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Haiti (hāˈtē), Fr. Haïti (äētēˈ), officially Republic of Haiti, republic (2015 est. pop. 10,711,000), 10,700 sq mi (27,713 sq km), West Indies, on the western third of the island of Hispaniola. It is bounded on the north by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, and on the east by the Dominican Republic. Jamaica lies to the west and Cuba to the northwest. The offshore islands of Tortuga and La Gonâve also belong to Haiti. The capital and largest city is Port-au-Prince.

Land and People

The country is mostly mountainous, but about one third of the land is arable. Once covered by forest, the country has been heavily logged for wood and fuel and to clear land for farming, and is now largely deforested. The deforestation has contributed to often deadly and sometimes devastating flooding during hurricanes. In addition to the capital, other important cities include Cap-Haïtien and Gonaïves. Haiti is the most densely populated country in Latin America and has historically had the lowest per capita income, with about two thirds of the people unemployed and three quarters living in poverty. (Economic troubles in the mid-2010s in Venezuela, however, led to even worse levels of poverty there by 2016.) Prolonged economic inequality, political instability and repression, and a near total lack of medical care continue to be serious problems. The economic and political situation have caused numerous Haitians to seek work in the neighboring Dominican Republic, and others to emigrate, especially to the United States and the Bahamas.

About 95% of the inhabitants are descendants of African slaves who still follow West African cultural patterns. Since the mid-19th cent., however, Haiti has been dominated by the mulatto minority, which clings to the French cultural tradition. French and Haitian Creole, a French dialect, are the official languages of Haiti. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, but African nature gods are still worshiped, and vodun (voodoo) rites are widely practiced and are an officially recognized religion.


Agriculture is the principal economic activity in Haiti. Subsistence crops include cassava, rice, sugarcane, sorghum, yams, corn, and plantains. Most Haitians own and farm tiny plots of land, and great population density has caused rural poverty and is also a factor in the country's extensive deforestation, which has contributed to the degradation of agricultural land. Haiti's major exports are light manufactures and coffee; other exports include oils, cocoa, mangoes, sugar, sisal, and bauxite. The United States is the country's leading trading partner. Industry in Haiti consists largely of light assembly of imported parts and the manufacture of textiles. There is also sugar refining and flour milling, and other foodstuffs are produced. Some bauxite and copper are mined, but other mineral deposits have barely been tapped. Remitttances from Haitians working abroad are also extremely important. Economic sanctions imposed by the United States and others to force a military regime to return power to the elected government, and again later because of the government's inability to meet aid conditions, further damaged the impoverished economy during the 1990s and early 2000s.


Haiti is governed under the constitution of 1987 as amended; it was suspended and reinstated several times between 1988 and 2006, when the country returned to constitutional rule. The president is the head of state; the prime minister, who is appointed by the president and confirmed by the legislature, is the head of government. Most power resides with the president. Haiti has a bicameral legislature, the National Assembly, with a 30-seat Senate, whose members are elected to six-year terms, and a 99-seat Chamber of Deputies, whose members are elected to four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 10 departments.


Early History to Independence

The island of Hispaniola was inhabited by the Arawaks prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1492. Disease, ill treatment, and execution by the Spaniards decimated the Arawaks, who gave Haiti (“land of mountains”) its name. While establishing plantations in E Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic), however, the Spanish largely ignored the western part of the island, which by the 17th cent. became a base for French and English buccaneers. Gradually French colonists, importing African slaves, developed sugar plantations on the northern coast. Unable to support its claim to the region, Spain ceded Haiti (then called Saint-Dominque) to France in 1697.

Haiti became France's most prosperous colony in the Americas and one of the world's chief coffee and sugar producers. The pattern of settlement took the French south in the 18th cent. and society became stratified into Frenchmen, Creoles, freed blacks, and black slaves. Between the blacks and the French and Creoles were the mulattoes, whose social status was indeterminate. When French-descended Creole planters sought to prevent mulatto representation in the French National Assembly and in local assemblies in Saint-Dominque, the mulattoes revolted under the leadership of Vincent Ogé. This rebellion destroyed the rigid structure of Haitian society. The blacks formed guerrilla bands led by Toussaint Louverture, a former slave who had been made an officer of the French forces on Hispaniola.

When the English invaded Haiti in 1793 during the Napoleonic Wars, Toussaint maintained an uneasy alliance with the mulatto André Rigaud and cooperated with the remnant of French governmental authority. In 1795, Spain ceded its part of the island to France, and in 1801 Toussaint conquered it, abolished slavery, and proclaimed himself governor-general of an autonomous government over all Hispaniola. Napoleon sent his brother-in-law, Gen. Charles Leclerc, with a huge punitive force to restore order in 1802, but he was unable to conquer the interior.

A peace was negotiated, and Toussaint, taken by trickery, died in a French prison; but the revolt continued and forced the French troops, already ravaged by yellow fever, to withdraw. The rebels received unexpected aid from U.S. President Thomas Jefferson, who feared that Napoleon would use Saint-Dominque as a base to invade Louisiana. In 1804, Haiti became the second nation in the Western Hemisphere, after the United States, to win complete independence.

The Struggles of Nationhood

After independence the remaining French and Creoles were expelled, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, an ex-slave, proclaimed himself emperor. His assassination (1806) led to the division of Haiti into a black-controlled north under Emperor Henri Christophe and a mulatto-ruled south under President Alexandre Pétion. After their deaths Haiti was unified by Jean Pierre Boyer, who also brought (1822–44) Santo Domingo under Haitian control. Seeking to indemnify French planters, Boyer brought financial ruin to Haiti; he was exiled in 1843. Haiti's last emperor (1847–59) was Faustin Soulouque. Since the end of his reign, the country has been a republic. Political and social conflict persisted, intensified by the mulatto-black hostility, and Haiti's economy, which had never recovered from the violent struggle for independence, declined further.

After the dictator Guillaume Sam was killed in a popular uprising in 1915, the United States, troubled over its property and investments in the country and fearing Germany might seize Haiti, took the opportunity to invade Port-au-Prince. The Haitian congress was forced to accept an agreement permitting U.S. control over customs receipts; two years later the resident American naval commander dissolved the congress and dictated a new constitution. Although financial and general material progress advanced under American military occupation, Haiti protested against U.S. violation of its sovereignty, and a U.S. Senate investigation in 1921 found that the avowed purpose of preparing Haiti for responsible self-government had been ignored. In 1930 a U.S. presidential commission recommended that Haiti be allowed to elect a legislature that would, in turn, name a president. Sténio Vincent, a vocal opponent of U.S. military occupation, was chosen by the legislators. The marines were finally withdrawn in 1934, although U.S. fiscal control was maintained until 1947.

