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Inside Haiti's history

Updated on February 9, 2013

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. Christopher 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.

The Island of Hispaniola consists now of Haiti and the Dominican republic, Haiti did not get colonized by the Europeans properly until the 1500's and has been ruled by the Spanish, Dutch, British and French Empires. Haiti was inhabited by the Taíno Indians they spoke Arawakan language, nearly all of the indigenous population has been killed off by either executions, warfare, disease or death caused by colonial slavery.

Labadee beach
Labadee beach | Source

Haiti and Hispaniola

Voodoo and Dictatorship

Haiti is known to the world primarily for the religion of Voodoo and dictatorships. Haiti does not have the same level of tourism as its neighbour the Dominican republic and has a poor standard of living compared to other Caribbean Islands, this is possibly why Voodoo became so prevalent here. The religion and practice is based upon a merging of the beliefs and practices of African peoples , with the native culture and beliefs of the Arawak, and Roman Catholic Christianity. Voodoo was created by African slaves who were brought to Haiti in the 16th and 17th centuries and who still followed their traditional African beliefs. The slave workers were forced to convert to the Christian religion of their slave masters and this created the hybrid religion of Voodoo.

Voodoo was a means of control in Haiti's social and political structure, François Duvalier (1907–1971) was the President of Haiti from 1957 until his death in 1971. Duvalier first won acclaim in fighting diseases, earning him the nickname "Papa Doc" Papa Doc had opposed a military Coupin 1950, and was then elected President in 1956 on a very populist and Black Nationalist agenda and platform. His rule was based upon a purged and loyal military, a loyal rural militia/police and like all dictatorships the use of a cult of personality.

Tortuga and Piracy

From 1630 onward, the island of Tortuga was divided into French and English colonies allowing Privateers and pirates to use the island more frequently as their main base of operations. In 1633, the first African slaves were imported to work in the plantations. The new slave trend did not stand, and by 1635 the use of slaves had ended. The slaves were said to be out of control on the island, while at the same time there had been continual disagreements and fighting between French and English colonies.

The Spanish returned and quickly conquered the English and French colonies, only to leave again because the island was too small to be of any major strategic importance. The Spanish abandonment of Tortuga allowed the return of both French and English pirates. In 1638, the Spanish again returned to take the island and rid it of all French and newly settled Dutch. They occupied the island, but were soon expelled by the French and Dutch colonist who went on to form the Brethren of the Coast in 1640.

Would you visit Haiti?

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Haiti as a tourist destination has suffered due to political instability, investment in the countries tourist appeal is nowhere near what the other Caribbean Islands have seen. Haiti was further hampered by natural disasters such Earthquakes. Haiti lacks the regal splendor of the other islands but it does have charm, colonial architecture and a wealth of tradition and history. Haiti with outside assistance could become a major tourist centre, but for now it is an area for the brave and the travel pioneers to visit before commercialism takes hold.


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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Haiti and the Dominican Republic are tropical and gorgeous but sadly are plagued by scourges from Nature and from human beings. People have ruined the place by appalling pollution lack of sanitation(the place is an open sewer) deforestation extreme poverty starvation unclean water political corruption voodoo and zombies. Read the book and see the movie The Serpent and the Rainbow which illustrates the cruel disgusting realities of voodoo and zombies. Its like a horror movie. Nature has also ruined Haiti with hurricanes malaria and some venomous pests. Haiti has no venomous snakes but it has venomous arthropods. A large Centipede a Scorpion and a Tarantula make the place dangerous. The Haitian Brown Tarantula is a large and often bad tempered spider. It can be very aggressive. Its bite causes severe pain itching and swelling in humans and can cause sickness such as headache hives and difficulty breathing. Aids is numerous in Haiti. The recent devastating earthquake has made the place worse.

    • Asp52 profile image

      Asp52 7 years ago from England

      Yes, it seems a place the western world fears. In 1991 about 10,000 Americans visited it and that was the most since WW2 ended. It maybe good to see it before Casino's and leisure parks take over. The History of Haiti's links to Piracy would be interesting to explore locally.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 7 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      I've never been to the Caribbean. I'd like to go sometime. I'd probably start with Jamaica but Haiti is a possibility down the road. It sounds like it would be an interesting trip.