|Republic of Haiti
Motto on traditional coat of arms:
"Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood"
"Union makes strength"
The Dessalines Song
and largest city
|Ethnic groups||95% Black
5% Mulatto and White
|Government||Unitary semi-presidential republic|
|-||Prime Minister||Laurent Lamothe|
|-||Lower house||Chamber of Deputies|
(Treaty of Ryswick)
|30 October 1697|
|-||Independence declared||1 January 1804|
|-||Recognized by France||17 April 1825|
|-||Total||27,750 km2 (140th)
10,714 sq mi
|-||2011 estimate||9,719,932 (87th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2012 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|HDI (2013)|| 0.456
low · 161th
|Time zone||EST (UTC−5)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||HT|
Haiti French are the official languages.
Haiti's regional, historical, and ethno-linguistic position is unique for several reasons. When it gained independence in 1804, it was the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the first black-led republic in the world, and the second republic in the Americas. Its successful revolution by slaves and free people of color lasted nearly a decade; all the first leaders of government were former slaves. 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) to designate French as an official language; the other French-speaking areas are all overseas départements, or collectivités, of France.
With its 9.7 million people, Haiti is the most populous full member-state of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The country is also a member of the Latin Union. In 2012, Haiti announced its intention to seek associate membership status in the African Union. It is the poorest country in the Americas as measured by the Human Development Index. Political violence has occurred regularly throughout its history, leading to government instability. Most recently, in February 2004, a coup d'état originating in the north of the country forced the resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. A provisional government took control with security provided by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Michel Martelly, the current president, was elected in the Haitian general election, 2011.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Government and politics
- 4 Administrative divisions
- 5 Economy
- 6 Demographics
- 7 Culture
- 8 Health
- 9 Education
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
At the time of European encounter, the island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti occupies the western third, is one of many Caribbean islands inhabited by the Taíno Indians, speakers of an Arawakan language. The Taíno name for the entire island was either Ayiti or Kiskeya. The people had migrated over centuries into the Caribbean islands from South America. Genetic studies show they were related to the Yanamamo of the Amazon Basin. After migrating to Caribbean islands, in the 15th century, the Taíno were pushed into the northeast Caribbean islands by the Caribs. They also originated in Central and South America.
In the Taíno societies of the Caribbean Islands, the largest unit of political organization was led by a cacique, or chief, as the Europeans understood them. The island of Hispaniola was divided among five or six long-established caciquedoms. The caciquedoms were tributary kingdoms, with payment consisting of harvests.
Taíno cultural artifacts include cave paintings in several locations in the country. These have become national symbols of Haiti and tourist attractions. Modern-day Léogane, started as a French colonial town in the southwest, is located at the site of the former capital of the caciquedom of Xaragua.
Navigator 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 left 39 men on the island, who founded the settlement of La Navidad.
The sailors carried endemic Eurasian infectious diseases. The natives lacked immunity to these new diseases, and died in great numbers in epidemics.  The first recorded smallpox outbreak in the Americas occurred on Hispaniola in 1507. The encomienda system forced natives to work in gold mines and plantations.
The Spanish passed the Laws of Burgos, 1512–1513, which forbade the maltreatment of natives, endorsed their conversion to Catholicism, and gave legal framework to encomiendas. The natives were brought to these sites to work in specific plantations or industries.
As a gateway to the Caribbean, Hispaniola became a haven for pirates during the early colonial period. The western part of the island was settled by French buccaneers. Among them was Bertrand d'Ogeron, who succeeded in growing tobacco. He attracted many French colonial families from Martinique and Guadeloupe. European nations were competing for control in the New World, in the Caribbean as well as in North America. France and Spain settled their hostilities on the island by the Treaty of Ryswick of 1697, and divided Hispaniola between them.
France received the western third and subsequently named it Saint-Domingue. To develop it into sugar cane plantations, they imported thousands of slaves from Africa. Sugar was a lucrative commodity crop throughout the eighteenth century. By 1789, approximately 40,000 French colonists lived in Saint-Domingue. In contrast, by 1763 the French population of Canada, a much larger territory, had numbered 65,000. The French were vastly outnumbered by the tens of thousands of African slaves they had imported for decades to work on their plantations, which were primarily devoted to the production of sugar cane. Particularly in the north, slaves retained many ties to African cultures, religion and language, as they were continually renewed by new imports. they outnumbered whites by about ten to one.
The French-enacted Code Noir ("Black Code"), prepared by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and ratified by Louis XIV, had established rules on slave treatment and permissible freedoms. Saint-Domingue has been described as one of the most brutally efficient slave colonies; one-third of newly imported Africans died within a few years. Many slaves died quickly from tropical diseases, smallpox, and typhoid fever. They had low birthrates, and there is evidence that some women aborted fetuses rather than give birth to them in slavery.
As in its Louisiana colony, French colonists provided some rights to free people of color, the mixed-race descendants of female slaves (and later mixed-race women) and white colonists. Over time, many were given freedom. They established a separate class. White French Creole fathers frequently sent their mixed-race sons to France for education. Some were admitted to the military. More of the free people of color lived in the south of the island, near Port-au-Prince, and many intermarried within their community. They frequently worked as artisans and tradesmen, and began to own some property. Some became slaveholders. They petitioned the colonial government to expand their rights.