Political instability persisted in Haiti after World War II, and the country's future was clouded by rising turbulence in the Dominican Republic and by the emergence of a Communist Cuba. François (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier, who was elected president in 1957, suppressed opposition through the creation of his paramilitary secret police, the tonton macoutes. In 1964 he proclaimed himself president for life. Upon his death in 1971 he was succeeded by his 19-year-old son, Jean-Claude (“Baby Doc”), who also became president for life. After 15 additional years of corruption, repression, and inequality under the younger Duvalier, popular discontent became great enough to induce him to flee the country in 1986.

Starting in 1986 there were several brief attempts at civilian democracy, each terminated by a military coup. In Sept., 1991, Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced to flee the country only nine months after becoming the first freely elected president in Haiti's history. The United States and the Organization of American States responded with a trade embargo, and in 1993 a UN-sponsored oil embargo was imposed. An accord in 1993 providing for Aristide's return was repudiated by the army, which used terrorist violence to maintain power.

In 1994 the United Nations approved a nearly total trade embargo, and later authorized the use of force to restore democratic rule. On Sept. 18, 1994, as U.S. forces were poised to invade the island, an accord was negotiated. Haiti's military leaders relinquished power under an amnesty, and U.S. forces landed to oversee the transition. Aristide returned on Oct. 15 as president; U.S. troops were largely replaced by UN peacekeepers in Mar., 1995. In the December presidential election that year, René Préval was elected to succeed Aristide. In Apr., 1996, the last U.S. troops left, except for a few hundred in the capital who remained until Jan., 2000; meanwhile, after a wave of political killings, the United States suspended aid to Haiti.

In Jan., 1999, following a series of disagreements with Haitian legislators, Préval declared that their terms had expired, and he began ruling by decree. Parliamentary elections were finally held in May–June, 2000. They gave Aristide's Lavalas Family party an overwhelming majority in both houses, but the method of counting the votes, in which only those won by the four leading candidates were tallied and candidates thus did not need to win an actual absolute majority, was widely criticized.

In Nov., 2000, Aristide was again elected president, winning nearly 92% of the votes cast, but turnout for the election was light. The following year Amnesty International said that human rights and the rule of law had diminished in Haiti, citing harassment of opposition politicians and attacks on journalists. There was an apparent coup attempt against Aristide in Dec., 2001, although it was unclear who was behind it. The political stalemate with the opposition led to the freezing of foreign aid and ongoing economic hardship in Haiti.

Violence between supporters and opponents of the president increased in 2003, and several of Aristide's cabinet ministers resigned bu the end of the year. Parliamentary elections failed to be held, resulting in the dissolution of parliament in Jan., 2004, leaving Aristide to rule by decree and sparking recurring anti-Aristide opposition demonstrations in the streets. In February an armed uprising began in Gonaïves, and by the end of the month armed rebels consisting of disaffected gangs formerly allied with the government, former soldiers, paramilitaries, and police, and others, were on the verge of entering the capital.

Under pressure from the United States and France, Aristide resigned and went into exile, subsequently accusing U.S. and French officials variously of duping, coercing, or kidnapping him. U.S., French, Canadian, and Chilean forces arrived to maintain order, and an interim government headed by Gérard Latortue, a former foreign minister, was established. The Caribbean Community, however, refused to recognize Prime Minister Latortue, and called for a UN investigation into Aristide's resignation. Subsequently, CARICOM decided not to readmit Haiti until after the reestablishment of a democratically elected government. In April Latortue announced that general elections for a new government would be held in 2005, but they were subsequently postponed several times during 2005 due to inadequate preparation. A UN peacekeeping force led by Brazil began replacing U.S., Canadian, and French forces in June, 2004.

Flooding from heavy rains in May killed some 1,700 in the south near the Dominican Republic, and in September Tropical Storm Jeanne caused additional deadly flooding, especially in the area around Gonaïves, where some 2,500 died. The September flooding also caused significant agricultural damage. Unrest and lawlessness on the part of Aristide supporters and opponents continued to be a problem in the country, despite the presence of foreign peacekeepers. In Nov., 2005, the much delayed 2005 national elections were postponed into 2006.

When the presidential election was held in Feb., 2006, René Préval handily led all other candidates (there were more than 30) but appeared to be falling short of the majority required to avoid a runoff. The former president and his supporters charged that there was electoral fraud, an accusation seemingly supported by an unusually high number of blank ballots and by the discovery of charred blank and Préval ballots in a dump near the capital. Amid demonstrations and mounting tension, election officials agreed to assign the blank ballots proportionally to the candidates, giving Préval nearly 51% of the vote. Parliamentary elections were held at the same time, but the investigation of electoral complaints delayed the second round into April, and Préval was not sworn in until May. The following month Haiti was readmitted to CARICOM.

Armed gangs remain a significant problem in Haiti, and in Oct., 2006, the United States partially lifted an arms embargo against Haiti so that the government could buy weapons and other equipment for the Haitian police. In Feb., 2007, the mandate of the UN peacekeepers was again extended; the Security Council called on UN forces to move more strongly against Haiti's criminal gangs. Although UN forces had successes against a number of urban gangs, some relocated to rural areas where they were less likely to be confronted by peacekeepers. Rising food prices led to antigovernment and anti-UN protests and riots in a number of Haitian cities in Apr., 2008; in Port-au-Prince rioters attempted to storm the presidenital palace. The riots led the Senate to dismiss the prime minister; two nominees for the post were subsequently rejected by Haiti's legislature before Michèle Pierre-Louis was elected in July. A series of hurricanes during Aug.–Sept., 2008, caused widespread devastation, especially in the area around Gonaïves; some 800 people died, and damage was estimated at $1 billion.

In Apr. and June, 2009, elections to fill 12 vacant Senate seats that had originally be scheduled for 2007 were finally held; Préval's Lespwa party run a plurality, giving the party a plurality in the Senate. Lavalas Family candidates were barred from running on technical grounds, and the vote was marred by poor turnout and allegations of fraud. By mid-2009 an increase in size in, and improvements in the training of, the Haitian police force had significantly reduced crime. In Oct., 2009, the Senate voted to remove Prime Minister Pierre-Louis; Jean-Max Bellerive, an economist and former planning and external cooperation minister, succeeded her.

