Friday, January 22, 2010
Since the earthquake struck Haiti last week, I've learned a lot about the nation. Here is some information that I've learned. Haiti is located on the island of Hispaniola in the West Indies. This island lies between Puerto Rico and Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. Haiti covers the western third of the island, and the Dominican Republic covers the eastern part. Haiti is one of the least developed countries as well as one of the most densely populated countries in the Western world. About 80 percent of the people in Haiti cannot read or write. The average Haitian lives to about 50 years of age. Haiti is the oldest black republic in the world. It has been independent since 1804, but it has not progressed as free countries usually do. It has had numerous leaders, but for most of the past 200 years it has been ruled by dictators who didn't really care about the people. The United States is the oldest independent nation in the Western Hemisphere, and Haiti is the second. Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Hispaniola in 1492. His crew established a Spanish base in what is now Haiti. In later years French settlers came in large numbers and developed Haiti into a very rich colony. Haiti's official name (Republique d'Haiti) and official language is French. It's capital and largest city is Port-au-Prince, which is located at the intersection of the two peninsulas that form Haiti. The land is very mountainous. The climate is tropical with mild temperatures. Most Haitians are descendents of black slaves brought from Africa. About 5 percent of Haitians are people of mixed black and white ancestry (mulattoes). A few people from America, Europe and Syria also live in Haiti. There are three classes of people in Haiti. The black people are very poor, speak a language called Haitian Creole (partly based on French), and follow a religion that blends Roman Catholic practices with voodoo. The French speaking middle and upper classes are comprised of white foreigners and mulattoes, many of whom were educated in France. Facts for this post are from an article written by Gary Brana-Shute, World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, pp 14-17.