Inspired by the French Revolution of 1789 and principles of the rights of men, free people of color and slaves in Saint-Domingue and the French and West Indies pressed for freedom and more civil rights. Most important was the revolution of the slaves in Saint-Domingue, starting in the northern plains in 1791, where Africans greatly outnumbered the whites.
In 1792, the French government sent three commissioners with troops to reestablish control. To build an alliance with the gens de couleur and slaves, the French commissioners Sonthonax and Polverel abolished slavery in the colony. Six months later, the National Convention, led by Robespierre and the Jacobins, endorsed abolition and extended it to all the French colonies.
U.S. political leaders reacted with ambivalence, at times providing aid to enable planters to put down the revolt. Later in the revolution, the US provided support to black Haitian forces, with the goal of reducing French influence in North America and the Caribbean.
Toussaint Louverture, a former slave and leader in the slave revolt, drove out not only the Spanish (from Santo Domingo) but also the British invaders who threatened the colony. In the uncertain years of revolution, the United States played both sides off against each other, with its traders supplying both the French and the rebels. The struggle within Haiti between the free people of color led by André Rigaud and the black Haitians led by Louverture devolved into the War of the Knives in 1799 and 1800. Many surviving free people of color left the island as refugees.
After Louverture created a separatist constitution, Napoléon Bonaparte in 1802 sent an expedition of more than 20,000 men under the command of his brother-in-law, General Charles Leclerc to retake the island. The French achieved some victories, but within a few months, yellow fever killed most of the French soldiers. More than 50,000 French troops died in an attempt to retake the colony, including 18 generals. The French captured Louverture, transporting him to France for trial. He was imprisoned at Fort de Joux, where he died in 1803 of exposure and tuberculosis.
The slaves, along with free gens de couleur and allies, continued their fight for independence. Jean-Jacques Dessalines defeated French troops at the Battle of Vertières. In late 1803, France withdrew its remaining 7,000 troops from the island and Napoleon gave up his idea of re-establishing a North American empire. With the war going badly, he sold Louisiana to the United States.
The independence of Saint-Domingue was proclaimed by Dessalines on 1 January 1804. Historians have estimated the slave rebellion resulted in the deaths of 100,000 slaves and 24,000 of the 40,000 colonists.[unreliable source?]
Fearful of the influence of the slaves' revolution, President Thomas Jefferson refused to recognize the new republic, as did most European nations. The US did not officially recognize Haiti for decades until after the American Civil War. Its new government was not supported by other republics.
The revolution in Saint-Domingue had resulted in waves of a massive multiracial exodus: French Créole colonists fled with those slaves they still held, as did numerous free people of color, some of whom were also slaveholders and transported slaves with them. In 1809, nearly 10,000 refugees from Saint-Domingue settled en masse in New Orleans. They doubled that city's population and helped preserve its French language and culture for several generations. In addition, the newly arrived slaves added to the city's African population.
Dessalines was proclaimed "Emperor for Life" by his troops. Dessalines at first offered protection to the white planters and others; but once in power, he ordered the massacre of most whites, without regard to age or gender. In the continuing competition for power, he was assassinated by rivals on 17 October 1806.
The country was divided between the Kingdom of Haiti in the north, directed by Henri I; and a republic in the south directed by Alexandre Pétion, an homme de couleur. Henri Christophe established a semi-feudal corvée system, with a rigid education and economic code.[unreliable source?][unreliable source?]
President Pétion gave military and financial assistance to the revolutionary Simón Bolívar, which were critical in enabling him to liberate the Viceroyalty of New Granada. He was instrumental in nations in South America achieving independence from Spain.
Beginning in 1821, President Jean Pierre Boyer, also an homme de couleur and successor to Pétion, reunified the two parts of St. Domingue and extended control over all of the western part of the island. In addition, after Santo Domingo declared its independence from Spain, Boyer sent forces in to take control. Boyer ruled the entire island, ending slavery in Santo Domingo. After Santo Domingo achieved independence from Haiti, it established a separate national identity that united the racially diverse people in this part of the island.
Struggling to revive the agricultural economy to produce commodity crops, Boyer passed the Code Rural, which denied peasant labourers the right to leave the land, enter the towns, or start farms or shops of their own. Following the Revolution, many peasants wanted to have their own farms rather than work on plantations.
The American Colonization Society (ACS), encouraged free blacks from the United States to emigrate to Haiti. Starting in September 1824, more than 6,000 American free blacks migrated to Haiti, with transportation paid by the ACS. Many found the conditions too harsh and returned to the United States.
In July 1825, King Charles X of France sent a fleet to reconquer the island. Under pressure, President Boyer agreed to a treaty by which France formally recognized the independence of the nation in exchange for a payment of 150 million francs (reduced to 90 million in 1838). After losing the support of Haiti's elite, Boyer was ousted in 1843. A long succession of coups followed his departure to exile. The enforced payment to France hollowed out Haiti financially for years, and the failure of western nations to recognize it kept its economy and society isolated. Expatriates bankrolled and armed opposing groups. In 1892, the German government supported suppression of the reform movement of Anténor Firmin.