An earthquake in Jan., 2010, the strongest to hit Haiti in more than 200 years, caused extensive destruction in the capital and other parts of S Haiti. Estimates of the dead ranged from as low as 46,000 to more than 310,000; some 300,000 were injured, and an estimated 1.5 million people lost their homes. The destruction of much of the limited infrastructure in the area made the massive relief efforts mounted by foreign nations and international aid groups difficult. The United States and the United Nations, both with forces in the thousands, led the effort, and attempted to facilitate aid distribution and help maintain order. The United Nations subsequently estimated that $11.5 billion in aid would be needed over the next decade for reconstruction efforts. International donors pledged more than $5 billion in reconstruction aid in Mar., 2010, to the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, but the promised aid was slow in coming. As late as Oct., 2011, the United Nations estimated that only half of the rubble from the earthquake had been removed. Some 50,000 remained in temporary camps seven years after the earthquake.

A cholera epidemic that began in N Haiti in Oct., 2010, killed more that 4,500 by the following March. Although the spread of the disease slowed, it was endemic in subsequent years, and by early 2019 more than 850,000 Haitians had been sickened and nearly 10,000 had died, with most cases and deaths occurring in 2010–13. The source of the disease, which spread to the neighboring Dominican Republic, was traced to some of the UN peacekeepers. The epidemic also contributed to the disorganization of the first round of the earthquake-delayed presidential election in Nov., 2010. Preliminary results from that vote, released in December, showed that former first lady Mirlande Manigat and ruling party candidate Jude Célestin had placed first and second, the latter narrowly beating popular singer Michel Martelly. Most candidates accused the government of fraud, and there were violent street protests. A final determination of the top vote-getters was delayed into early 2011, and the election's second round, scheduled for Jan., 2011, was postponed.

A review of the election by the OAS and CARICOM was delivered to Préval in Jan., 2011; it recommended that, based on its verification of the poll, the runoff should be between Manigat and Martelly. The electoral council ultimately decided that they would be the candidates in March, and Martelly won the runoff with two thirds of the vote. In the legislative elections, the preliminary results in 18 races were reversed by the election commission when the final results were published, with the changes overwhelmingly favoring Préval's party. Meanwhile, in February, Préval's expiring term was officially extended until May; former president Aristide returned to Haiti from exile in March.

In office Martelly struggled to get a prime minister approved by lawmakers. Ultimately his third choice for the office, Garry Conille, was approved in October, but he resigned in Feb., 2012, citing a lack of support. In May, Laurent Lamothe, the foreign minister, was confirmed as Conille's successor. Senate elections scheduled for that month were postponed, and the delay continued into 2014 as the president and legislators failed to agree on an election law. A new postponement in Oct., 2014, led to sometimes violent antigovernment protests in December.

With the terms of all remaining legislators due to expire in Jan., 2015, Lamothe resigned (one of several measures recommended by a presidential commission), but opposition in the senate to a new election law led to the dissolution of the legislature. Martelly, whose term was not affected, was able to rule by decree; Lamothe's nominated successor, Evans Paul, had not been approved by the parliament but was sworn in by Martelly.

The first round of the legislative elections was finally held in August, but only 18% of the electorate voted, and voting was canceled in about a sixth of the constituencies. In October, along with legislative elections, the first round of presidential election was held and turnout improved some. Jovenel Moïse, supported by Martelly, placed first; Célestin second. Célestin and other opposition presdential candidates accused the government of fraud. A subsequent evaluation commission ambiguously reported in Jan., 2016, that the Oct., 2015, elections had been marred by incompetence and grave irregularities akin to fraud; Célestin refused to run in the presidential runoff without further inquiry into possible fraud and electoral reforms. A compromise was finally negotiated that called for elections in April and appointment of an interim president after Martelly stepped down in Feb., 2016.

Senator Jocelerme Privert became interim president and, in March, Enex Jean-Charles, a law professor and presidential adviser, became interim prime minister. When Privert's three-month term expired in June, the legislature failed to extend it or replace him, but he remained de facto president. In Oct., 2016, Hurricane Matthew devastated parts of Haiti, especially on the Tiburon peninsula, killing hundreds of people.

The presidential election was rerun in Nov., 2016, and Moïse secured a victory in the first round, but turnout was low. Jack Guy Lafontant, a doctor and political outsider, was nominated as prime minister by Moïse in Feb., 2017, and confirmed in March. Hurricane Irma caused significant damage to agricultural in N Haiti in Sept., 2017. In October, the UN peacekeeping mission, which had begun in 2004, officially came to an end; a smaller UN presence focused on justice and police development, however, continued in the country.

Fuel price increases in July, 2018, part of reforms required to access international loans, sparked riots before they were suspended, and Lafontant resigned. A new government, headed by Jean Henry Céant, a nonpolitician close to the president and his predecessor, was not confirmed until September. Economic problems and antigovernment protests over corruption continued through into 2020, and led in Mar., 2019, to a vote of no-confidence in Céant and his resignation.

Jean Michel Lapin was appointed to succeed Céant in April, but opposition lawmakers delayed his confirmation and he resigned in July. Fritz William Michel then was named prime minister, but his confirmation also was delayed. Legislative elections due in October were not held, and in Jan., 2020, the terms of most legislators formally ended, leaving the president to rule by decree. In March president Moïse appointed Joseph Jouthe prime minister, but he resigned a little over a month later and was replaced by an interim prime minsiter, Claude Joseph. In October Moïse called for postponing new elections until after a referendum on a new constitution that would give him more power and reduce the size of the legislature. His opponents accuse Moïse of moving the country towards dictatorship and protesters have taken to the streets to push for his removal from office. In July 2012, Moïse was assassinated at his home and his wife gravely injured by a group of assailants said to be made up primarily of Columbia mercenaries. In the wake of his assassination, the country's government has been thrown into chaos, with various factions fighting for control.


See H. Courlander and R. Bastien, Religion and Politics in Haiti (1966); R. W. Logan, Haiti and the Dominican Republic (1968); H. Schmidt, The United States Occupation of Haiti, 1915–1934 (1971); T. O. Ott, The Haitian Revolution, 1789–1804 (1973); R. D. Heinl, Written in Blood: The Story of the Haitian People, 1492–1971 (1978); B. Weinstein and A. Segal, Haiti: Political Failures, Cultural Successes (1984); J. Ferguson, Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvaliers (1987); L. Dubois, Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution (2004) and Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (2012); R. Robinson, An Unbroken Agony (2007); A. White, Encountering Revolution: Haiti and the Making of the Early Republic (2010); P. Farmer, Haiti after the Earthquake (2011).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in the Carib Indian language, “mountainous”), an island of the Greater Antilles in the West Indies. Area, approximately 77,000 sq km. Population, 9 million (1969).

