la Selle, at . The total area of Haiti is and its capital is Port-au-Prince. French and Haitian Creole are the official languages.

Haiti's regional, historical, and ethnolinguistic position is unique for several reasons. It was the first independent nation in Latin America and the first black-led republic in the world when it gained independence as part of a successful slave rebellion in 1804.[5] Despite having common cultural links with its Hispano-Caribbean neighbors, Haiti is the only predominantly Francophone independent nation in the Americas. It is one of only two independent nations in the Americas (along with Canada) that designate French as an official language; the other French-speaking areas are all overseas départements, or collectivités, of France.

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas as per the Human Development Index. It has experienced political violence throughout its history. Most recently, in February 2004, an armed rebellion forced the resignation and exile of previous President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and a provisional government took control with security provided by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Rene Preval, the current president, was elected in the Haitian general election, 2006.

On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti and devastated the capital city, Port-au-Prince. Although the exact number was difficult to determine, an estimated 316,000 people were killed.[6] The Presidential palace, Parliament and many other important structures were destroyed, along with countless homes and businesses, leaving many homeless.

History

Precolonial and Spanish colonial periods

The island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti occupies the western third, is one of many Caribbean islands inhabited at the time of European arrival by the Taíno Indians, speakers of an Arawakan language. The Taíno name for the entire island was Kiskeya. In the Taíno societies of the Caribbean Islands, the largest unit of political organization was led by a cacique; hence the term 'caciquedom' (French caciquat, Spanish cacicazgo) for these Taíno polities, which are often called "chiefdoms". Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the island of Hispaniola was divided among five or six long-established caciquedoms.[7][8]

The caciquedoms were tributary kingdoms, with payment consisting of harvests. Taíno cultural artifacts include cave paintings in several locations in the country, which have become national symbols of Haiti and tourist attractions. Modern-day Léogane, a town in the southwest, is at the site of Xaragua's former capital.

Christopher Columbus landed at Môle Saint-Nicolas on 5 December 1492, and claimed the island for Spain. Nineteen days later, his ship the Santa María ran aground near the present site of Cap-Haïtien; Columbus was forced to leave behind 39 men, founding the settlement of La Navidad. Following the destruction of La Navidad by the local indigenous people, Columbus moved to the eastern side of the island and established La Isabela. One of the earliest leaders to fight off Spanish conquest was Queen Anacaona, a princess of Xaragua who married Caonabo, the cacique of Maguana. The couple resisted Spanish rule in vain; she was captured by the Spanish and executed in front of her people. To this day, Anacaona is revered in Haiti as one of the country's founders.*[9]

The Spaniards exploited the island for its gold, mined chiefly by local Amerindians directed by the Spanish occupiers. Those refusing to work in the mines were killed or sold into slavery. Europeans brought with them infectious diseases that were new to the Caribbean, to which the indigenous population lacked immunity. These new diseases were the chief cause of the dying off of the Taíno,[10] but ill treatment, malnutrition, and a drastic drop in the birthrate as a result of societal disruption also contributed. The first recorded smallpox outbreak in the Americas occurred on Hispaniola in 1507.[11]

The Laws of Burgos, 1512–1513, were the first nationally codified set of laws governing the behavior of Spanish settlers in America, particularly with regards to native Indians. They forbade the maltreatment of natives, endorsed their conversion to Catholicism,[12] and legalized the colonial practice of creating encomiendas, where Indians were grouped together to work under colonial masters.[13] The Spanish crown found it difficult to enforce these laws in a distant colony.

The Spanish governors began importing enslaved Africans for labor. In 1517, Charles V authorized the draft of slaves. The Taínos became virtually, but not completely, extinct on the island of Hispaniola. Some who evaded capture fled to the mountains and established independent settlements. Survivors mixed with escaped African slaves (runaways called maroons) and produced a multiracial generation called zambos. French settlers later called people of mixed African and Amerindian ancestry marabou. The mestizo were children born to relationships between native women and European – usually Spanish – men. During French rule, children of mixed race, usually born of unions between African women and European men, were called mulâtres.

As a gateway to the Caribbean, Hispaniola became a haven for pirates. The western part of the island was settled by French buccaneers. Among them was Bertrand d'Ogeron, who succeeded in growing tobacco. His success prompted many of the numerous buccaneers and freebooters to turn into settlers. This population did not submit to Spanish royal authority until the year 1660 and caused a number of conflicts. By 1640, the buccaneers of Tortuga were calling themselves the Brethren of the Coast. French pirate Jean Lafitte, who operated in New Orleans and Galveston, was born in Port-au-Prince around 1782.[14]

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who might have been born in St Marc, Saint-Domingue in 1745, established a fur trading post at present-day Chicago, Illinois of which he can be considered one of the founders. John James Audubon, the renowned ornithologist and painter, was born in 1785 in Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue and painted, cataloged and described the birds of North America.

In 1779, more than 500 volunteers from Saint-Domingue, under the command of Comte d'Estaing, fought alongside American colonial troops against the British in the Siege of Savannah, one of the most significant foreign contributions to the American Revolutionary War.[15]

17th century settlement

Bertrand d'Orgeron attracted many colonists from Martinique and Guadeloupe, such as the Roy family (Jean Roy, 1625–1707); Hebert (Jean Hebert, 1624, with his family) and Barre (Guillaume Barre, 1642, with his family). They and others were driven from their lands when more land was needed for the extension of the sugar plantations. From 1670 to 1690, a drop in the tobacco markets significantly reduced the number of settlers on the island.

The first windmill for processing sugar was created in 1685.