In January 1914, British, German and US forces entered Haiti, ostensibly to protect their citizens from civil unrest at the time. In an expression of the Theodore Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, the United States occupied the island in 1915. US Marines were stationed in the country until 1934. The U.S. made massive improvements to infrastructure.
Sisal was introduced to Haiti, and sugar and cotton became significant exports. Haitian traditionalists, based in rural areas, were highly resistant to American-backed changes, while the urban elites wanted more control. Together they helped gain an end to the occupation in 1934. The debts were still outstanding and the American financial advisor-general receiver handled the budget until 1941.
Recognition of the distinctive traditionalism of the Haitian people had an influence on United States writers, including Eugene O'Neill, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Orson Welles.
After the US left in 1934, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo used anti-Haitian sentiment as a nationalist tool. In an event that became known as the Parsley Massacre, he ordered his Army to kill Haitians living on the Dominican side of the border. Between 10,000 and 20,000 Haitians were killed.  One-quarter Haitian, Trujillo over time continued to make policies against the neighboring population.
After a period of disorder, in September 1957 Dr. François Duvalier was elected President of Haiti. Known as "Papa Doc" and initially popular, Duvalier was President until his death in 1971. He advanced black interests in the public sector, where over time people of color had predominated as the educated urban elite. He stayed in power by enlisting an organization known as Tontons Macoutes ("Bogeymen"), which maintained order by terrorizing the populace and political opponents.
He was succeeded by his son Jean-Claude Duvalier – known also as "Bébé Doc" – who led the country from 1971 until his ouster in 1986. In 1986, protests against "Baby Doc" led him to seek exile in France. Army leader General Henri Namphy headed a new National Governing Council. General elections in November were aborted after dozens of inhabitants were shot in the capital by soldiers and Tontons Macoutes. Fraudulent elections followed. The elected President, Leslie Manigat, was overthrown some months later in the June 1988 Haitian coup d'état. The September 1988 Haitian coup d'état, which followed the St Jean Bosco massacre, revealed the increasing prominence of former Tontons Macoutes. General Prosper Avril led a military regime until March 1990.
In December 1990, the former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President in the Haitian general election. In September of the following year, Aristide was overthrown by the military in the 1991 Haitian coup d'état. In 1994, an American team negotiated the departure of Haiti's military leaders and the peaceful entry of US forces under Operation Uphold Democracy. This enabled the restoration of the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president. In October 1994, Aristide returned to Haiti to complete his term in office. Aristide vacated the presidency in February 1996. In the 1995 election, René Préval was elected as president for a five-year term, winning 88% of the popular vote.
The November 2000 election gave the presidency back to Aristide with an overwhelming 92% of the vote. The election had been boycotted by the opposition, now organized into the Convergence Démocratique, over a dispute in the May legislative elections. In subsequent years, there was increasing violence and human rights abuses. Aristide supporters attacked the opposition. Aristide spent years negotiating with the Convergence Démocratique on new elections, but the Convergence's inability to develop a sufficient electoral base made elections unattractive.
In 2004, a revolt began in northern Haiti. The rebellion eventually reached the capital; and Aristide was forced into exile, whereupon the United Nations stationed peacekeepers in Haiti. Some including Aristide and his bodyguard, Franz Gabriel, stated that he was the victim of a "new coup d'état or modern kidnapping" by U.S. forces. Mrs. Aristide stated that the kidnappers wore US Special Forces uniforms, but changed into civilian clothes upon boarding the aircraft that was used to remove Aristide from Haiti. Boniface Alexandre assumed interim authority. René Préval was elected President in February 2006, following elections marked by uncertainties and popular demonstrations. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (also known as MINUSTAH) remains in the country, having been there since the 2004 coup d'etat. The United States led a vast international campaign to prevent Aristide from returning to his country while he was exiled in South Africa. Released Wikileaks cables show that high-level U.S. and U.N. officials coordinated a politically motivated prosecution of Aristide to prevent him from "gaining more traction with the Haitian population and returning to Haiti." The United States and its allies allegedly poured tens of millions of dollars into unsuccessful efforts to slander Aristide as a drug trafficker, human rights violator, and heretical practitioner of voodoo.
In 2004, Tropical Storm Jeanne skimmed the north coast of Haiti, leaving 3,006 people dead in flooding and mudslides, mostly in the city of Gonaïves. Haiti was again pummeled by tropical storms in late August and early September 2008. The storms – Tropical Storm Fay, Hurricane Gustav, Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Ike – all produced heavy winds and rain in Haiti. A 10 September 2008 source listed 331 dead and 800,000 in need of humanitarian aid. The grim state of affairs produced by these storms was all the more life threatening due to already high food and fuel prices that had caused a food crisis and political unrest in April 2008.
On 12 January 2010, at 21:53 UTC, (4:53 pm local time) Haiti was struck by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake, the country's most severe earthquake in over 200 years. The 2010 Haiti earthquake was reported to have left up to 316,000 people dead and 1.6 million homeless, though later reports found these numbers to have been grossly inflated, and put the death toll between 46,000 and 85,000. The country has yet to recover from the 2010 earthquake (and subsequent incidents) due to both the severity of the damage Haiti endured in 2010, as well as a government that was ineffective well before the earthquake.
