Settlement by Europeans
On his first "West India" trip, Christopher Columbus
discovered the mountainous island in 1492, on which the
two states Haiti and Dominican Republic are located
today. It was called "Aiti" (mountainous country) or
"Quisqueya" (mother of the earth) by the local Aruak
Indians. Columbus gave her the name "La Española" (small
Spain; Latin Hispaniola).
Only a few decades later, the Aruak Indians on the
island were considered extinct due to diseases and
forced labor. After the gold deposits hoped for by the
Spaniards proved to be only moderate, the settlers began
to grow sugar cane on plantations. For this, numerous
black African slaves were brought to the island.
In 1496 the city "Nueva Isabella" was founded on the
south coast, which later became the central
administrative seat for Spanish possessions in the "New
World" as Santo Domingo. The area of today's Haiti in
the western part of the island lost importance. In 1586
Santo Domingo was destroyed by the English privateer Sir
In the 17th century, English, French and Dutch
pirates settled on the coasts of Hispaniola and on the
offshore islands (such as Tortuga, Ile de la Tortue).
From here they attacked the passing Spanish ships with
their silver loads. In the west of the island the French
were able to prevail against the Spaniards, in the peace
of Rijswijk (1697) the area was officially awarded,
which was now called "Saint Domingue". The flourishing
trade in slaves, sugar cane, coffee and cotton made the
colony one of the richest French possessions in the 18th
century. Cap Francais (now Cap Haïtien), the capital at
the time, was called "Caribbean Paris".
Struggle for independence
A small white upper class of rich planters ruled over
the mass of black slaves. In line with the French
Revolution and its ideals, an uprising of black slaves
against the French landowners broke out in Saint
Domingue in 1791. The former slave Toussaint Louverture
became the leader of the insurgents. According to AbbreviationFinder,
officially abolished in France two years later, but the
civil war continued unabated in the western part of
Hispaniola and also spread to the eastern part of Spain.
The insurgents were able to prevail against the colonial
powers: first the Spaniards ceded their part of the
island to France, in 1803 the French also had to leave
the island. Toussaint Louverture's successor (he had
been arrested a year earlier), Jean-Jacques Dessalines,
said on 1
After his assassination in October 1806, another
civil war broke out, this time between blacks and
mulattos. The Spanish-born population in the eastern
part of the island, who called themselves "Dominicanos",
recaptured the eastern part of the island, which again
came under the rule of the Spanish crown in 1814. In
December 1821, this area finally separated from the
Spanish mother country and declared its independence as
Two competing empires established themselves in the
western part of the island: in the south a republic of
the mulattoes under the leadership of AS P¨¦tion, in the
north a kingdom under the black leader Henri Christophe
as king Henri I. Under the president Jean Pierre Boyer,
the troops of the mulatto republic initially conquered
the Northwest of the island (1820) and 1821 also the
eastern part of the island, "Spanish Haiti". The whole
island was briefly united as the Republic of Haiti.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic
The resistance in Spanish Haiti, mainly borne by the
rebel movement "La Trinitaria", led to the fact that the
eastern part of Hispaniola freed itself again in January
1844 and declared independence as the "Dominican
Republic". Attempts to recapture this part of the island
and to annex it to the Republic of Haiti failed
repeatedly (1848, 1855).
Until 1915, the conflict between mulattoes and blacks
led to a large number of coups d'¨¦tat, civil wars and
revolts. Relations with the Dominican Republic remained
extremely tense. In 1915, US troops marched into the
Republic of Haiti and administered it until 1934. This
temporarily stabilized the domestic political situation.
After the Americans left, there was renewed unrest.
Haiti among the Duvaliers
In 1957, the black doctor and politician Francois
Duvallier took over the office of head of government,
with the black majority prevailing against the mulattos.
Duvallier, with the help of his private army ("Tontons
Macoutes"), established a dictatorial regime of
unprecedented harshness. Corruption and mismanagement
led the majority of the population to bitter poverty and
further weakened the economically troubled country. Due
to the numerous violations of human rights, the United
States also stopped providing economic aid to the
Republic of Haiti.
In 1964, Duvallier, called "Papa Doc", appointed
himself president for life. After his death in 1971, his
son Jean-Claude Duavallier ("Baby Doc") took over the
office of head of state. He was overthrown in 1986 and
fled to France.
Attempts to democratize
In 1987 Haiti received a democratic constitution
after a referendum. The scheduled free elections could
not be held due to new struggles and clashes. After high
military officers as leaders of the republic, in March
1990 Eartha Pascal Trouillot formed a transitional civil
government. After the first free elections, the former
Catholic priest Jean Bertrand Aristide became President
of the Republic of Haiti in February 1991. His declared
goals included the fight against corruption and
mismanagement and a democratization of the country.
Aristide was relieved of his position by the military
just six months later. This led to a series of
international protests. In April 1993, the United
Nations imposed an economic embargo on Haiti, from which
only food and medicine were excluded. In September 1994,
the United States deployed 15,000 troops to Haiti to
restore democratic conditions. The putschists withdrew
under massive pressure and Jean Bertrand Aristide took
over again as head of state.
The UN lifted its trade embargo and pledged
approximately $ 550 million in development aid to the
completely impoverished country. At the same time, many
Haitians tried to escape the poor economic situation by
fleeing to the United States. The domestic political
situation in the country remained tense, and there were
repeated attacks and armed conflicts.
The current President Ren¨¦ Pr¨¦val (since 1995) tried
to improve relations with the neighboring country
Dominican Republic and with Cuba in 1996. His plans to
reprivatize state-owned companies and cut jobs in the
public service met with much opposition in his own
country. From July 1997 to July 1998, the position of
prime minister was vacant as the parliament refused to
cooperate with the elected candidate.
In the presidential elections in November 2000, which
were accompanied by violent clashes, Jean Bertrand
Aristide won with over 90% of the votes (taking office
in February 2001). In response to the inconsistencies in
the elections, the main donor countries canceled their
development funds for Haiti and demanded respect for
fundamental democratic rights. As a result, President
Aristide undertook to repeat the elections in the
foreseeable future and to hold talks with the opposition
alliance. After the rapid failure of the talks, the
"Convergance D¨¦mocratique" declared human rights
defender Gerard Gourgue as the provisional
counter-president. When the Senate decided to arrest
him, Gourgue went underground.
Protests by government opponents led to a revolt in
February 2004 against the controversial president.
Rebels took control of several cities and called for
Aristide's resignation. The latter then gave up his
office and initially fled to Central Africa. A
multinational peacekeeping force was stationed in Haiti
and a new government was created under the interim
president Boniface Alexandre (Prime Minister G¨¦rard
Latortue). In 2006, former president Ren¨¦ Preval was
re-elected head of state.
Although the country has had a government legitimized
by elections since the beginning of 2006 and has also
received support from a UN peacekeeping force, the
situation remains chaotic. Haiti is one of the most
corrupt countries on earth. The tense humanitarian
situation worsened in spring 2008 when protests against
the sharp rise in prices for rice, maize and other
staple foods led to serious riots with several deaths.
On January 12, 2010, a catastrophic earthquake
occurred with at least a quarter of a million deaths.
More than a million people became homeless. The state
institutions that were already rudimentary previously
largely collapsed. Public security has been largely
taken over by the United States. A cholera epidemic
broke out nine months after the earthquake.
Regular elections were scheduled for January 2010,
but were postponed due to the earthquake disaster.
Parliamentary elections and the first round of the
presidential elections were then held on November 28.
The politically inexperienced pop singer Michel "Sweet
Micky" Martelly finally won and was sworn in in May