Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti (French: République d'Haïti; Haitian Creole: Repiblik Ayiti), is a sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere (North America). The country is located on the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) in size and has an estimated 10.6 million people,making it the most populous country in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the second-most populous country in the Caribbean as a whole.
The region was originally inhabited by the indigenous Taíno people. Spain first discovered the island for Europeans on 5 December 1492 during the first voyage of Christopher Columbus across the Atlantic. When Columbus initially landed in Haiti, he had thought he had found India or Asia. On Christmas Day 1492, Columbus' flagship the Santa Maria, ran aground north of what is now Limonade. As a consequence, Columbus ordered his men to salvage what they could from the ship, and he created the first European settlement in the Americas, naming it La Navidad after the day the ship was destroyed.
The island was named La Española and claimed by Spain, which ruled until the early 17th century. Competing claims and settlements by the French led to the western portion of the island being ceded to France, which named it Saint-Domingue. The development of sugarcane plantations, worked by slaves brought from Africa, led to the colony being among the most lucrative in the world.
In the midst of the French Revolution (1789–1799), slaves and free people of colourrevolted in the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), culminating in the abolition of slavery and the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte's army at the Battle of Vertières. Afterward the sovereign nation of Haiti was established on 1 January 1804 – the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, the second republic in the Americas, the only nation in the western hemisphere to have defeated three European superpowers (Britain, France and Spain), and the only nation in the world established as a result of a successful slave revolt. The rebellion that began in 1791 was led by a former slave and the first black general of the French Army, Toussaint Louverture, whose military genius and political acumen transformed an entire society of slaves into an independent country. Upon his death in a prison in France, he was succeeded by his lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who declared Haiti's sovereignty and later became the first Emperor of Haiti, Jacques I. The Haitian Revolution lasted nearly a decade; and apart from Alexandre Pétion, the first President of the Republic, all the first leaders of government were former slaves. The Citadelle Laferrière is the largest fortress in the Americas. Henri Christophe – former slave and first king of Haiti, Henri I – built it to withstand a possible foreign attack.
In addition to CARICOM, Haiti is a member of the Latin Union, the Organization of American States, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States; it is also seeking associate membership status in the African Union and was a founding member of the International Francophonie Organisation. It has the lowest Human Development Index in the Americas. 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 previous president, was elected in the 2011 general election.
Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Tourists who are unsettled by grinding poverty probably should visit elsewhere. However, for those with patience and an open mind, Haiti reveals a rich culture that is unique among post-colonial nations.
It is extremely helpful when traveling in Haiti to have a local contact, through a church, a hotel, or just through making friends with someone. Experiences like dining locally, riding on a tap-tap, or strolling through one of the insanely crowded outdoor markets are great fun and very worth doing but are much safer and easier if you have a trusted Haitian to go along as a guide and interpreter.
In 2014, the country received 1,250,000 tourists (mostly from cruise ships), and the industry generated US$200 million in 2014. In December 2014, the US State Department issued a travel warning about the country, noting that while thousands of American citizens safely visit Haiti each year, a few foreign tourists had been victims of burglary, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area.
Several hotels were opened in 2014, including an upscale Best Western Premier, a five-star Royal Oasis hotel by Occidental Hotel and Resorts in Pétionville, a four-star Marriott hotel in the Turgeau area of Port-au-Prince and other new hotel developments in Port-au-Prince, Les Cayes, Cap-Haïtien and Jacmel. Other tourist destinations include Île-à-Vache, Camp-Perrin, Pic Macaya.
The Haitian Carnival has been one of the most popular carnivals in the Caribbean. In 2010, the government decided to stage the event in a different city outside Port-au-Prince every year in an attempt to decentralize the country. The National Carnival – usually held in one of the country's largest cities (i.e., Port-au-Prince, Cap-Haïtien or Les Cayes) – follows the also very popular Jacmel Carnival, which takes place a week earlier in February or March.
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 Cubaand the Dominican Republic(the latter shares a 360-kilometre (224 mi) border with Haiti). Haiti at its closest point is about 45 nautical miles (83 km; 52 mi) away from Cuba and comprises the horseshoe-shape peninsula and because of this, it has a disproportionately long coastline and is second in length (1,771 km or 1,100 mi) in the Greater Antilles. Cuba has the longest.
Haiti's terrain consists mainly of rugged mountains interspersed with small coastal plains and river valleys. The climate is tropical, with some variation depending on altitude. Haiti is the most mountainous nation in the Caribbean and its highest point is Pic la Selle, at 2,680 metres (8,793 ft).
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, Étang Saumatre. 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).