General elections had been planned for January 2010, but were postponed due to the earthquake. The elections were held on 28 November 2010 for senate, parliament and the first round of the presidential elections. The run-off between Michel Martelly and Mirlande Manigat took place on 20 March 2011, and preliminary results, released on 4 April, named Michel Martelly the winner.
In 2013, Haiti called for European nations to pay reparations for slavery and established an official reparations commission.
Haiti is on the western part of Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Greater Antilles. Haiti is the third largest country in the Caribbean behind Cuba and the Dominican Republic (the latter shares a 360-kilometre (224 mi) border with Haiti). Haiti at its closest point is only about 45 nautical miles (83 km; 52 mi) away from Cuba and has the second longest coastline (1,771 km or 1,100 mi) in the Greater Antilles, Cuba having the longest. The country lies mostly between latitudes 18° and 20°N (Tortuga island lies just north of 20°), and longitudes 71° and 75°W. Haiti's terrain consists mainly of rugged mountains interspersed with small coastal plains and river valleys.
The northern region consists of the Massif du Nord (Northern Massif) and the Plaine du Nord (Northern Plain). The Massif du Nord is an extension of the Cordillera Central in the Dominican Republic. It begins at Haiti's eastern border, north of the Guayamouc River, and extends to the northwest through the northern peninsula. The lowlands of the Plaine du Nord lie along the northern border with the Dominican Republic, between the Massif du Nord and the North Atlantic Ocean. The central region consists of two plains and two sets of mountain ranges. The Plateau Central (Central Plateau) extends along both sides of the Guayamouc River, south of the Massif du Nord. It runs from the southeast to the northwest. To the southwest of the Plateau Central are the Montagnes Noires, whose most northwestern part merges with the Massif du Nord. Its westernmost point is known as Cap Carcasse.
The southern region consists of the Plaine du Cul-de-Sac (the southeast) and the mountainous southern peninsula (also known as the Tiburon Peninsula). The Plaine du Cul-de-Sac is a natural depression that harbors the country's saline lakes, such as Trou Caïman and Haiti's largest lake, Lac Azuéi. The Chaîne de la Selle mountain range – an extension of the southern mountain chain of the Dominican Republic (the Sierra de Baoruco) – extends from the Massif de la Selle in the east to the Massif de la Hotte in the west. This mountain range harbors Pic la Selle, the highest point in Haiti at 2,680 metres (8,793 ft).
The country's most important valley in terms of crops is the Plaine de l'Artibonite, which is oriented south of the Montagnes Noires. This region supports the country's (also Hispaniola's) longest river, the Riviere l'Artibonite, which begins in the western region of the Dominican Republic and continues most of its length through central Haiti and onward where it empties into the Golfe de la Gonâve. The eastern and central region of the island is a large elevated plateau. Haiti also includes various offshore islands. The historically famous island of Tortuga (Île de la Tortue) is located off the coast of northern Haiti. The arrondissement of La Gonâve is located on the island of the same name, in the Golfe de la Gonâve. Gonâve Island is moderately populated by rural villagers. Île à Vache (Cow Island), a lush island with many beautiful sights, is located off the tip of southwestern Haiti. Also part of Haiti are the Cayemites and Île d' Anacaona. La Navasse located 40 nautical miles (46 mi; 74 km) west of Jérémie on the south west peninsula of Haiti, is subject to an on-going territorial dispute with the United States.
There are blind thrust faults associated with the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system over which Haiti lies. After the Earthquake of 2010, there was no evidence of surface rupture and based on seismological, geological and ground deformation data.
The northern boundary of the fault is where the Caribbean tectonic plate shifts eastwards by about 20 mm (0.79 inches) per year in relation to the North American plate. The strike-slip fault system in the region has two branches in Haiti, the Septentrional-Oriente fault in the north and the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault in the south.
A 2007 earthquake hazard study by C. DeMets and M. Wiggins-Grandison noted that the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone could be at the end of its seismic cycle and concluded that a worst-case forecast would involve a 7.2 Mw earthquake, similar in size to the 1692 Jamaica earthquake. Paul Mann and a group including the 2006 study team presented a hazard assessment of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault system to the 18th Caribbean Geologic Conference in March 2008, noting the large strain; the team recommended "high priority" historical geologic rupture studies, as the fault was fully locked and had recorded few earthquakes in the preceding 40 years. An article published in Haiti's Le Matin newspaper in September 2008 cited comments by geologist Patrick Charles to the effect that there was a high risk of major seismic activity in Port-au-Prince.
In 1925, Haiti was lush, with 60% of its original forest covering the lands and mountainous regions. Since then, Haiti's residents have cut down an estimated 98% of its original forest cover for use as fuel for cookstoves, and in the process have destroyed fertile farmland soils, contributing to desertification.
In addition to soil erosion, deforestation has caused periodic flooding, as seen on 17 September 2004. Earlier that year in May, floods had killed over 3,000 people on Haiti's southern border with the Dominican Republic.