Haiti is separated from Cuba by the Windward Passage and from Puerto Rico by the Mona Passage. Sharply indented, its shores are primarily of the ria type. The island is composed of volcanic and sedimentary rocks of the Mesocenozoic age. The relief is very rugged. Four systems of folded block ranges stretch across the entire island from west-northwest to east-southeast, alternating with tectonic depressions: the Cordillera Septentrional in the north, the Cordillera Central with Mount Duarte (3,175 m, the highest point in the West Indies) in the center, the Chaine des Matheux, Sierra de Neiba, the Massif de la Hotte, Massif de la Selle, and Sierra de Bahoruco in the south, and the Cordillera Oriental in the east. They are divided by the Cibao depression (irrigated by the Yaque del Norte and Yuna rivers), the Central Plateau, and the low-lying depression Cul-de-Sac with the drainless lakes Enriquillo and Etang Saumatre. Only southeastern Haiti is occupied by a broad regional lowland. Earthquakes are frequent. The climate is tropical trade wind. In the lowlands the average monthly temperature is 23°-29° C. On the windward slopes precipitation reaches 2,000 mm per year, and in the interior valleys, 300-1,300 mm. In autumn, hurricanes are rather frequent.

There are evergreen tropical forests with valuable kinds of trees (palms, laurels, and Podocarpus) in the southeast and south. In the Cordillera Central there are coniferous hard-leaved trees, and in the interior regions, deciduous trees and bushes. There are plantations and gardens of tropical crops. Mammals are represented by the order of bats and by rodents. Lizards, crocodiles, and many birds are native to the island.

The states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic are located on the island of Haiti. Columbus discovered the island in 1492 and named it Española.




(Republic of Haiti, République d’Haïti), a state in the West Indies occupying the western part of the island of Hispaniola and nearby islands, including Gonâve, Tortue, and Vache. Bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean and on the south by the Caribbean Sea. Separated from Cuba by the Windward Passage. Bordered on the east by the Dominican Republic. Area, 27,800 sq km. Population, 4.9 million (1970, estimate). The capital is Port-au-Prince. Haiti is divided administratively into five departments.

Constitution and government. Haiti is a republic whose present constitution was adopted in 1964. The head of state and of the government is the president, popularly elected to a six-year term and having the constitutional right to election for life. In fact, the president enjoys dictatorial powers, a regime of cruel terror has been established, and the activity of democratic organizations is forbidden. The highest organ of legislative power is the unicameral parliament—the National Assembly, which consists of 58 deputies popularly elected to six-year terms. Suffrage is formally granted to all citizens who have attained 21 years of age. The parliament’s activity is purely advisory.

The court system includes the Supreme Court, a court of cassation, and courts of lower instance: appellate courts, courts for civil suits, and magisterial courts.

Natural features. Haiti occupies the western, more rugged section of Hispaniola. There are two prominent peninsulas—the Northwest on the northwest and the Tiburon on the southwest. Narrow, broken lowlands border the mainly rocky coast. The relief is mountainous, with mountain ranges stretching from the west-northwest to the east-southeast: the Massif du Nord (a western branch of the Cordillera Central), Montagnes Noires, Chaine des Matheux, Massif de la Hotte, and Massif de la Selle, with the Pic la Selle (2,680 m), the highest peak in Haiti. Between the ranges lie the Central Plateau, the Guayamouc Basin, and the deep, low hollows of the Artibonite River and the Cul-de-Sac of Lake Etang Saumatre. The land is basically composed of cretaceous and Paleocene-Neocene rocks. Large deposits of aluminum ore are associated with the latter; verified deposits and probable resources amount to 23 million tons, with a content of 45-55 percent aluminum oxide. The climate is trade wind tropical, with an average monthly temperature of 22°-28° C. Precipitation on the windward slopes is about 2,000 mm per year and on the leeward side and in depressions, 500-800 mm, with the maximum rainfall occurring in spring and fall. Numerous streams flow from the mountains. The major river is the navigable Artibonite. The soil is mostly brown red and mountain brown red ferrallitic. Deciduous (during the dry winter) tropical forests prevail, and in the south there are evergreen forests. There are valuable species of trees, including logwood, mahogany, and royal palm. In the valley of the Artibonite River there are thorny bushes and cacti.


Population More than 99 percent of the population are Haitians—the descendants of slaves who were brought from Africa in the 16th through the 18th century. Racially, 90 percent of the Haitians are Negroes, and the rest are primarily mulattoes. The extremely few whites are nearly all foreigners. The official language is French, but the entire population, with few exceptions, speaks the Haitian Creole language, which is based on French with borrowings from African and Indian languages, English, and Spanish. The official religion is Catholicism, although to this day the great influence of vestiges of African religions persists—the worship of numerous deities (voodoo) and spirits (loa). The official calendar is Gregorian.

From 1963 to 1969 population growth averaged 2 percent per year. The economically active population consists of 2.2 million people, of whom 84 percent are engaged in agriculture (1967). The Haitian standard of living is one of the lowest in Latin America. The average population density is 175 persons per sq km. The bulk of the population is concentrated in the coastal regions and in the mountain valleys (for example, the Artibonite Valley), which occupy about one-fifth of the territory. The urban population is about 12 percent (1968). The important cities (1967, estimate) are Port-au-Prince, 250,000; Cap-Haïtien, 37,000; Gonaïves, 20,000; and Les Cayes, 15,500.

Historical survey. BEFORE THE LATE 15TH CENTURY. Until its discovery by Europeans, the island of Haiti was populated by Indians, mostly of the Arawak family—Taino and Ciboney. The Taino lived in settlements and cultivated maize, root crops, and cotton. They used wooden and stone tools and weapons. The Ciboney tribes were nomadic hunters and gatherers. By the late 15th century the island had a total population of about 1 million.

THE COLONIAL PERIOD. Until the late 18th century. On Dec. 6, 1492, Columbus’ expedition discovered the island and named it Española. The Spanish dealt cruelly with the local population, which refused to recognize their power and their religion. Many Indians retreated to the mountains and formed detachments to struggle against their conquerors. (For example, detachments were formed under the leadership of Caonabo, Anacaono, and Enriquillo.) In the first years of Española’s colonization the practice of enslaving the Indians spread. Later, the encomienda system was introduced. The Indians died out because of excessive labor and the diseases brought by the Spanish. In the early 16th century the colonizers began to import Negro slaves from Africa to Española to work on the sugarcane plantations and in the gold mines. Plantation slavery began to play a major role in the country’s economy.

