Haiti History and Politics

By | June 20, 2021

The first residents

The island of Hispaniola, on which Haiti now occupies the west, was settled for the first time by saladoids from South America. Around the year 650 a second wave of immigrants came to the island with the Taino from the Arawak people. The Taino divided the island into five chiefdoms. Each was ruled by a chief. The Taino fought against the island Caribs, which had taken other islands and displaced the Taino who lived there. That didn’t work on Hispaniola.

Columbus founds the first colony in America

Christopher Columbus came to Hispaniola on his first trip to America in 1492. From the rubble of his ship Santa Maria, he built a small fort, a fortification, and named it La Navidad (“Christmas”), because the Santa Maria sank at Christmas. This fort became the first Spanish colony in America. Columbus named the island Hispaniola (“The Spanish”) because he took possession of the land for Spain.

On his return a year later, however, Columbus found the fort destroyed by the Taino. He led a campaign against the Indians and had many sent to Europe as slaves. Other settlements emerged, including La Isabela. Hispaniola became the starting point for the Spanish colonization of America.

Many Taino died as a result of diseases brought in by the Spaniards. Others went through the forced labor on the newly created plantations basis for coffee and sugar cane. The Spaniards first brought Caribs from the Bahamas, then slaves from Africa to the island. Soon they formed the majority of the population.

French rule and Haitian Revolution

From 1625, the French settled in the northwest of the island. They asked France for support against the Spaniards. In 1665 a French colony was founded. In 1697 Spain finally recognized French rule over the west. The area became the richest colony in France as Saint Domingue. Revolts by slaves were bloodily suppressed.

In 1791, however, a slave revolt developed into a revolution that ultimately led to Haiti’s independence. France abolished slavery in 1793, but it was later reintroduced. Toussaint L’Ouverture, a freed slave, fought for Haitian independence. However, he was captured by troops that Napoleon sent and died soon after.

Ultimately, however, the former slaves were successful. Under Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti declared its independence in 1804 – as the first country in Latin America. Dessalines proclaimed himself emperor and called himself Jacques I.

Empire, division and reunification of the country

Under Dessalines, Haiti was an empire until 1806. The French who remained in the country were murdered and plantations were left to their own devices.

Dessalines was murdered in 1806 in an uprising instigated by the black man Henri Christophe and the mulatto Alexandre Pétion. The land was divided. Christophe became King of North Haiti, Pétion President of South Haiti. The enmity between mulattos and blacks remained an eternal struggle in the future.

In 1820 Haiti was reunited under President Boyer after Petion’s death and Christopher’s suicide. The eastern part of the island came under Haitian rule. In 1825 France recognized Haiti’s independence, but demanded compensation for the former plantation owners. High monetary payments and the division of the large plantations into the smallest of plots, i.e. very small parts, caused the economy to decline. The cornerstone for poverty and corruption was laid. Boyer was violently overthrown in 1843.

Haiti remains unstable

In 1844 the eastern part of the island won its independence as the Dominican Republic, a country located in Central America according to babyinger. Several attempts to recapture it over the next few years failed.

In 1849 Haiti became an empire again, this time under Faustin Soulouque (as Faustin I). He also ruled absolutistically until he was overthrown in 1859. There were also uprisings and changing rulers in the next few decades.

In 1915 the USA occupied the country. There was armed resistance against the troops. In 1934 the USA finally withdrew.

The Duvalier dictatorship (1964-1986) and the Aristide era

In 1957 the doctor François Duvalier won the elections. In 1964 he took power as a dictator. He was nicknamed Papa Doc. He acted brutally against political opponents. He relied on the black population and discriminated against the mulattos, who mainly belonged to the upper class. After his death in 1971, his son Jean-Claude Duvalier took over the dictatorship, called Baby Doc. In 1986 he was expelled from the country after unrest.

In 1987 there was a new constitution. Several coups and presidents followed. In 1990 Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President. In 1991 he had to flee after a coup, but returned to office in 1994. In 1996 he handed over to René Préval. In 2000 Aristide was re-elected. He was accused of election manipulation and mismanagement. There was serious unrest. In 2003, Aristide declared Voodoo an officially recognized religion. In 2004 Aristide abdicated after the state collapsed and international troops were sent.

Since 2004

After a transitional government, René Préval became President of Haiti. He stayed in office until 2011. In 2008 there was unrest over inflation and high food prices. In 2010, an earthquake killed more than 300,000 people and destroyed large parts of the country. Bad hygienic conditions resulted in a cholera epidemic. The elections planned for 2010 have been postponed to 2011. Michel Martelly has now become the new president. In 2016 Jovenel Moïse took over the office.

Haiti History