There has been little marine, coastal, and river basin management. Forest cover in the steep hills surrounding Haiti's river basin retains soil, which in turn retains water from rainfall, reducing river flood peaks and conserving flows in the dry season. But deforestation has resulted in much of the soil being released from the upper catchments. Many of Haiti's rivers are now highly unstable, changing rapidly from destructive flooding to inadequate flows. Scientists at the Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the United Nations Environment Programme are working on the Haiti Regenerative Initiative an initiative aiming to reduce poverty and natural disaster vulnerability in Haiti through ecosystem restoration and sustainable resource management.
Government and politics
The government of Haiti is a semi-presidential republic, a multiparty system wherein the President of Haiti is head of state elected directly by popular elections. The Prime Minister acts as head of government and is appointed by the President, chosen from the majority party in the National Assembly. Executive power is exercised by the President and Prime Minister who together constitute the government. In 2013, the annual budget was US$1 billion.
Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the National Assembly of Haiti. The government is organized unitarily, thus the central government delegates powers to the departments without a constitutional need for consent. The current structure of Haiti's political system was set forth in the Constitution of Haiti on 29 March 1987. The current president is Michel Martelly.
Haitian politics have been contentious: in its 200-year history, Haiti has suffered 32 coups. Haiti is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to undergo a successful slave revolution, but a long history of oppression by dictators – including François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier – has markedly affected the nation. France and the United States have repeatedly intervened in Haitian politics since the country's founding, sometimes at the request of one party or another.
According to a Corruption Perceptions Index report in 2006, there is a strong correlation between corruption and poverty and Haiti ranked first of all countries surveyed for of levels of perceived domestic corruption. The International Red Cross reports that seven out of ten Haitians live on less than US$2 a day.
Cité Soleil, Haiti's largest slum in the capital of Port-au-Prince, has been called "the most dangerous place on Earth" by the United Nations. The slum is a stronghold of supporters of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who, according to the BBC, "accused the US of forcing him out – an accusation the US rejected as 'absurd'".
Jean-Bertrand Aristide was initially denied access to Haiti by Haitian immigration authorities, despite issuing appeals to his supporters, and to international observers, to be able to enter. The world's most prominent governments did not overtly oppose such appeals, nor did they support them; an unnamed analyst 'close to the Haitian government' who was repeatedly quoted in several media sources including the New York Times, is reported to have commented, "Aristide could have 15 passports and he's still not going to come back to Haiti. ...France and the United States are standing in the way." However, Aristide finally returned to Haiti just days before the 2011 Presidential election, on 18 March 2011.
The first round of the 2010 Haiti Elections, was held in December and qualified Mirlande Manigat and Jude Celestin for the second round, but the results of the election were contested. Some people said that the first round was a fraud, and that Michel Martelly should be in the place of Jude Celestin, René Préval's chosen successor. There was some violence between the contending parties. On 4 April 2011 the Provisional Electoral Council announced preliminary results that Martelly had won the presidential election.
In February 2012, Haiti signaled it would seek to upgrade its observer status to full associate member status of the African Union (AU). The AU plans at its next summit in June 2013 to upgrade Haiti's status from observer to associate.
The Institute for the Protection of National Heritage has preserved 33 historical monuments and the historic center of Cap-Haïtien.
Haiti has consistently ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world on the Corruption Perceptions Index. It is estimated that President "Baby Doc" Duvalier, his wife Michelle, and three other people took $504 million from the Haitian public treasury between 1971 and 1986.
Similarly, some media outlets alleged that millions were stolen by former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In March 2004, at the time of Aristide's being kidnapped, a BBC article wrote that the Bush administration State department stated that Aristide had been involved in drug trafficking. The BBC also described pyramid schemes, in which Haitians lost hundreds of millions in 2002, as the "only real economic initiative" of the Aristide years.
For reasons of administration, Haiti has been divided into ten departments. The departments are listed below, with the departmental capital cities in parentheses.
- Nord-Ouest (Port-de-Paix)
- Nord (Cap-Haïtien)
- Nord-Est (Fort-Liberté)
- Artibonite (Gonaïves)
- Centre (Hinche)
- Ouest (Port-au-Prince)
- Grand'Anse (Jérémie)
- Nippes (Miragoâne)
- Sud (Les Cayes)
- Sud-Est (Jacmel)
Haiti's purchasing power parity GDP fell 8% in 2010 (from $12.15 billion to $11.18 billion) and the GDP per capita remained unchanged at (PPP US$) 1,200. Haiti ranked 145 of 182 countries in the 2010 United Nations Human Development Index, with 57.3% of the population being deprived in at least three of the HDI's poverty measures.
The World Factbook reports a shortage of skilled labor, widespread unemployment and underemployment, saying "more than two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs", and describes pre-earthquake Haiti as "already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty." Three-quarters of the population lives on $2 or less per day. Reforms to improve the business environment have had little effect because of widespread corruption and the inefficient judicial framework.
Though more than half of all Haitians work in the agricultural sector, the country relies on imports for half its food needs and 80% of its rice. Haiti exports crops such as mangoes, cacao, and coffee, but agricultural products comprise only about 6% of all exports.
