History of Haiti

Brief history of Haiti summarized

A brief review of the history of Haiti, in an entertaining and summarized way.

Colonial Haiti

Haiti is part of the island of Hispaniola. Before the arrival of the Europeans, a people called the Arawaks lived there. However, on December 6, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed at the Mole Saint-Nicolas in the northwest and named the island Hispaniola.

Columbus built a fort on the island and left 39 men in his charge. However, when he returned in 1493, he discovered that the Arawaks had killed them. However, Cristóbal’s brother Bartolomé continued to explore the island and Spanish settlers arrived. One hundred years after Columbus discovered Hispaniola, European disease and warfare had all but wiped out the Arawaks.

Meanwhile, the Spanish claimed ownership of the entire island, but settled mainly in the east. The west was left largely empty and in the 17th century the French settled there.

In 1664 they founded Port-de-Paix. Finally, in 1697, the Spanish and the French signed the Treaty of Ryswick. France was given the western third of the island of Hispaniola. They named their colony Saint-Domingue.

In the 18th century, Saint-Domingue (Haiti) grew rich. The colony exported sugar, coffee, cotton, indigo, and cocoa. However, prosperity depended on slavery. Huge numbers of black slaves were brought to work on the plantations. At the end of the 18th century there were about 30,000 French, about 27,000 mestizos, and almost half a million black slaves.

However, after 1789 the ideas of the French Revolution such as freedom and equality reached the French colony of Saint-Domingue. On August 14, 1791, the slaves revolted and a war broke out that devastated the colony. However, the war ended when France ended slavery in 1794.

One of the leaders of the black rebels was a remarkable man named Toussaint L’Overture. When the war ended he enlisted in the French army. The French were at war with Spain and fighting the Spanish two-thirds of the island of Hispaniola.

In 1797 Toussaint was appointed commander of the French army in Hispaniola. By 1801 he already had control of the island. He declared all slaves free and became head of a new government. He also published a new constitution. Fearing that they would lose their colony from him, the French sent an army under the command of General Charles Leclerc.

Using a trick Leclerc captured Toussaint. However, his army was decimated by the fever. Also, a former slave named Jean-Jacques Dessalines continued the fight against the French and on January 1, 1804 the island became independent. It was renamed Haiti.

Independent Haiti

However, the island was devastated by war and Dessalines was assassinated in 1806. Then in 1809 the Spanish captured the eastern part of the island (now the Dominican Republic, while the western part of the island became Haiti). In 1822 President Boyer of Haiti captured what is now the Dominican Republic but the two parted ways permanently in 1844.

Meanwhile, other countries were slow to recognize Haiti. France recognized Haiti in 1825. However, in return, the French demanded compensation for the land their plantation owners had lost in Haiti. The Haitians were forced to pay a large sum of money, which was not completed until 1887.

Great Britain recognized Haiti in 1833, but the United States did not follow until 1862.

Meanwhile, President Boyar was overthrown in 1843. Haiti then had a long period of instability. Between 1843 and 1911 there were 16 rulers. Of them, 11 were overthrown by the revolutions.

Contemporary Haiti

In the early 20th century, political instability in Haiti worsened. Finally, in 1915, the US sent Marines to occupy the country to protect American business interests there. Not surprisingly, the occupation was resented by Haitians and the US Marines were finally withdrawn in 1934.

However, the political instability in Haiti has not ceased. In 1946 the president was removed by a military coup. He was replaced by Dumarsais Estime, who in turn was overthrown by the military in 1950. He was replaced by Paul Malgoire, who was forced to resign in 1956. A series of provisional presidents followed until the people elected Francois Duvalier (Papa Doc) in 1957.

Duvalier soon became a brutal dictator ruling Haiti with the help of his infamous secret police, the Tontons Macoutes. Under his rule, trade unions were banned and the press was strictly controlled.

In 1961, after a fraudulent election, Duvalier was re-elected. In 1964 he became president for life. In 1971 he changed the constitution and gave himself the power to appoint his successor. He died the same year and his son Jean-Claude Duvalier (Baby Doc) became president of Haiti.

Baby Doc turned out to be just as bad as his father. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, many Haitians fled to Florida by boat to escape their government, and by 1984 economic conditions were so bad that desperation forced people to demonstrate. Duvalier lost support and in 1986 went into exile.

However, there was no return to democratic rule in Haiti. After Duvalier left, the military seized power in Haiti. However, protests at home and pressure from the US forced them to hold elections in December 1990.

Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected president. However, he did not rule for long. In September 1991 he was overthrown in a coup and forced to flee abroad.

Once again a brutal military dictatorship ruled Haiti and many people tried to flee the country. Pressure from other countries forced the army to allow the return of President Aristide.

When Aristide’s term ended in 1996, René Preval was elected president. Unfortunately, it was not the end of political instability. There was a fight between the two men, Aristide and Preval. In 2000 Aristide was elected president, but the opposition refused to accept the result and did not recognize Aristide as president.

Following the November 2003 protests, Aristide promised new elections. However, in February 2004 the rebellion broke out and Aristide was forced to leave Haiti. An interim government took charge of the situation until new elections were held.

Finally in 2006 Preval was elected president. In 2011 Michel Joseph Martelly was elected. In 2017 Jovenel Moise was sworn in as president of Haiti.

Meanwhile, in 2003 Voodoo was recognized as the official religion in Haiti. (Although it has been practiced there for 300 years).

At the beginning of the 21st century, Haiti was still a very poor country (the poorest in the Western Hemisphere) and many of its inhabitants were subsistence farmers. Unfortunately, in January 2010, Haiti suffered a terrible earthquake that left a large number of dead and injured.

Many more were left homeless. Already a very poor country, Haiti was left with the monumental task of recovering from the earthquake. However, today the economy is growing slowly. The current population of Haiti is 10.6 million inhabitants.

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