Haiti History

Haiti History

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.

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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 Francis Drake.

French colony

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, slavery was 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 “Spanish Haiti”.

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.

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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 2011.

Haiti President