Situated on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea, Haiti occupies the western one third of the island, with the Dominican Republic occupying the eastern end. While African-Caribbean peoples, with a history of French colonialism, primarily populate Haiti: the Dominican Republic is made up of Afro- European peoples heavily influenced by Spanish colonialism. Similar in size to the U.S. state of Maryland of just over 10,000 square miles, Haiti has a population of approximately 11,000,000.
Before Columbus landed on the island on December 6, 1492, his second landfall in the “New World”, there was a large population of Taino/Arawak people who lived on the island in relative peace. Unfortunately they were susceptible to European diseases and disappeared from the island by the middle of the 17 th century.
The treaty of Rystwik in 1697 divided the island between the eastern portion of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), and the western portion of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) where slave labor grew sugar cane, coffee, indigo, cotton, tobacco and many exotic spices that were in high demand in Europe and Asia. The planters produced the goods but were prohibited from processing the crops in the colony itself. The goods were shipped to France and processed there. From the processing plants French merchants spread out to the whole of Europe and near-Asia creating a booming economy for France. Another huge portion of this economy was the slave trade itself.
The spirit of the French Revolution was felt in Haiti. There had been many revolts of slaves and attempts at social change, but the final moment of French rule came in August 1791 with an uprising that was more about the rights of free people of color than freedom for slaves. On January 1, 1804 the nation of Haiti was proclaimed…. (To be continued)