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Tuesday, 19 May 2015


Haiti occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic occupies 64 per cent of the island, Haiti the other 36 per cent.

Christopher Columbus became the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic) on December 5, 1492. The island was called Haiti ("Mountainous Land") by its native people, the Taíno Amerindians.

Columbus called the island "Insula Hispana" (Spanish island) from which 'Hispaniola' derives.

 Columbus landing on Hispaniola Wikipedia Commons

The feast of Epiphany that fell on this day, January 6, 1494, was highly significant. On it Columbus and all his men disembarked in Haiti and entered the temporary church that they had built. There they heard Fray Buil offer mass--the first mass ever heard on land in the New World, precursor of countless millions more.

Hispaniola was the site of the first European colonies in the Americas. 1200 colonists went in 1495 with Columbus to Hispaniola but he was not a successful governor and he got upset with the natives when they couldn't find gold. Soon Columbus' governorship was in disgrace and in 1500 he returned in chains.

In Haiti a drink called “kill-devil” or “rumbullion” was made by the natives by the distillation from sugar cane. 16th century Colonists only drink the rough spirits (which they referred to by its shortened name “rum”) in the absence of anything better.

The word “barbecue” first appeared in print in 1653. It comes from a word Arawak Indians in Haiti use who smoke strips of meat over an open fire on a grating of wood called a “berbekot”.

In 1697, Spain sold Haiti to France. The French brought many slaves over from Africa to provide labor on their colony and it became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean.

By the late 18th century, there were nearly half a million slaves in Haiti. In 1791 they staged a revolt, led by Toussaint L'Ouverture. After a hard and bloody struggle, the Haitians won their independence.

The Battle of Vertières, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution, was fought on November 18, 1803. This lead to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti, the first independent black republic in the Western Hemisphere.

Haiti is the first and only nation established as the result of a successful slave revolt.

Haitian Revolution Attack and take of the Crête-à-Pierrot

The French author Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) was the grandson of a woman slave from Haiti, where his French father was born in 1762, and lived a large part of his life.

The last Haitian to win an Olympic medal was Silvio Cato who was second in the 1928 long jump.

The flags of Haiti and Liechtenstein were found to be identical at the 1936 Olympics.

In 1986 the president of Haiti, Jean-Claude Duvalier, fled the country after a popular uprising, ending 28 years of one-family rule in the nation.

Haiti's first democratically-elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was sworn in on February 7 1991. A Roman Catholic priest of the Salesian order, Aristide became a focal point for the pro-democracy movement first under Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier and then under the military transition regime which followed. Aristide won the Haitian general election between 1990 and 1991, with 67% of the vote and was briefly president of Haiti, until a September 1991 military coup. The coup regime collapsed in 1994 and Aristide was then president again from 1994 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2004.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide meets Bill Clinton in the Oval Office, October 14, 1994.

Until the late 20th century Haitian presidents and elites maligned Creole, speaking only French to fellow citizens.

On January 12, 2010 at 16:53 local time, Haiti was struck by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake. The quake's epicenter was just outside the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. An estimated 200,000 people were killed, and around 280,000 buildings severely damaged or destroyed.

The main religion of Haiti is Roman Catholicism. However, many Haitians also practice Voodoo and in 2003, Voodoo was officially recognized as a religion in Haiti.

Haiti is called in French "La Perle des Antilles" (The pearl of the Antilles), because of its natural beauty.

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