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries Spain, France, and England struggled for control of Española. In the late 17th century the western part of the island came under French control and was called St.-Domingue. The eastern part, which was called Santo Domingo, remained under the Spanish. The French colony produced cotton, sugar, coffee, cocoa, indigo, and bananas. In the late 18th century there were 452,000 Negroes, 50,000 mulattoes, and 42,000 whites in St.-Domingue. The Indian population had been completely destroyed by the colonizers. The dominant positions were occupied by the white owners of plantations and slaves, the big commercial bourgeoisie, and the higher officials and officers. A significant portion of the white population consisted of the petite bourgeoisie. The free colored population (mulattoes and Negroes) in fact had no political rights, although many mulattoes owned plantations and slaves. Especially difficult was the position of Negro slaves, who revolted many times during the 17th and 18th centuries.

THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE OF THE HAITIAN PEOPLE AND THE ACHIEVEMENT OF INDEPENDENCE, 1790-1803. The Great French Revolution caused an intensification of the liberation struggle in St.-Domingue. At the end of 1790 there was a revolt of mulattoes, who demanded equal rights with whites. A spontaneous uprising of Negro slaves, united on the basis of the religious cult of voodoo, flared up in August 1791 and grew into a long and stubborn independence struggle. Boukmann, who led the revolt, was captured and executed by the French. The struggle continued under the leadership of P. D. Toussaint l’Ouverture. It was further complicated by the French war with Spain and Great Britain, which began in 1793 and in the course of which British troops invaded St.-Domingue. The successful French action in Europe and that of Toussaint l’Ouverture’s island troops against Great Britain and Spain forced the latter to sign the Treaty of Basel in 1795, transferring the eastern part of the island to France. In 1798 the British troops were driven out and the greater part of the island was left in the hands of Toussaint l’Ouverture’s army, which in 1800 had the whole island under its influence.

In 1801, Toussaint l’Ouverture proclaimed the abolition of slavery. In the same year an assembly was called, which accepted a constitution and declared Toussaint l’Ouverture the lifetime ruler of the island. According to the constitution, the island’s colonial dependence on France was formally preserved, while in fact it gained a certain independence. In 1802, Napoleon sent an expeditionary force to the island. Toussaint l’Ouverture was imprisoned and sent to France, where he died. The struggle for independence was then led by the Negro general Jean-Jacques Dessalines. In November 1803, the remnants of the French army surrendered. On Jan. 1, 1804, Dessalines declared the island’s independence from France, reviving its old Indian name—Haiti.

HAITI IN THE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURIES. In October 1804, Dessalines proclaimed himself emperor and promulgated a constitution confirming the abolition of slavery and forbidding the acquisition by white foreigners of property on Haitian territory. The granting of land formerly belonging to French planters to local mulattoes and Negroes, which was begun by Dessalines, aroused discontent among large landholders, and in 1806, Dessalines was killed. As a result of dissension and strife among the country’s rulers, it was divided in 1807 into the State of Haiti, headed by H. Christophe, an associate of Dessalines, and the Republic of Haiti, controlled by mulattoes led by A. Pétion. Christophe first became president for life and in 1811 proclaimed himself king. He established a typical feudal regime and created numerous strata of the nobility. Pétion introduced a number of measures that promoted the development of capitalistic relationships in production: the abolition of state taxes, the registration of landholdings, and the distribution among the peasants of some government land. This laid the foundations for a small farm economy on Haiti. The struggle between the Republic of Haiti and the State of Haiti continued until 1821, when Pétion’s successor, General J. P. Boyer, succeeded in extending his power to the north of the country, thus forming one state, the Republic of Haiti.

In 1825, France recognized the independence of Haiti, after receiving a large sum as compensation for the lands confiscated from the French planters. In 1844 in the formerly Spanish, eastern part of the island, which had been separated from Haiti, an independent state was formed. It was called the Dominican Republic.

Instability characterized Haiti’s condition in the second half of the 19th century. In this period there were about 20 heads of state. Conspiracies and military coups were a common occurrence—in most cases, the result of rivalries between foreign powers to establish their influence in Haiti. Corruption thrived. The budget deficit was covered either by issuing paper money or by foreign loans, which still further enslaved the nation and increased its dependence on foreign powers—France and later, the USA.

In the late 19th century there was increased expansion of American capital in Haiti. In 1890, 65 percent of Haiti’s imports came from the USA. In 1905 the USA received the concession to build railroads, and in 1910, US banks became shareholders of the National Bank of Haiti. American warships entered Haitian ports many times under the pretext of “maintaining order” and “defending the interests of foreign citizens.” In 1914-15, a peasant, worker, and student movement developed in Haiti, promoted by the worsening material situation and the increasing dependence on foreign imperialism. Taking advantage of this situation, the USA occupied Haiti in July 1915 under the pretext of protecting Haitian independence from the intervention of an extra-continental power. The agreement of September 1915, which was dictated by the Americans, transferred control over Haitian finances to the USA, making the country an American protectorate.

HAITI AFTER 1918. Under the influence of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia there was an upsurge in the antiimperialist movement in Haiti. The revolt, led by C. Péralte (1918-20), was a major action by the masses of the Haitian people, provoked by indignation against the American occupational regime. In 1918 the USA obtained the repeal of laws forbidding land ownership by foreigners. In 1929 student protests flared up, as well as workers’ strikes, peasant revolts, and anti-American demonstrations. From 1929 to 1933 several small, semilegal labor organizations were founded. In the course of the struggle against the occupiers, Communist groups were formed. Their founder and active organizer was J. Roumain. In 1934 the groups formed a Communist party, which was declared illegal after several months.

The rise of the national liberation movement forced the US government to remove its troops from Haitian territory in 1934. However, this did not mean the end of colonial dependence on American imperialism. Until 1941 an American adviser remained in Haiti, supervising government revenues in order to ensure repayment of the loans that the USA had forced on Haiti in 1922. During World War II (1939-45), Haiti became a military base and source of raw materials for the USA. In December 1941, following the foreign policy course of the USA, Haiti declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy.