Haiti'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 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 ongoing territorial dispute with the United States.
Haiti's climate is tropical with some variation depending on altitude. Port-au-Prince ranges in January from an average minimum of 23 °C (73.4 °F) to an average maximum of 31 °C (87.8 °F); in July, from 25–35 °C (77–95 °F). The rainfall pattern is varied, with rain heavier in some of the lowlands and the northern and eastern slopes of the mountains. Haiti's dry season occurs from November to January.
Port-au-Prince receives an average annual rainfall of 1,370 mm (53.9 in). There are two rainy seasons, April–June and October–November. Haiti is subject to periodic droughts and floods, made more severe by deforestation. Hurricanes are also a menace. In summary, Haiti is generally a hot and humid tropical climate.
Haiti's population was about 10.1 million according to UN 2011 estimates, with half of the population younger than age 20. In 1950 the first formal census gave a total population of 3.1 million. Haiti averages approximately 350 people per square kilometer (~900 per sq mi.), with its population is concentrated most heavily in urban areas, coastal plains, and valleys.
Most modern Haitians are descendants of former African slaves, including Mulattoes who are of multiracial admixture. The remainder are of European descent and Arab Haitians, the descendants of settlers (colonial remnants and contemporary immigration during WWI and WWII). Haitians of East Asian descent or East Indian origin number approximately 400+.
Millions of Haitians live abroad in the United States, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Canada(primarily Montreal), Bahamas, France, French Antilles, the Turks and Caicos, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Brazil and French Guiana. There are an estimated 881,500 in the United States, 800,000 in the Dominican Republic, 300,000 in Cuba, 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, Japanand Australia.
In 2015, the life expectancy at birth was 63 years.
The 2015 CIA Factbook, reported that around 80% of Haitians profess to being Catholics while Protestantsmade up about 16% of the population (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%). Other sources put the Protestant population higher than this, suggesting that it might have formed one-third of the population in 2001. Haitian Cardinal Chibly Langloisis president of the National Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church.
Vodou, a religion with African roots similar to those of Cuba and Brazil, originated during colonial times in which slaves were obliged to disguise their loa or spirits as Roman Catholic saints, an element of a process called syncretism and is still practiced by some Haitians today. Since the religious syncretism between Catholicism and Vodou, it is difficult to estimate the number of Vodouists in Haiti.
Minority religions in Haiti include Islam, Bahá'í Faith, Judaism, and Buddhism.
Haiti's purchasing power parity GDP fell 8% in 2010 (from US$12.15 billion to US$11.18 billion) and the GDP per capita remained unchanged at PPP US$1,200. Despite having a viable tourist industry, Haiti is one of the world's poorest countries and the poorest in the Americas region, with poverty, corruption, poor infrastructure, lack of health care and lack of education cited as the main sources. The economy receded due to the 2010 earthquake and subsequent outbreak of Cholera. 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.
Following the disputed 2000 election and accusations about President Aristide's rule, US aid to the Haitian government was cut off between 2001 and 2004. After Aristide's departure in 2004, aid was restored and the Brazilian army led a United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti peacekeeping operation. After almost four years of recession, 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.
More than 90 percent of the government’s budget comes from an agreement with Petrocaribe, a Venezuela-led oil alliance.
Foreign aid is indispensable to Haiti. Haiti received more than US$4 billion in aid from 1990 to 2003, including US$1.5 billion from the United States.
The largest donor is the US, followed by Canada and the European Union. In January 2010, following the earthquake, US President Barack Obama promised US$1.15 billion in assistance. European Union nations pledged more than €400 million (US$616 million).
Neighboring Dominican Republic has also provided extensive humanitarian aid to Haiti, including the funding and construction of a public university, human capital, free healthcare services in the border region, and logistical support after the 2010 earthquake.
According to the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Haiti, as of March 2012, of Humanitarian funding committed or disbursed by bilateral and multilateral donors in 2010 and 2011, only 1% has been pledged to the Haitian Government
According to the 2013 CIA World Factbook, the 2010 Haiti earthquake inflicted an estimated US$7.8 billion in damage and caused the country's GDP to contract.
The United Nations states that in total US$13.34 billion has been earmarked for the crisis through 2020, though two years after the 2010 quake, less than half of that amount had actually been released, according to UN documents. As of 2015, the US government has allocated US$4 billion; US$3 billion has already been spent, and the rest is dedicated to longer-term projects.
Former US President Bill Clinton's foundation contributed US$250,000 to a recycling initiative for a sister-program of "Ranmase Lajan" or "Picking Up Money" by use of reverse vending machines.