Haiti is the western most nation on the Island of Hispaniola. It is the only country in the Caribbean that shares an island with another nation (the Dominican Republic).
|The National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capitol.|
Initially, the Spanish controlled the island.
By the 1700s, the French had full reign over the western portion of Hispaniola,
which they named Saint Domingue (modern day Haiti). France's colony was an incredible
asset as it had the world's most successful sugar cane production. In fact, Saint Domingue
contributed to one-fourth of France's economic wealth. Like other islands in the Caribbean,
modern Haitian history began with the explotation of different peoples. The economic success of
Saint Domingue was the result of the extreme and brutal treatment of its slaves. Such treatment
backfired, and Saint Domingue's slaves revolted. The revolts were led by Toussaint Louverture, a former
who became a national hero. Napolean's army, considered the strongest
in the world at the time, could not counter these revolts. By 1804, Haiti (the original Arawak name)
became a republic and the second democracy in the western hemisphere.
Pictured, a statue of Toussaint Louverture.
Despite such a strong and independent start, Haitian history is plagued with economic difficulties and a serious class struggle. About 95% of the country is impoverished, while the other 5% (mainly mulatto, Arab, and European descent) controls most of the country's wealth. Haiti has been a pawn for
those with money and influence, which includes foreign interests like the U.S. During the 20th century, the United States place several Haitian leaders in power. Considered puppet presidents, these leaders allow the U.S. to exploit the nation where it could. During the 1950s, the U.S. was freightened by Francois Duvalier.
Papa Doc, as Duvalier was called, because of his black nationalist sentiments. Although Papa Doc's
retoric seemed egalitarian, his leadership was anything but. His dictatorship, and that of
his son, Jean Claude Duvalier(baby doc) were the most severe in South American history. More than
50,000 were murdered by the Tonton Macoute, the "secret" police. Baby Doc was forced to flee Haiti in the
mid '80s after he and his wife stole millions of UN aid money for personal expendatures.
Haiti continues its struggle with corruption and democracy today.