At the end of World War II, influenced by the victories of the Soviet Army over fascism and the successes of the international antifascist movement, a mass democratic movement and struggle developed in Haiti against the pro-American policies of President E. Lescot (1941-46). The Communist Party of Haiti, which had collapsed in the early 1940’s, was revived in the mid-1940’s. At the same time, the Popular Socialist Party was founded, which also represented the interests of the workers. The legalization of trade-union activity was a great victory for the working class. In January 1946, as a result of a government coup, a military junta came to power, which suppressed the popular movement and held congressional elections. Elected president (1946-50), D. Estimé granted the Americans the unlimited right to land ownership and declared the Communist Party illegal. (The Communist Party and the Popular Socialist Party had collapsed in 1948.) In 1950 Estimé tried to change the constitution, in order to assure his reelection to the presidency, but he was overthrown, and General P. E. Magloire came to power (1950-56).

Magloire devised a new constitution, which encouraged foreign investment, and he concluded a series of military agreements with the USA and conducted an anti-Communist campaign. As a result of his policies, dissatisfaction mounted in various strata of the population. In 1954 radical circles of the petite bourgeoisie and intelligentsia united in the People’s Democratic Party (later renamed the People’s National Liberation Party), which was subjected to cruel persecution by reactionary forces. During the entire year of 1956 there were continuous mass antigovernment demonstrations. In December there was a general political strike. The masses resolutely opposed Magloire, the protégé of the American monopolies, and he was forced into exile. An intense political struggle developed in Haiti, with a succession of six presidents, one coalition government, and one governing junta in power during only nine months in 1957. The Inter-trade-union Federation of Haiti was founded in 1957, which directed the workers’ struggle and took a stand against repression.

As a result of the October 1957 elections, F. Duvalier came to power, who collaborated closely with the Americans. He had promised to end corruption, restore social justice, and accelerate the construction of schools. Once president, Duvalier established a regime of unlimited personal power. He pursued a policy of repression and terror, forbidding the activity of all political parties and organizations and closing down all progressive publications. In October 1959, on the initiative of J. S. Alexis, the underground Haitian United People’s Party was founded—the party of the Haitian Communists.

In early April 1961 the bicameral parliament was dissolved and replaced by a unicameral National Assembly. In the same year Duvalier organized fraudulent elections, by means of which he obtained reelection for another six-year term, although his term of office would have expired in 1963. In 1964 he declared himself president for life and Father of the Haitian Nation. The USA gave as much help as possible to the Duvalier government, granting it loans of $43.5 million between 1957 and 1963, supplying weapons, and training the army and militia.

Under difficult political conditions, progressive forces united for the struggle against Duvalier’s tyranny. In July 1963, with the active participation of the Haitian United People’s Party, the United Democratic National Liberation Front was founded. The front was basically concerned with the struggle to create a democratic state and introduce agrarian reforms. The dominance of American capital, which hindered the country’s economic development, and the cruel exploitation, the disease, and the racial and religious discord that was artificially fanned between the followers of voodoo cults and the Catholics contributed to Haiti’s tense situation. In December 1963, the Inter-trade-union Federation of Haiti summoned the workers to a general strike, which assumed a mass character and served as grounds to ban the federation. The Haitian Federation of Christian Trade Unions, which was founded in the late 1960’s, was also subjected to persecution. The Duvalier clique dealt cruelly with its opponents, resorting to mass torture and execution. The real military and political force in the country was the paramilitary detachments of the Ton-Ton Macoutes, the dictator’s personal militia. By means of terror and bribery they ensured the preservation of the dictatorial regime. The government’s social base was the large landowners, the commercial bourgeoisie, who were associated with foreign capital, and the petite bourgeoisie.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the political situation continued to worsen, anti-American demonstrations became more frequent, and the struggle for social progress and national independence intensified. In late 1967 the United Democratic National Liberation Front collapsed. However, the persistent efforts of the leadership of the Haitian United People’s Party, which were directed at united action with the Union of Haitian Democrats (renamed the People’s National Liberation Party in 1967), led to the creation in 1968 of the United Party of Haitian Communists. The foremost objective of this party, active only underground, is armed struggle against the dictatorial regime, the character of which did not change after the death of F. Duvalier in April 1971.


Political parties and trade unions. The United Party of Haitian Communists (Parti Unifié des Communistes Haïtiens), which was founded in 1968 as the result of the merger of the Haitian National Unity Party and the Union of Haitian Democrats Party, is active in the underground. The National Union of Haitian Workers, which was founded in 1951, unités eight small trade unions and is under government control. It coordinates its activity with the Inter-American Regional Workers’ Organization.


Economy. Haiti is an economically backward country. The gross national product per capita is only $74 (1969). Agriculture produces half of the value of the gross national product. The basic branches of the economy are controlled by American capital. (Direct private capital investment was $50 million in 1969, making up more than 70 percent of investments in the Haitian economy.) The dominant position is occupied by the Haitian-American Development Company (sisal production) and the Haitian-American Sugar Company (harvesting of sugarcane and sugar production).

AGRICULTURE. Two-thirds of the agricultural land belongs to large landowners and US companies (1.2 percent of all large-scale cultivation). Most of the land is leased to peasants under enslaving conditions. Land tenure is extremely fragmented—about two-thirds of all plots are smaller than 2.5 hectares (ha), and leasing of extremely small plots is very common. Arable land and long-term crops occupy 14 percent of Haitian territory, pasture, 18 percent, forests, 25 percent, and land that cannot be cultivated, 43 percent. About 11 percent of the cultivated area is irrigated (1966), primarily in the Artibonite Valley. The most important agricultural regions are located in the Artibonite Basin and near the capital. The major commercial crop is coffee (27,900 tons in 1968), the cultivation of which is divided between the mountain and foothill regions. It is raised primarily on small peasant farms. Other important export crops are agave (40,000 ha, 20,000 tons of sisal in 1968) and sugarcane (90,000 ha, 4.0 million tons), which are cultivated in the region of the capital. Of lesser commercial significance are cotton (6,000 ha; yield of raw cotton, 1,000 tons in 1968), citrus fruit, and bananas. Crops for local consumption include corn (320,000 ha, 240,000 tons in 1968) and millet, which are cultivated everywhere but primarily in the region of Port-au-Prince. Cultivation of rice is expanding, especially on irrigated lands in the Artibonite Valley. Livestock is confined to the mountain regions. During 1967-68 there were 845,000 head of cattle, 1.3 million goats, 76,000 sheep, and 1.65 million swine. Valuable wood is another export of the mountain regions.