Haiti has a large trade deficit of $3 billion in 2011, or 41% of GDP. Foreign aid makes up approximately 30–40% of the national government's budget. The largest donor is the US, followed by Canada and the European Union. From 1990 to 2003, Haiti received more than $4 billion in aid. The United States alone had provided Haiti with 1.5 billion in aid. In January 2010, China promised $4.2 million for the quake-hit island. US President Barack Obama pledged $1.15 billion in assistance. European Union nations promised more than 400 million euros ($616 million) in emergency aid and reconstruction funds.
US aid to the Haitian government was completely cut off from 2001 to 2004, after the 2000 election was disputed and President Aristide was accused of various misdeeds. After Aristide's departure in 2004, aid was restored, and the Brazilian army led the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti peacekeeping operation. Following almost 4 years of recession ending in 2004, the economy grew by 1.5% in 2005. In September 2009, Haiti met the conditions set out by the IMF and World Bank's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program to qualify for cancellation of its external debt.
Haiti's richest 1% own nearly half the country's wealth. Haiti apparently has no hydrocarbon resources on land or in the Gulf of Gonâve and is therefore heavily dependent on energy imports (petroleum and petroleum products).
Cité Soleil is considered one of the worst slums in the Americas; most of its 500,000 residents live in extreme poverty. Poverty has forced at least 225,000 Haitian children to work as restavecs (unpaid household servants). The United Nations considers this a modern-day form of slavery.
Haiti was a popular destination for tourists from the United States and Europe in the 1950s. In 2012, the country received 950,000 tourists (mostly from cruise ships), compared with 4.5 million in the Dominican Republic, and the industry generated US$200 million in 2012.
In December 2012 the US State Department issued a travel warning about the country, noting that while thousands of American citizens safely visit Haiti each year, foreign tourists had been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area.
In 2012, several modern hotels were opened, including a Best Western Premier, a five-star Royal Oasis hotel by Occidental Hotel and Resorts in Petion-Ville, a four-star Mariott hotel in the Turgeau area of Port-au-Prince and other new hotel developments in Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, Cap-Haitien and Jacmel.
Haitian Carnival has become one of the most popular carnivals in the Caribbean since the government decided to stage the event in a different city every year. The National Carnival which is usually held in one of the country largest cities (i.e Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haitien or Les Cayes), follows the also very popular Jacmel Carnival which takes place a week earlier in February or March.
Caracol Industrial Park
In October 21, 2012, Haitian President Michel Martelly, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, Ben Stiller, and Sean Penn inaugurated the Caracol industrial park, the largest in the Caribbean. It consists of 600 acres (240 ha). The US$300 million project, which includes a 10-megawatt power plant, road, a water-treatment plant, and worker housing is intended to transform the northern part of the country by creating 65,000 jobs.
South Korean clothing manufacturer Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd, one of the main tenants of the Caracol industrial park is creating 20,000 permanent jobs and building 5,000 houses in the surrounding area for its workers. The park is part of a "master plan" for Haiti's North and North-East departments, including the expansion of the Cap-Haitien International Airport to accommodate large international flights, the construction of an international Seaport in Fort-Liberté and the opening of the US$50 million Roi Henri Christophe Campus of a new university in Limonade (near Cap-Haitien) on January 12, 2012.
Haiti has two main highways that run from one end of the country to the other. The northern highway, Route Nationale No. 1 (National Highway One), originates in Port-au-Prince, winding through the coastal towns of Montrouis and Gonaïves, before reaching its terminus at the northern port Cap-Haïtien. The southern highway, Route Nationale No. 2, links Port-au-Prince with Les Cayes via Léogâne and Petit-Goâve.
According to the Washington Post, "Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Saturday [23 January 2010] that they assessed the damage from the 12 Jan. quake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and found that many of the roads aren’t any worse than they were before because they’ve always been in poor condition."
The port at Port-au-Prince, Port international de Port-au-Prince, has more registered shipping than any of the other dozen ports in the country. The port's facilities include cranes, large berths, and warehouses, but these facilities are not in good condition. The port is underused, possibly due to the substantially high port fees, compared to ports in the Dominican Republic. The port of Saint-Marc is currently the preferred port of entry for consumer goods coming into Haiti. Reasons for this may include its location away from volatile and congested Port-au-Prince, as well as its central location relative to numerous Haitian cities.
During the 2010 Earthquake, the Port-au-Prince port suffered widespread damage, impeding aid to the victims. The main pier caved in and fell into the water. One of the main cranes also collapsed in the water. Port access roads were severely damaged as well.
Toussaint Louverture International Airport is located 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) North/North East of Port-au-Prince. It has Haiti's main jetway, and as such, handles the vast majority of the country's international flights. To travel on from the international airport at Port-au-Prince to other Haitian cities requires boarding a smaller plane. Cities such as Jacmel, Jérémie, Les Cayes, Cap-Haïtien, and Port-de-Paix have airports that are accessible only by smaller aircraft. Companies that fly to these airports include: Caribintair, Sunrise Airways and Tortug' Air.
In the past, Haiti used rail transport, but, today, railroads are no longer in use, due to their replacement by other forms of transportation.
Although Haiti averages approximately 350 people per square kilometer (~900 per sq mi.), its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys. Haiti's population was about 9.8 million according to UN 2008 estimates, with half of the population being under 20 years. The first formal census, taken in 1950, showed that the population was 3.1 million.