INDUSTRY. Power depends on imported oil. The output of electric power stations for general use is 35,000 kilowatts (1967), and the total output of electrical energy is 115 million kilowatt-hours (1967). Since the early 1960’s the importance of the mining industries has increased. Mining is done by foreign companies, primarily American. In the south (near Miragoâne) bauxite is extracted by the American company Reynolds Aluminum (0.5 million tons in 1968) and copper is mined by the American-Canadian Sedren Company (1,600 tons in 1968, by metal content).

Haiti has food-processing and light industries, including sugar refineries (in 1968 sugar production was 67,000 tons), factories for initial processing of sisal, and soap-making and rice-cleaning plants. Near the capital there are pharmaceutical and cement plants. In the region of Miragoâne there is an aluminum plant. The major industrial center is Port-au-Prince.

TRANSPORTATION. In 1969 there were 3,500 km of highways, including 700 km that are passable year round. There were 376 km of railroad track. The major port is Port-au-Prince. International air transportation is provided by the American airline Pan American World Airways. There is an airport near the capital.

FOREIGN TRADE. Exports were valued at $36 million and imports at $38 million (1968). Major exports (according to value by percentage in 1968) were coffee (30), bauxite (12), sisal (6), and sugar (9). Imports include petroleum products, textiles, food products, and machinery. About two-thirds of Haitian foreign trade is with the USA. The monetary unit is the gourde. As of January 1971, 1 gourde = US $0.20.


Armed forces. The armed forces consist of about 5,700 men (1969). The ground forces (about 5,000 men) are subdivided. In addition to rifles, they possess nine light tanks and several field guns. The air force has about 250 men and 40 airplanes, including 25 fighter planes of obsolete design. The navy has about 250 men and six patrol boats. The presidential guard includes more than 260 men, and there are militia units (up to 20,000 men). The commander in chief of the armed forces is the president.

Public health. In 1967 the birthrate per 1,000 inhabitants was 37.3, and the general mortality rate, 16.9. Infant mortality was 146.5 per 1,000 live births. Average life expectancy was 45 years. The chief causes of infant mortality were malnutrition, diarrhea, and umbilical tetanus. Malaria is widespread (103.4 cases per 10,000 inhabitants), as well as tuberculosis, syphilis, helminthiasis, typhoid fever, leprosy, leptospirosis, anthrax, dengue, and avitaminoses.

In 1967 there were 44 hospitals with 3,300 beds (0.7 beds per 1,000 inhabitants), including 17 general, three tuberculosis, two psychiatric, and 19 village hospitals, as well as one maternity hospital. In 1967, there were 348 working physicians (one per 13,000 inhabitants), of whom 279 worked in state medical institutions. There were 88 dentists, 42 pharmacists, and about 400 paramedical personnel. Physicians are trained by a faculty of the university, which graduated 65 physicians in 1968.


Education. Free elementary education, which was made compulsory for children seven to 14 years old by the Constitution of 1874, does not exist in practice. According to 1960 statistics, 80 percent of the adult population was illiterate. The current system of popular education includes preschool institutions (mostly private) for children ages three to six, a six-year elementary school, and a seven-year high school of general education, consisting of two cycles—the lower cycle (four years) and the higher (three years). The latter division concentrates on classical studies, natural sciences, and modern languages. The majority of high schools are private. In the school year 1968-69 more than 295,000 pupils were enrolled in elementary schools and in high schools, 29,200. Professional training is based on the elementary schools and the three-year professional-technical, agricultural, and other schools. Elementary schoolteachers are trained in three-year elementary teachers colleges on the basis of four years of secondary school. Secondary schoolteachers are trained at advanced teachers colleges affiliated with the university. These schools accept graduates of the complete high school course. In the school year 1968-69, 4,800 students were enrolled in the system of professional-technical schools and 210 in the elementary teachers colleges. Advanced educational institutions include the University of Haiti and three advanced technical schools in Port-au-Prince. In 1968-69, 1,542 students were enrolled in institutions of higher learning. The National Library (founded in 1940, 19,000 volumes), the National Museum (founded in 1938), the Museum of the Haitian People (1949), and the Centre d’Art (1944) are located in Port-au-Prince.


Press, radio, and television. In 1970 about ten newspapers and magazines were being published, with a maximum total circulation of 25,000 copies. The most influential government newspaper, Le Nouveau Monde, which was founded in 1956, has a circulation of 7,000-8,000 copies. Other large newspapers are Le Matin, founded in 1910, with a circulation of 2,500 copies, and Le Nouveliste, founded in 1896, with a circulation of 3,000 copies. In addition, there is Le Jour, founded in 1948, circulation, 2,600 copies; Haïti Journal, founded in 1930, circulation, 2,000; and Boucan, the press organ of the United Party of Haitian Communists.

Radio broadcasting began in Haiti in the 1930’s. In 1970 there were 22 stations, the largest of which was located in Port-au-Prince. Among the stations are the government Voix de la Revolution Duvaliériste and the progovernment Radio Tropiques, Radio Carib, Radio Indépendance, and Radio Port-au-Prince. There is also Radio Lumière and Voix Evangelique, which are connected with the American monopolies. The latter stations carry anti-Communist and religious broadcasts in French, Spanish, and English to Haiti, the Caribbean area, and Central America. Stations broadcasting in northern Haiti are the Voix du Nord and Radio Citadelle. The only television station in Haiti, Radio-Télévision Haïtien, broadcasts on one channel in French and English.


Literature. Fundamental to Haitian literary development are the traditions of the Taino Indian culture, which existed on the island of Haiti prior to its seizure by Europeans. Also important are the culture of West African Negroes, imported by the slave trade, and European—primarily French— culture. The literary language is chiefly French. African and, to some extent, Indian elements are preserved in folklore. The victorious struggle for independence in the late 18th and early 19th centuries left deep traces in Haitian literature, which frequently returns to the images and heroes of the war for independence. After the declaration of independence (1804) poetry and dramaturgy developed. Later the novel developed, which in the 19th century was strongly influenced by French literary trends.

The threat of colonization of Haiti by European states and the USA in the second half of the 19th century inspired a patriotic mood in journalism (L. Janvier and A. Firmin, On the Equality of the Human Races, 1884) and artistic literature (M. Coicou 1867-1908, T. Guilbaud, 1856-1937, and I. Vieux, 1865-1941). The patriotic poetry of O. Durand (1840-1906) already showed national color and characteristics. The early novels, still weak, were E. Bergeaud’s Stella (1859), D. Delorme’s Francesa (1872), and L. Janvier’s The Seeking Maiden (1889).