Modern Haitians today are people who are descendants of former African slaves, Mulatto/Creole/Free people of color and the remaining white populations who survived the revolt. Smaller minority groups include people of Western European (French, German, Italian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish), Arab, Armenian, or Jewish origin. Haitians of East Asian descent or East Indian origin number approximately 400+.
Millions of Haitians live abroad in the Dominican Republic, United States, Cuba, Canada (primarily Montreal), Bahamas, France, French Antilles, the Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Brazil and French Guiana. There are an estimated 800,000 Haitians in the Dominican Republic, 600,000 in the United States, 100,000 in Canada, 80,000 in France, and up to 80,000 in the Bahamas. But there are also smaller Haitian communities in many other countries, including Chile, Switzerland, Japan and Australia.
One of Haiti's two official languages is French, which is the principal written and administratively authorized language. It is spoken by all educated Haitians, is the medium of instruction in most schools, and is used in the business sector. It is also used in ceremonial events such as weddings, graduations and church masses. The second is the recently standardized Haitian Creole, which is spoken by virtually the entire population of Haiti. Haitian Creole is one of the French-based creole languages. Its vocabulary is primarily derived from French, but its grammar and pronunciation display influences from some West African languages. Haitian Creole is related to the other French creoles, but most closely to Mauritian creole and Louisiana Creole.
Haiti has a long and storied history and therefore retains a rich culture. Haitian culture is a mixture of primarily French, African elements, and native Taíno, with influence from the colonial Spanish. The country's customs essentially are a blend of cultural beliefs that derived from the various ethnic groups that inhabited the island of Hispaniola. In nearly all aspects of modern Haitian society however, the European and African elements dominate. Haiti is world famous for its distinctive art, notably painting and sculpture.
The music of Haiti is influenced mostly by European colonial ties and African migration (through slavery). In the case of European colonization, musical influence has derived primarily from the French, however Haitian music has been influenced to a significant extent by its Spanish-speaking neighbors, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, whose Spanish-infused music has contributed much to the country's musical genres as well. Styles of music unique to the nation of Haiti include music derived from Voodoo ceremonial traditions, Rara parading music, troubadour ballads, and the wildly popular Compas.
Compas (in French) or Konpa (in Creole) is a complex, ever-changing music that arose from African rhythms and European ballroom dancing, mixed with Haiti's bourgeois culture. It is a refined music, played with an underpinning of tipico, and méringue (related to Dominican merengue) as a basic rhythm. Haiti had no recorded music until 1937 when Jazz Guignard was recorded non-commercially. One of the most popular Haitian artists is Wyclef Jean. Wyclef Jean, however, left the country before his teenage years. His music is somewhat hip-hop mixed with world music.
Brilliant colors, naive perspective and sly humor characterize Haitian art. Frequent subjects in Haitian art include big, delectable foods, lush landscapes, market activities, jungle animals, rituals, dances, and gods. Artists frequently paint in fables. People are disguised as animals and animals are transformed into people. In a mostly illiterate land, symbols take on great meaning. For example, a rooster often represents Aristide and the red and blue colors of the Haitian flag often represent his Lavalas party. Many artists cluster in ‘schools’ of painting, such as the Cap-Haïtien school, which features depictions of daily life in the city, the Jacmel School, which reflects the steep mountains and bays of that coastal town, or the Saint-Soleil School, which is characterized by abstracted human forms and is heavily influenced by Voodoo symbolism.
Football is the most popular sport in Haiti with hundreds of small football clubs competing at the local level, and basketball is growing in popularity.
Haitian cuisine originates from several culinary styles from the various historical ethnic groups that populated the western portion of the island of Hispaniola, namely the French, African, and the Taíno. Haitian cuisine is similar to the rest of the Latin-Caribbean (the French and the Spanish-speaking countries of the Antilles) however it differs in several ways from its regional counterparts. Its primary influences are French cuisine and African cuisine, with notable derivations from native Taíno and Spanish culinary techniques. Though similar to other cooking styles in the region, it carries a uniqueness native only to the country and an appeal to many visitors to the island. Haitians often use peppers and other strong flavorings.
Dishes tend to be seasoned liberally and consequently Haitian cuisine is often moderately spicy, not mild and not too hot. In the country, however, many businesses of foreign origin have been established introducing several foreign cuisines into the mainstream culture. Years of adaptation have led to these cuisines (ie: Levantine from Arab migration to Haiti) to merge into Haitian cuisine. Rice and beans in several differing ways are eaten throughout the country regardless of location, becoming a sort of national dish. They form the staple diet, which consists of a lot of starch and is high in carbohydrates. Rural areas, with better access to agricultural products, have a larger variety of choices.
One such dish is mais moulu (mayi moulin), which is comparable to cornmeal that can be eaten with sauce aux pois (sòs pwa), a bean sauce made from one of many types of beans such as kidney, pinto, chickpeas, or pigeon peas (known in some countries as gandules). Mais moulin can be eaten with fish (often red snapper), or alone depending on personal preference. Some of the many plants used in Haitian dishes include tomato, oregano, cabbage, avocado, bell peppers. A popular food is banane pesée (ban-nan'n peze), flattened plantain slices fried in soybean oil (known as tostones in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico). It is eaten both as a snack and as part of a meal is, often eaten with tassot or griot, which are deep-fried goat and pork respectively.
Notable natives and residents
- 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; he is considered one of the city's founders.
- 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.
- The French pirate Jean Lafitte, who operated around New Orleans and Galveston on the Gulf Coast of the United States, was born in Port-au-Prince around 1782.
- John James Audubon, the renowned ornithologist and painter, was born in 1785 in Les Cayes, Saint-Domingue. His parents returned to France, where the boy was educated. He emigrated to the United States as a young man; and made a career as he painted, catalogued and described the birds of North America.
- Michaëlle Jean, 27th Governor General of Canada, was born in Port-au-Prince in 1957 and lived in Haiti until 1968.
- Wyclef Jean, Croix-des-Bouquets-born Haitian-American musician.
- Pierre Garçon, American football player.
Half of the children in Haiti are unvaccinated; only 40% of the population has access to basic health care. Prior to the 2010 earthquake, nearly half of all Haitian deaths were attributed to HIV/AIDS, respiratory infections, meningitis and diarrheal diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Ninety percent of Haiti's children suffer from waterborne diseases and intestinal parasites. HIV infection is found in 2.2% of Haiti's adult population. The incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in Haiti is more than ten times as high as in the rest of Latin America. Approximately 30,000 people in Haiti suffer each year from malaria.
Most people living in Haiti are at high risk for major infectious diseases. Food or waterborne diseases include bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever; common vectorborne diseases are dengue fever and malaria; water contact diseases include leptospirosis. Roughly 75% of Haitian households lack running water. Unsafe water, along with inadequate housing and unsanitary living conditions, contributes to the high incidence of infectious diseases. There is a chronic shortage of health care personnel, and hospitals lack resources, a situation that became readily apparent after the January 2010 earthquake.
The educational system of Haiti is based on the French system. Higher education, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, is provided by universities and other public and private institutions. Haiti counts 15,200 primary schools, of which 90% are non-public and managed by communities, religious organizations or NGOs. The enrollment rate for primary school is 67%, and fewer than 30% reach 6th grade. Secondary schools enroll 20% of eligible-age children. Charity organizations, including Food for the Poor and Haitian Health Foundation, are building schools for children and providing necessary school supplies. Haiti's literacy rate is 52.9%.
The January 2010 earthquake was a major setback for education reform in Haiti as it diverted limited resources to survival. Literacy levels remain near 50%. Haiti is one of the lowest-ranked countries in the world, 177th out of 186, for national spending on education.
Many reformers have advocated the creation of a free, public and universal education system for all primary school-age students in Haiti. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that the government will need at least $3 billion USD to create an adequately funded system.
- Outline of Haiti
- Index of Haiti-related articles
- Anthropological Studies of Haiti
- External debt of Haiti
- List of Haitians
- Prichard, Hesketh. Where Black Rules White: A Journey Across and About Hayti. These are exact reproductions of a book published before 1923: (Nabu Press, ISBN 978-1146676526, 2010-3-5); (Wermod and Wermod Publishing Group, ISBN 978-0956183583, 2012-10-15).
- Arthur, Charles. Haiti in Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics, and Culture. Interlink Publishing Group (2002). ISBN 1-56656-359-3.
- Dayan, Colin. Haiti, History, and the Gods. University of California Press (1998). ISBN 0-520-21368-8.
- Girard, Philippe. Haiti: The Tumultuous History (New York: Palgrave, Sept. 2010).
- Hadden, Robert Lee and Steven G. Minson. 2010. The Geology of Haiti: An Annotated Bibliography of Haiti's Geology, Geography and Earth Science. US Army Corps of Engineers, Army Geospatial Center. July 2010.
- Heinl, Robert Debs & Nancy Gordon Heinl. Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People 1492–1995. University Press of America (2005). ISBN 0-7618-3177-0.
- Kovats-Bernat, J. Christopher. Sleeping Rough in Port-au-Prince: An Ethnography of Street Children and Violence in Haiti. University Press of Florida (2008). ISBN 978-0813033020.
- Robinson, Randall. An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President. Basic Civitas (2007). ISBN 0-465-07050-7.
- Wilentz, Amy. The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier. Simon & Schuster (1990). ISBN 0-671-70628-4.
|Find more about Haiti at World Heritage Encyclopedia's sister projects|
|Definitions and translations from|
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|Source texts from|
|Travel guide from|
|Learning resources from|
- (French) (Haitian Creole)
- Prime Minister of Haiti (French)
- Parliament of Haiti (French)
- General information
- Encyclopædia Britannica
- The World Factbook
- Haiti at UCB Libraries GovPubs
- Library of Congress (December 1989)
- Atlas of Haiti
- BBC News
- New Internationalist
- Web Site about Safe and Sustainable Water Solutions for Haiti
- University of Texas
- Map of Haiti from the United Nations
- Relief Organizations
- The ICRC in Haiti International Committee of the Red Cross
- Hope for Haiti. Education and grassroots development in rural Haiti.
- Haiti volunteer youth corps. Training leaders in trauma relief, community empowerment, and sustainable agriculture
- Instituto Dominicano de Desarrollo Integral Dominican parent of the Haitian Institute of Integral Development