At the turn of the century journalism became more active (the magazines La Jeune Haïti and La Ronde). At this time the social novel was developing, influenced to some degree by French naturalism. Haitian everyday life and mores were realistically depicted in the novels of F. Marcelain (1848-1917), particularly in the novel Thémistocle Epaminondas Labasterre (1901), as well as in the prose of J. Lherisson (1873-1907). F. Hibbert (1873-1928) sharply satirized the Haitian upper classes. With their slogan “national literature,” Haitian writers introduced criticism of political corruption, satire, popular humor, and colloquial language to the novel. Their patriotism was expressed in a critical and truthful portrayal of Haitian life. Around the turn of the century and during the early 20th century a contrasting literary trend appeared, associated with the journal La Ronde and imitating French poetry, primarily Parnassian (the poets G. Sylvain, 1866-1925, E. Vilaire, 1872-1951, and E. La-forest, 1876-1915).

The intensification of the national liberation struggle against the American occupation (1915-34) decisively influenced Haitian literature. The literary movement “indigenism” arose (the magazine La Revue Indigène, 1926-27), confirming national consciousness through new social themes, images of the heroic past, and national folklore forms. This tendency, which was called Negrism or Africanism, was linked with social protest in some writers, such as J. Roumain. In others, such as C. Brouard, it became ethnologic exoticism. The poets of this generation were J. Brierre (born 1909), E. Roumer (born 1903), and R. Camille (1915-61). The most important figure was J. Roumain (1907-44)—the founder of the Haitian Communist Party (1934) and a poet and prose writer. His prose—the collection of stories The Prey and the Shadow (1930) and the novellas The Enchanted Mountain (1931) and Marionettes (1931)—had a significant influence on Haitian literature. The peasant theme was developed in the novels of J. Cineas in the 1930’s and in the novel Canapé-Vert (1944) by the brothers Philippe T. and Pierre Marcelin. C. St. Aude Magloire (born 1912) wrote the novel Pariahs (1949) on the life of the poorest classes.

Social progress at the end of World War II awakened new forces in Haitian literature. The new poetry developed under the banner of socialism. R. Depestre (born 1926) published the collections Black Ore (1956) and The Diary of a Sea Animal (1964). Socialist ideas are expressed in the novels of the 1940’s and 1950’s, which describe the tragedy of the poorest peasantry. Among these novels are J. Roumain’s Masters of the Dew (1944), which portrayed a revolutionary hero for the first time, E. St. Amant’s Lord God Laughs (1952), The Seeds of Wrath (1949) by A. Lespéce, and The Harvest (1946) by F. Morisseau-Leroy (born 1910). J. S. Alexis (1922-61) strove to reflect the country’s social problems. His novels Good General Sun (1955), Tree Musicians (1957), and In the Twinkling of an Eye (1959) achieved international fame.

In the early 1960’s during the reactionary terror, progressive poets appeared, including R. Philoctete (born 1932, the narrative poem Drums of the Sun), Davertige (born 1940, the collection Idem, and J. R. Laforest (born 1940). A. Phelps (born 1928) is the author of collections of poems and narrative poems (the collection Thou, My Country, 1968). In the 1960’s and early 1970’s the majority of Haiti’s progressive writers were forced to live in exile (for example, J. Brierre and R. Depestre).

Poetry and theater are developing to some extent in the Creole language. Productions in Creole by the writer and theatrical figure F. Morisseau-Leroy have enjoyed great success.


Architecture and graphic arts. Ornamental ceramics, primitive representations of men and animals, and wooden articles from the ancient culture of the Haitian Indians have been preserved. Architecture developed significantly after Haitian independence was achieved. Between 1808 and 1816 near the city of Cap-Haïtien the Citadelle Laferrière with its massive walls was built, as well as the Sans Souci Palace, which is in the style of 18th-century French chateaus. In the 19th and 20th centuries the cathedral and the National Palace were built in Port-au-Prince. Negro and mulatto folk art, represented by wooden masks and wall paintings, served as a basis for the paintings of self-taught artists (P. Obin, H. Hippolyte, and L. Poisson). Naïve and brightly colored, their work lovingly portrays features of Haitian nature and everyday life (C. Normile and A. Lafontant, the creator of genre series on Negro life). Contemporary architecture is represented by buildings designed by A. Mangonés and R. Baussan.


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Official name: Republic of Haiti

Capital city: Port-au-Prince

Internet country code: .ht

Flag description: Two equal horizontal bands of blue (top) and red with a centered white rectangle bearing the coat of arms, which contains a palm tree flanked by flags and two cannons above a scroll bearing the motto L’union fait la force (Union Makes Strength)

National anthem: “La Dessalinienne,” lyrics by Justin Lhérisson, music by Nicolas Geffrard

Geographical description: Caribbean, western one-third of the island of Hispaniola, between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Repub­lic

Total area: 10,714 sq. mi. (27,750 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; semiarid where mountains in east cut off trade winds

Nationality: noun: Haitian(s); adjective: Haitian

Population: 8,706,497 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: African 95%, European and mixed African and European 5%

Languages spoken: French (official), Creole (official)

Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant 16% (Baptist 10%, Pentecostal 4%, Adventist 1%, other 1%), none 1%, other 3%; roughly half of the population practices vodun (voodoo)

Legal Holidays:

Agriculture and Labor DayMay 1
All Saints' DayNov 1
All Souls' DayNov 2
Ancestors' DayJan 2
Anniversary of the death of Jean-Jacques DessalinesOct 17
Assumption DayAug 15
Battle of Vertières' DayNov 18
Christmas DayDec 25
Flag and University DayMay 18
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
New Year's Day and Independence DayJan 1
Pan-American DayApr 14
United Nations DayOct 24
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


1. a republic occupying the W part of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, the E part consisting of the Dominican Republic: ceded by Spain to France in 1697 and became one of the richest colonial possessions in the world, with numerous plantations; slaves rebelled under Toussaint L'Ouverture in 1793 and defeated the French; taken over by the US (1915--41) after long political and economic chaos; under the authoritarian regimes of François Duvalier ("Papa Doc") (1957--71) and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier ("Baby Doc") (1971--86); returned to civilian rule in 1990, but another coup in 1991 brought military rule, which was ended in 1994 with US intervention. Official languages: French and Haitian creole. Religions: Roman Catholic and voodoo. Currency: gourde. Capital: Port-au-Prince. Pop.: 8 437 000 (2004 est.). Area: 27 749 sq. km (10 714 sq. miles)
2. a former name for Hispaniola
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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